Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Fantasy Warriors Battle Report

Well it's been awhile, but last week we found ourselves squaring off over the Fantasy Warriors battlefield again! What brought this on? Glad you asked...

First off, we took a trip back down to L.A. to visit friends and family. Knowing that I'd have full access to my dad's studio, I packed up my six half-finished terrain boards and brought them along. Working on large-scale terrain projects in a small one-bedroom apartment with no balcony puts a significant strain on living space, so I was glad to have the opportunity to make full use of a dedicated work space. (Growing up the son of an artist does have certain advantages.)

So in between a whirlwind of lunches, dinners, BBQs and shooting the breeze I snagged a few hours in the sweltering garage (figures we'd visit in the middle of a SoCal heat wave!) and did the bulk of the rest of the work on the tiles. When we got back it took another week or two of work in my off hours to put the finishing touches on, but in the end I now have a set of 12 two foot square modular terrain tiles! A long-time goal finally realized. ::dusts hands::

So I was naturally excited to "test out" some of the new tiles and Mirliton making the Fantasy Warriors Compendium available online as a PDF cinched the deal. The Compendium came out in the early 90s and contained a brand new army list (Undead), fun new rules (mercenaries, poisoned arrows, field defences, "firewater") and (most importantly) completely revised army lists from the main rulebook. You see, the army lists contained in the original rulebook had some serious balance issues and typos and the Compendium corrected all that. Unfortunately, the Compendium has been out-of-print nearly since it was published! So having it available as a PDF was a major boon indeed.

Poring over all the new niftiness in the Compendium got me really jazzed to play FW...and not just as a one-off exercise like last time. I started to realize that although I'm trying to "standardize" my miniatures gaming (using 10mm as much as possible), playing FW with old school 25mm (as oppossed to the "28mm", more like 32mm minis of today) is the only right way to play it. And that the pure fun of the game coupled with the nostalgia rush I get off playing it justified further investment and future games. After talking it over with Desiree, she agreed it would be fun to build up our existing armies as a sort of "back burner" project. To that end, we each committed to one of the armies. We went with the armies we played last the Orcs are now "my" army.

The Battle
For those of you just joining us, the last encounter between the Orcs and Dwarves ended in a complete greenskin rout. This battle, quite accidentally, would form a sort of sequel to that battle, as the Orcs took up defensive positions and Dwarves pressed their advantage.

I recalculated the army lists using the new point values in the Compendium and found the Dwarves were essentially unchanged:
  • 1x 16 Veteran Spears
  • 2x 8 Elite Axes
  • 3x 5 Veteran Crossbows
  • 1x Warchief (in charge of the infantry)
  • 1x Battle Leader (in charge of the crossbows)
  • 1x Human Hero
My Orc army benefitted a bit from the points adjustments--I was able to make the presence of Trolls in my army "legal" by adding a Battle Leader (who are technically allies). I also dropped the Hero in favor of a volley of poison arrows for each of the missile units.
  • 1x 14 Veteran Spears
  • 2x 8 Average Swords
  • 3x 5 Average Bows
  • 1x 3 Elite War Trolls
  • 1x Warchief (in charge of the infantry)
  • 2x Battle Leaders (one in charge of the archers, the other in charge of the trolls)
  • 1x Amazon Wizard (with a mere 20 power points)
I laid out a simple table with a river zig-zagging across the length of the board. I decided that with a little modification the detailed FW terrain setup rules could be adapted to modular terrain. Basically, I decided instead of placing a terrain feature a player could instead swap out one board for another.

As it turned out, neither of us elected to scout again so terrain layout was pretty simple. The reason we've stayed away from scouting is because our armies are too small to really allow for it! In FW, scouting is done by "commands" rather than units...and the warchief's command can't scout. Since that meant in both our cases that only our missile units could scout, and since we didn't want our missile units to suffer from the rather heavy deployment restrictions placed on scouting units (start game no more than 6" from base edge, Disorganized, and on Hold orders), well...there you go...

Unfortunately for me, Dwarves can afford the luxury of not scouting, since they don't suffer from Bad Light. For me, one of the first new purchases I'm going to make for my Orcs is a scouting command (maybe some wolf riders or somesuch) because I really need to make sure my greenskins fight at night! And wouldn't you know it--the random roll came up not just Daytime, but friggin' noon! Talk about Bad Light!

As I said, the terrain setup was pretty simple. The board stayed "as is" and some dice roll jockeying back and forth resulted in two woods on my side of the board. We randomly determined the strength of the river and it came up "4". We designated two fords, one on my side near the woods on my left and one on Desiree's side, at the foot the hill.

Another dice roll decided I'd be setting up first (if one or both of us had scouted, things like terrain setup and deployment would be determined by who outscouted--or even outmaneuvered--whom). I'd just finished a book on Henry V and the Battle of Agincourt and kind of took a page from the English deployment in that battle. Using the bend of the river as a line of defense, I set up a staggered first line of archers, swords, archers, swords, archers. I then put my spearmen (which included my warchief and banner) and my trolls in reserve.

