In the second round of the Rage of Isolation 4 online tournament played over Universal Battle 2, I had a great pleasure to play against Michael.
Michael told me he has recently started playing Kings of War in general and at the time of the tournament last year, did not have a chance to play with real models yet. He chose the army of Abyssal Dwarfs as his force for this event.
This faction has some really tough units to choose from and as always, I am very interested in seeing what exactly attracts my opponent's attention and what made to the army list.
Michael chose an interesting range of units and ended up with, in my opinion, a well rounded and versatile army. Here are the details:
Abyssal Dwarfs - Army List
Blacksouls Horde (B), Infantry, Two-handed weapons - 190
Abyssal Grotesques Horde (AG), Large Cavalry, Sir Jesse's Boots of Striding - 260
Immortal Guard Regiment (IG1), Infantry - 160
Immortal Guard Regiment (IG2), Infantry - 160
Abyssal Halfbreeds Regiment (AH1), Cavalry - 200
Abyssal Halfbreeds Regiment (AH2), Cavalry - 200
Lesser Obsidian Golems Regiment (OG1), Monstrous Infantry - 130
Lesser Obsidian Golems Regiment (OG2), Monstrous Infantry - 130
Mutated Mastiff Hunting Pack* Regiment (HP), Swarm - 65
Angkor Heavy Mortar (HM1), War Engine - 115
Angkor Heavy Mortar (HM2), War Engine - 115
Overmaster (O), Hero (Infantry), Infernal Advance  - 125
Iron-caster (I), Hero (Infantry), Bane Chant (2), Lightning Bolt (3), Surge (8) - 150
This army has 13 units, 9 of them are scoring and the combined unit strength is 24. In my opinion, the army Michael assembled has strong melee focus. Majority of the regiments are equipped for close combat. The difference may be in the role they play in particular.
For example, Blacksouls should inflict significant damage on their own thanks to Crushing Strength (1) and Vicious. The fact they hit on 4+ is mitigated by the sheer number of the attacks, while their 4+ defence is less of a problem as they are n horde formation with good nerve. Similarly, Abyssal Halfbreeds can deal a lot of damage on their own and their defence 4+ is boosted by the ability to regenerate.
Immortal Guard and Obsidian Golems, on the other hand, despite fewer number of the attacks, are more reliable in advance (cannot be wavered) and either have the ability to regenerate damage (Immortal Guard) or have a very good defence (6+ for Golems).
Then, of course, the horde of Grotesques is capable of doing both!
It suggests the tactics that relies on pinning enemy down with Golems and Immortal Guard, while Grotesques, Blacksouls and Halfbreeds deliver the killing blow. Of course, if the attacks are co-ordinated, it is still perfectly possible to rout the enemies in a single round of combat. Especially more fragile ones such as units in my army.
Hence, my immediate conclusion was to try and avoid the situations where two or more units could charge one of my regiments at the same time. I had the ability to do so thanks to higher speed and manoeuvrability.
However, in order to do that, I needed to take care of the Mortars first. If left unchecked, they have the ability to at the very least waver my regiments. And often, obliterate them completely. To deal with that threat, I planned to use Drakon Riders, Drakon Lord or the King, whoever would get the better chance to reach them first.
That was my general plan before we considered scenario, terrain and the deployment. Below is my army list for the reference:
Outcasts - Army List
Stormwind Cavalry Regiment (S), Cavalry, Chalice of Wrath - 230
Palace Guard Regiment (PG1), Infantry - 160
Palace Guard Regiment (PG2), Infantry - 160
Kindred Archers Regiment (A), Infantry - 120
Drakon Riders Regiment (DR1), Large Cavalry - 165
Drakon Riders Regiment (DR2), Large Cavalry - 165
Forest Shamblers* Regiment (FS1), Large Infantry - 120
Forest Shamblers* Regiment (FS2), Large Infantry - 120
Silver Breeze* Troop (SB1), Cavalry - 130
Silver Breeze* Troop (SB2), Cavalry - 130
Paul the King (K), Elven King, Hero(Cavalry), Hann's Sanguinary Scripture, Sabre-Tooth Cat - 155
Dave the Drakon Lord (DL), Lord on Drakon, Hero(Large Cavalry) - 170
Archibald the Archmage (A), Elven Archmage, Hero(Infantry), Inspiring Talisman, Lighting Bolt (5) - 115
Arnold the Army Standard (AS), Army Standard Bearer, Hero(Infantry) - 60
The army has 14 elements, 11 of them are scoring and the total unit strength is 22.
