So, inevitably, with the site broken (what happened there?), I bugger off for a few months and then look what happens! 8th finishes and we have a whole new game come through the door. So I thought I’d sign off on the old list and welcome in my first draft for Age of Sigmar. I can only apologise to those helpful souls above for failing to get back to them – this is the first time I’ve logged on since my last post. Chiefly this was due, first, to Ulthuan going down, but also an enormous disinclination to sit in front of a computer screen having spent all day, every day, sitting in front of a computer screen at work.
Happily, I am currently enjoying a lovely holiday in Majorca and so am far less inclined to pick up my laptop and smash it against a wall before reading a book - or anything not on a screen (don't you find it makes your eyes go funny, after a while?). In fact, I've had an itch to finish the 8th Edition story of the army, and the poolside is as good a place to sit and type as any.
When we last met, I was in the middle of a tournament. I’ll speed quickly through those games:
My penultimate game was against white lion star elves with multi light-casters plus anti-heroes loremaster, a frost phoenix and MSU cavalry with a couple of bolt throwers. Things started cageily, albeit my long range shooting pinged off his bolters quickly (partly thanks to a 36” fireball from the loremaster), and his frosty failed a charge into one of my own machines. My firebase was protected by the phoenix guard, who I knew could take a weakened lion unit, and the centre ground was held by my helms plus BSB. As his MSU units started to be whittled down, things looked under control, but then a failed panic test by the helms, on re-rolled 10 no less, saw them run off the board and totally abdicate control of the centre of the field - then I was in trouble. Somehow, through judicious use of my ranged attacks and a tight deployment to discourage the frosty from running amok, I clawed points back, in particular by throwing my prince and loremaster out of their units to carve up MSU silver helms on the right whilst the frosty was stuck on my left. These heroes then ran into the white lions to start assassinating characters – that unit being much reduced by bolter fire. Unfortunately, one disastrous round of combat saw my loremaster killed by 5 lion attacks and my prince wounded twice by the enemy loremaster, whilst a reaver charge in the rear went disastrously wrong and saw me lose, not gain, combat res. Simultaneously, the phoenix guard had failed a soft charge to clean up the lions and secure victory. This was too much for one round of combat. My prince fled, but escaped, and I went down by something like 11 to 9. A good plan gone wrong, and a fun game. Catching frosties is difficult for my army (sorry, was
difficult), but once again a flyer had been forced by tight deployment to stay out of the action for fear of getting pinned and swamped, so it was at this moment that I decided the featherfoe torc on my 2.5 list was not really necessary. By contrast, I'd been impressed by the Sword of Anti-heroes on my opponent’s loremaster, so quickly resolved a new build for my 2.5 BSB. Apart from that I learned little - subject to a rather large bum-fudge from Mistress Fortune, I think I have the measure of white lion-based high elf armies. Phoenix guard, ranged spam, archers and fast combat characters do well against them – they suffer hugely from slow movement and a lack of ASF once the ranged war is lost.
My last game was against a light-based Empire list with stank, two cannons, double demis, big block of halbs, skirmishing archers, wizards, warrior priest, walter – the usual. As a match-up, this is one of the harder ones. I say this with no hint of whinging – I can take these lists – but conditions need to be right for me to pull off big wins. Specifically, I need to do real damage at range in order to neutralise the steam tank as a serious threat – otherwise he can pin one of my two main units, especially the phoenix guard, down – and its these who I really want pushing into the halbs whilst my magic, machines and knights run down the demis. Similarly, in my favour, Empire finds it very difficult to take big points off me unless I run straight into the jaws of the trap to find myself getting pummelled by banishments and cannonballs, then pinned by the stank and overwhelmed by a halb-demi counter-charge (I learned that lesson the hard way from my first game against this kind of list, and I wasn’t about to repeat it the mistake). If I don’t run immediately into 24” range of the walter, however, the Empire bubble can’t do its work – and these sorts of lists are in my experience, reluctant to go on the offensive.
And so it proved this game. I needed to plink off the cannons with arrows and put wounds on the steam tank with bolts and searing doom, and my opponent needed to wallop me with his war machines and magic before deciding whether to commit with his demigryphs. Without inflicting damage at range, I would not commit to the attack, and neither would he. But, in the event, both our shooting and magic phases were duds – throughout the game. He took some bolt throwers and the reavers, I took a cannon with archers and a unit of demis with the character-led helms (Hand of Glory for M10 and +2 WS being most welcome). His army looked worse than mine, by the end of it, but there is very little to say to say about this game other than it was a stand-off. I mullered the halbs, but they simply hid behind a house (buildings make Empire turtles so much harder to crack). His stank, having lost no wounds to dud searing dooms and bolts, pinned my phoenix guard, and both units stayed there (the loremaster’s ogre blade not doing its duty this time), chatting or something. Draw.