My plan was to just sit tight under Hold orders and let the Dwarves come to me, forcing them to wade across the river under the hail of black-feathered arrows and then get cut to pieces by my trusty blademen (or failing that, my trusty pointy-stick lads). The trolls would be used to plug gaps or as a counter-attacking force. Lastly, since I was suffering Bad Light I could only benefit by waiting for the slow-poke Dwarves to close--the longer they took, the closer I got to night!

Seeing my deployment, Desiree set up with most of her force weighted on my left flank--running from my left to right she set up her spearmen, then both two-handed axe units. In front she deployed her crossbows as a screening force.

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There was one last step before the battle could commence: boasts and omens! We both elected to read the the omens. They came up good for Desiree and bad for me. However, I had my wizard cast "Fudge the Omens" and got a re-roll, and this time they came up good! How could we both have the gods on our side? Stay tuned...

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Desiree elected not to boast. Keeping in mind my defensive strategy, I went with "I will stay on this spot, immovable like a rock" for my warchief. Figured that if he was having to move, the battle would probably already be lost anyways... ;)

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The battle got under way with all my troops under Hold orders. Desiree had her infantry on Oppose, but, like last battle, gave her missile troops Attack orders. Missile troops with these orders must close to short range as quickly as possible, firing as they go, then hose down the enemy with the remainder of their ammo. A very aggressive stance for Dwarven Crossbows, especially since they enjoy a superior range to my bows and could easily have stood off at long range and pelted me to their hearts' content. As it turned out, the initial volley from the stunties opened up a huge gap in my line!

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(History lesson: one thing Henry V didn't have to worry about at Agincourt was missile units--the French deployed their Genoese crossbowmen behind and to the side of their infantry, rendering them ineffectual in the battle. And a good thing for the English! Those crossbows can be nasty...)

In the future I think I'll invest in some pavises and mantlets for my front line infantry if I'm planning holding a defensive line against Dwarves. As it was, the Dwarven archery caused so many casualties, two of units routed right off the field--a unit of archers and a unit of blades!

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So things were off to a very bad start indeed. But I knew that with their Attack orders the Dwarves would eventually close to within bowshot. And if I could just outlast the Dwarves' ammunition supplies relatively intact, their infantry would still be forced to try and close with me.

As predicted, the Dwarves kept closing. As they got within range, my Wizard let go with all she had, targeting a Blast spell at one of the crossbow units. I knew from previous experience that Blast is not a major killer, but its advantage lies in the fact that any unit taking casualties from the spell must check morale, even if there's only one kill. The risk I was running was that my Wizard was very low on power and Blast is a spell that can easily suck points up...and if a wizard can't pay the Power Points, they die on the spot! And a dead wizard is not a good thing, since it requires the whole army to take a Command Test to see if they still want to stick around.

As it turns out, things kind of evened out. The Blast spell went off and killed a dwarf or two, but amazingly the subsequent morale test found them routing off the field! Unfortunately, my Wizard overdrew her power and also died. But the Command Test was passed easily and the rest of my army stayed put. Good thing too. Man, what an ignominous defeat that would've been...

(After the game I read that when a wizard overdraws their power, their spell fails to go off. So that was an error in my favor...ah well, live and learn, eh?)

The crossbows were finally within short range and expended the rest of their ammo in an archery duel with my bowmen. The Dwarves definitely came out the better for it, wiping out my right-flank unit and nearly destroying my left-flankers. I unloaded in turn with what I had left of my archers, even taking a shot at the Dwarven battle leader with a volley of poisoned arrows, but with very little result. I think unless I'm planning on facing a large monster or similar terror, I'll leave the poisoned arrows at home.

It was time for the Dwarven infantry to move out...

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On my right flank the axes and hero on the hilltop marched down and across the ford, attempting to flank me. The rest of the Dwarves started moving toward my main line (such as it was). The time had come for both of us to start switching orders. In the last battle we hadn't dealt with this, as it was an all-out brawl with no subtlety, just Attack orders across the board.

I'm really quite fond of the order system in Fantasy Warriors. It's simple yet sophisticated and reflects command and control problems well. Having a plan that requires switching orders in mid-battle, especially if you have to time that switch just so, is really difficult. Which is as it should be.

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So as Desiree moved out, she started shifting her warchief. He was too far over to have all his units within his command radius, and needed to get more centered. This was vital, because the Dwarves were currently under Oppose orders and if they expected to get into combat they needed to be under Attack orders. Meanwhile, I needed to switch my Trolls "on" and give them Attack orders. I also wanted to give my archers Oppose orders so they could retire away from the thick of the battle and not become a total loss.

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Since both concerns were under the command of Battle Leaders--and my Warchief couldn't personally deliver the new orders thanks to his "Stonewall" boast--I had to dispatch runners with the new orders. At their current move rate, it would take two turns for the new orders to reach their destinations...and then my Battle Leaders would have to roll to see if they even understood the new orders!