Deployment and Scenario
|Elves vs Abyssal Dwarfs
In this round we played Pillage as a scenario. I decided to place my three tokens in the Southern deployment zone. It was a little gamble I took with the intention of picking that side if I won the roll off. In this way I could have some elements of my army staying at the back. At the same time it would be an initiative for the opposing army to move forward to try and claim them. What I hoped to achieve in this way is to get some openings on the flanks for my faster elements. If that worked I would be able to have a few rounds of shooting and then be able to execute combined charges on the damaged enemy.
I also wanted, as indicated earlier, to move fast to eliminate the artillery, hence Drakon Lord and Riders on the Eastern flank. Because Michael placed two of his tokens closer to the middle of the battle field, it also presented an opportunity to contest these while attacking the enemy units. Because of that I placed all my shooters closer to the centre for better flexibility and Stormwind on the West to keep Halbreeds in check. Both Palace Guard regiments also had freedom of movement, either to converge in the centre against single enemy unit or support either flank if needed.
Let's see if that worked!
|Deployment after Scout move.
Abyssal Dwarfs - Turn 1
|Abyssal Dwarfs advance slowly.
Abyssal Dwarfs advanced slowly, mainly in the double line formation, where Golems were shielding more fragile Halfbreeds from the Elven arrows. Then the mortars opened fire but the first salvo completely missed the targets.
Outcasts - Turn 1
|Elven army spreads the formation.
Elven army responded by spreading the formation to look for the opportunities for openings and attempting to outflank more compact enemy army.
On the East, Drakon Riders moved forward boldly, to be able to attack the mortars and hoping the incoming salvo would not shoot them down from the skies.
On the West, the shooters focused on the Iron-caster in order to eliminate him and make this part of the enemy force leaderless and without important support. However, his armour proved very useful and he was only slightly wounded.
Abyssal Dwarfs - Turn 2
|Abyssal Dwarfs continue their advance.
Abyssal Dwarfs kept advancing, slowly but purposefully. Interestingly, Immortal Guard regiments and nearby Blacksouls did not advance much against the weaker flank of the Elven formation.
This time the mortars managed to hit the target but the damage done against the Drakon Riders in particular was not what the Overmaster expected.
Outcasts - Turn 2
|Drakon Riders attack enemy artillery.
It was now time for the first attacks and Drakon Rides as well as the Drakon Lord, flew over the heads of the enemy infantry to eliminate the always dangerous mortars. With them gone, it was now much easier for the Elven army to manoeuvre.
At the same time, the regiments on the right moved back a little, to keep the distance from the Abyssal Dwarfs and try some luck with another round of shooting. This time, the Ironcaster was picked by the Archmage and Archers thanks to their elevated position, and fell. His armour pierced by arrows and magic lightning bolts.
Abyssal Dwarfs - Turn 3
|Getting into charge range.
With the loss of the artillery, Abyssal Dwarfs had no other choice but to continue their march forward. It was clear anyway that the fate of the battle would be decided in the melee.
The respective regiments on the Western front were now in the charge range and Elves would need to decide if they want to shoot and get charged, or make the first move.
Outcasts - Turn 3
|Attack on all fronts!
This time Elves decided to attack and hopefully use some openings to their advantage. First, the Stormwind cavalry noticed and opportunity to attack the Halfbreeds first. The King was there to help as well and the charge was successful. When the Silverbreeze and the Archmage destroyed the nearby Golems as well, Elves threatened the enemy flank without being in any immediate danger at the moment.
The units in the centre attacked as well. Palace Guard regiments co-ordinated their charges and attacked the Grotescques, managing to waver them. Then the Archers charged down the hill and pinned down the Mastiffs as well.
Last but not least, the successful attack on the artillery positioned the Drakon Riders well for the next charge. This time, the combined attack from the front and rear against one of the Immortal Guard regiments was powerful enough to rout even such a steadfast enemy.
Abyssal Dwarfs - Turn 4
Elven attack stopped Dwarven advance. In order to break through, the counter attacks were executed. Unfortunately for Abyssal Dwarfs, they did not result in routing of any of the enemy regiments.
Outcasts - Turn 4
|Second wave of the Elven charges.
Elves pressed their advantage and launched second wave of the attacks. Stormwind cavalry used the opportunity and charged Halbreeds locked in combat with the Palace Guard and routed them.