So what became of the 8th Cav Prince list? Albeit it had only been 2200 points, I learned a lot from Firestorm 4s, finally, about the usefulness of the sword of anti-heroes. By this point, the phoenix guard block had become the solid heart of the army and, with the sword-toting BSB (a decent option event against cannons, since he could bounce two balls), liberated the helms and prince from anti-deathstar duty to use their speed in more imaginative and useful ways. If anything could crack the no-sword 3++ guard, it was a genuine multi-character deathstar. For those moments when I wanted to go full bus with the helms, massed characters were, again, the biggest threat. And after several games against lists with one or multiple flying monsters, I found that I’d had fewer problems than I’d feared. The fact was that even the archers, being deployed in numbers, would hold on steadfast for long enough for me to bring in support against flyers which lacked steadfast-breaking numbers of attacks. Having a unit of real size was very important to their role not only as ranged offense, but as ranked-up infantry. Indeed, ranged dominance combined with ranked-up defence and quickly organised counter-attacks had seen me secure an extremely high success rate (total, after that last high elf game) against lists with flying monsters/characters. Deathstar lists, particularly ogres (helms being quite poor against ironguts and ironblasters), struck me as more of a problem. Another potential problem was death magic, since I had relatively few true wards on my characters. Magic-heavy ranged lists also posed a constant threat to the helms-as-bodyguard so, although less potent, swapping the power stone on the archmage to a scroll of shielding felt like a safer all-comers choice. Finally, I wanted the Reaver Bow back. I long ago decided that the Bow + Potion cavalry noble was too fiddly to use, left the noble too unprotected and offered no support to the prince. However, the bow itself remained excellent value for the points, added extra dominance in shooting wars and still allowed room for a lance, enchanted shield, luckstone and OTS for combat duties and prince support. Depending on the opposition, the noble could either act as a front-line companion to the prince, with the bow as a useful bonus for early turns stand-offs or even stand-and-shoot duties against other cavalry, or else he could act as the new quarterback character (see page 56), whilst the BSB was engaged in serious combat and leadership duties with my frontline units.
So, I made my final list amendment of 8th Edition, and finally stuck with it all the way until 9th hit. The list was:
Prince - Dragon Armour, Shield, Barded Elven Steed, Giant Blade, Dragon Helm, Dawnstone, Ironcurse Icon.
Archmage - Level 4, High Magic, Talisman of Preservation, Scroll of Shielding, Ring of Khaine's Fury.
Loremaster - Ogre Blade, Merwyrm Shield, Dispel Scroll.
Battle Standard Bearer - Dragon Armour, Barded Elven Steed, Sword of Anti-Heroes, Charmed Shield, Golden Crown, Potion of Foolhardiness.
Noble – Lance, Dragon Armour, Barded Elven Steed, Reaver Bow, Enchanted Shield, Luckstone, Other Trickster’s Shard.
11 Silver Helms - High Helm, Musician, Standard Bearer, Shields.
24 Archers - Hawkeye, Musician, Standard Bearer.
5 Reaver Knights
19 Phoenix Guard - Keeper, Musician, Standard Bearer, Razor Standard.
4 Repeater Bolt Throwers
= 2499 points
I should say, in enormously late reply to SpellArcher and Andros, that the lack of Book of Hoeth was simply down to the fact that I wanted to spam magic missiles with the Ring of Fury. This was one of the best ways to spend a (risk free) single dice and, along with the loremaster's spell variety and the archmage's access to basic Soul Quench, gave me a huge amount of damage output in the magic phase. Compare the cost of casting a large soul quench with the cost of spamming two small ones - the latter can be done much more cheaply - although I always had the option to throw 6d6 hits when I wished. It also allowed me to choose other spells for the archmge, where occasion dictated, without losing altogether this ability to throw hits with him. All together, this was much more important to me than the extra casting power of the Book. Partly because my army's existence depended on its ability to control the movement phase and win shooting wars against massed-missile armies, especially skirmishers who could avoid combat with the phoenix guard - making the annihilation of light troops absolutely essential for the list's all-comers credentials. Further, I'd taken the loremaster, which might mean only casting 1-2 spells per turn with the archmage. That would, of course, mean I got much less benefit from the Book's re-roll. As for the Book in defence, where it is most valuable (since the archmage would always be the dispeller of choice), the Scroll of Shielding could effectively eat more dice in a round (much as a dispel scroll would), than the Book would manage on a crucial turn. Not as potent over time, but a decent prop given the extra damage output and tactical options given me by the Ring.
And, d’you know what? It all worked. Alas, for lack of time to write, I took no pictures and produced no reports. But finally I’d found a list I was totally happy with. And it showed – even ogres were somehow, finally, much less of a threat as, with another top-notch combat character in the form of the BSB and that extra pip of shooting, I could control the match ups much more easily. The prince was liberated to pursue specialist targets with his knights (mournfang etc), whilst the anti-heroes BSB finally allowed me to march full-face toward the ironguts with the phoenix guard, giving me much better cover for my archers and machines and allowing me to bring the ironblasters into range of my arrows and (particularly) magic – something I’d traditionally struggled to do whilst standing off against ogre gutstars in the past (although shifting casters back into the archers was usually a good idea when the hellheart was there).
Finally, 9th loomed, and I thought I’d best take some shots of what looked like my last game. Appropriately, it was against dark elves. A huge unit of shades with Hellebron, and a bunch of MSU units including dark riders, warlocks, flying BSB etc. I castled, drew the enemy into a hasty advance with my advantage at 30+ inches, and then opened up with massed magic missiles. Arcane unforging saw me pick off the BSB, and massed bolts and arrows withered the (very dangerous) shade star. It wasn’t an especially close game, but my tight deployment did at least allow for a final few decent photographs of the 8th Edition cavalry prince and his army.