And so, as the Dwarves closed in the messengers moved out. The Attack order was communicated to the trolls' Battle Leader without difficulty and the Trolls roared forward towards the Dwarven flanking force. The handoff of new orders to the archers' Battle Leader did not go smoothly, however. Instead of new orders, the messenger was dismissed, the current orders held, and my archers picked up a Disorganized counter for their trouble. So be it--my archers would stay put and hopefully not get picked off.

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The game clock had now advanced well into the nighttime hours and the time was ripe for a little payback. (Not to mention that the real clock had advanced well into the evening as well, and my gurgling stomach was starting to affect my judgment...)

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As my Trolls charged up my right flank, the Human Hero rode forth to meet them. One round of combat later, the Hero was no more, but she had taken down a troll in exchange.

(This combat brought up another rules question I'm still not enitrely sure about, but I'll discuss that below.)

At this point, Desiree was still trying to get her Warchief shifted in order to issue the new Attack orders. We both realized during this battle that FW rewards deploying your commands' units centrally around their respective battle leader, like the "5" pips on a d6 (yeah, I went there and made a dice analogy). Spread out your units and you can live to regret it...

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What followed more than made up for having to suffer through the destruction wrought by the Dwarven Crossbows. My Trolls moved in to engage the Dwarven Axes, but first they Threatened the unit. The ability to issue Threats can be a powerful tool when used at critical moments. My Trolls' bellowing and feces-hurling managed to earn the Dwarves a Shaken counter. Then the Trolls closed in. Between the Shaken counter, the Oppose orders and the fact they were fighting Elite War Trolls, the Dwarves were literally mown down. They were there, then they weren't...

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I did lose another Troll, but my lone "buzzsaw" was free to rampage into the Dwarven flank...if he could just get over his fear of water...

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As it turned out that pesky river would prove the end of the battle. I tried over the next couple turns to get my troll to cross the water, but he just couldn't battle through the current. Rivers in FW are obstacles indeed! I'm thinking of creating a weighted table to generate river strengths, one that comes up with strengths of 1, 2, or 3 more often. Also, building a bridge or two is probably in order. The strength of the river doesn't matter as much if there are ample crossing places.

At any rate, while my troll was trying to force the river (to meet the other Axe unit waiting across the bank), the rest of the Dwarves moved up to face the Orc battle line, with only a river seperating the two armies.

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And it was here that we left it. Neither side was willing to face the bloodbath of trying to force a swift-flowing river right under the nose of the opposition. In-game, dawn was fast approaching and with it the return of Bad Light. Things could only get worse for me.

We tallied up victory points and it came out a minor victory for the Dwarves. This made sense. The Dwarves had failed to dislodge the Orcs, but were in posession of most of the field. Furthermore, the Orcs had suffered horrendous casualties and although they had bloodied the Dwarves, they were now in an untenable position. They'd have to retire before the dawn came and the Dwarves could regroup and flank them from the two fords. At the same time, they could at least retire in good order and fight another day. And fight they will, oh yes...

(And there you see how the omens were able to be "good" for both sides!)

Other Thoughts
I referred to a fuzzy point of the rules above and here it is: when you have an individual fighting a unit and that individual inflicts "x" number of kills, are those kills distributed to whole unit or only to the model(s) the individual is in base-to-base contact with? I couldn't find a definitive answer in the rulebook. In this game, the hero inflicted 4 kills on the trolls, two of which weren't saved. That would've been enough to wipe out the unit. But I argued that the kills should only be counted against the model in b2b contact, since that's the standard you use to determine how many dice to roll ("throw 1D for each point of worth in base to base contact..."). But I could be wrong. I know Heros in FW are supposed to be pretty powerful.

I'm really looking forward to building up my Orc army. As I mentioned, I'm going to add wolf-riders. Also, I'm going to replace my (technically illegal) Amazon Wizard with a proper greenskin spell-caster, possibly on a wolf as well. I'll probably add a unit of Bodyguards for my Warchief, along with some Big Orcs. I think I'll pick up a saucy-looking Goblin to act as Battle Leader for my Trolls and I was also considering also adding a mercenary unit of Half-Orcs at some point. And of course there's always beefing up my existing units. And at some point down the line it might be fun to see about maybe having a dragon make an appearance in a battle or two...

As for Desiree's army, she's probably going to add an allied Human contingent, using the (technically illegal) Human Hero as the Battle Leader. Also, now that the old Grenadier Dwarven War Cannon is once again available, that's pretty much a must-buy.

Speaking of which, we've decided we're only going to use old "true 25mm" minis. Both Grenadier and Ral Partha are once again available through Mirliton and Iron Wind, respectively.

And even further down the line, if Mirliton starts putting out the old Undead lead (and the Imperial Undead War Mammoth in particular!) an Undead army is as good as mine. And Desiree has expressed interest in maybe putting together an Amazon army at some point. So, much FW fun is in our future.

The funniest thing to me is that I'm finally pursuing this game some 15 years after first receiving it as a birthday present. Life can be pretty wacky sometimes...

1 comment:

  1. Your blog is a great read. Very cool table and minis as well. I've got a heap of those plastics but I didn't know that they were actually FW figs (I was going to use them for WHFB). I downloaded the rules pdf for FW... I'm inspired. More battle reports please :)


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