The King, the Drakon Lord and the second regiment of the Palace Guard combined their efforts and managed to rout the very dangerous Grotesques as well. Abyssal Dwarfs lost quite a number of powerful units by now but they continued their fight regardless.
Abyssal Dwarfs - Turn 5
Despite the significant losses that the Abyssal Dwarfs suffered in the battle, they had opportunities to fight back. The Mastiffs routed damaged Palace Guard while the Immortal Guard won the duel with the Forest Shamblers.
Outcasts - Turn 5
|Elves continue delivering powerful strikes.
Remaining regiments of the Abyssal Dwarfs were now isolated and that helped Elves to execute co-ordinated multiple charges against a single target. Even tough opponents such as Obsidian Golems and Immortal Guard were not able to hold their ground in such circumstances.
Abyssal Dwarfs - Turn 6
|Overmaster takes matters in his own hands.
Only the Overmaster and Blacksouls horde remained from the Abyssal Dwarfs army but they did not think about surrendering. They would not offer mercy to their enemies either. As the Blacksouls were not in the position to attack, it was up to the Overmaster to carry the fight to the enemy. In this case, the Drakon Riders, who got wavered in the process.
Outcasts - Turn 6
|Rush towards the objectives.
With the enemy army reduced to one unit, Elves could finally focused on the objectives to be claimed. Fortunately, they have the speed and regiments in the right places to accomplish that mission now.
Abyssal Dwarfs - Turn 7
|Abyssal Dwarfs refuse to yield.
Even in this situation the Abyssal Dwarfs refused to surrender and prepared for their last stand. Elven commanders gave the order to launch the final charge.
Outcasts - Turn 7
|Blacksouls die with the swords in their hands.
Blacksouls warriors cried their defiance in the face of the powerful frontal charge of the Elven elite units. The odds were against them but as the defeat is not tolerated by the Abyssal Dwarf overlords, the grim warriors preferred to die with the swords in their hands. Their souls were lost anyway.
In the end, only the Overmaster was left standing. Elven warriors ignoring his shouts and insults as he was eager to continue fighting on his own.
|Turn-by-turn animation summary
Many thanks to Michael for a great game!
I admire how stoic he was in the face of some really unlucky turns of events for his army in this battle. He kept really calm and we had a great chat after the battle. It is a fantastic attitude, especially at the very beginning of the learning process, when you are simply looking for a way to understand the game better and learn from the defeats.
I really hope we are going to have an opportunity to play against each other again and perhaps even with real models!
I find Abyssal Dwarfs quite a tough opponent so I was obviously happy with the way the battle went for me this time. I am often a bit worried that my units may not have a sufficient hitting power but as you could see, if the opportunity arises, they can deal some damage too. The challenge is to get them in the position where they can attack together and from a few directions as well.
Since Michael has only started his journey with Kings of War (although I am sure he played quite a number of games since this one), I wonder if more experienced Abyssal Dwarf players would be kind to offer some advice to him? What I would like to ask in particular is how would you play this game with the army Michael designed? How would you deploy? Maybe there are particular moments in the game where you would make different decisions?
I can only offer insights from the point of of view of the opponent and what, in my opinion, contributed to the outcome of the battle that helped me to reach the goals.
First thing I wanted to mention is a double line formation. It is good to prevent the damage from the incoming fire, especially considering lower defence of the units such as Halfbreeds. However, the side effect was narrower frontline and much slower advance of the entire army. This gave me time to deal with the artillery and still get back to support the units in the centre.
In addition, in such formation it is more difficult to cover all the angles and helped me to position my units (especially after charges) where they were not threatened with an attack from another unit in return.
I wonder then, if the single line formation, where units support each other (i.e. if you attack one, the other can counter attack next turn, possibly even from the flank) would have been better choice here. I know from my previous battles that it is more difficult for me to stall such advance, especially when the enemy approach my units faster. And while some of the regiments in Michael's army have lower defence than others, they often have regenerative abilities.
There were mistakes on my part as well. One of the most crucial ones, that I think could have big impact on the game, was that I left Stormwind cavalry in the charge range of the Halfbreeds in turn 2. If Michael noticed that and charged, I would have been in a trouble as Halfbreeds have enough hitting power on their own to rout my knights on the charge. In this way the situation would have been reversed and my flank would have been threatened.
As always, feel free to post any comments about any aspect of the battle, armies etc.
Thanks for reading!