Sunday, October 16, 2011

What Is This I Don't Even

Oh, the miniatures you find on eBay...

Listed as "Dwarf Deamon Slayer"

The listing reads in its entirety: Description : Warhammer painted miniature ... what u see ... what u get

Alrighty then!

Monday, September 05, 2011

Armies of Arcana Battle Report #4

I'm finding that holiday weekends are an ideal time to get in some miniatures wargaming. With our usual Pendragon game taking a break this week owing to most of the group having other plans, Des and I sat down on Sunday for another match-up between my Undead and her Amazons.

I was particularly looking forward to premiering my new river and road terrain and incorporating my "house rules," which are really just some favorite bits from Fantasy Warriors mostly concerning table set-up and victory conditions. I was also looking forward to exorcising the rather disappointing last outing into AoA land of a couple months ago. Not counting that debacle, my skele-bones were 0-2. Would I finally chalk up my first victory or go down once again to ignominious defeat? Read on... (All pictures clickable, of course.)

The initial setup. Using the FW-inspired scouting rules, my Undead were completely outmaneuvered, allowing Des to choose the terrain and time of day (dawn, naturally). I quite liked the "new" FW-inspired terrain placement rules; after years of playing WWII skirmish games, I have a tendency to overcrowd the board with terrain. These rules created a nice, more open feeling while still creating enough obstacles to have an impact on deployment and maneuvering.

Right before battle is joined. At the last minute, Des ended up shifting her Peltasts (in the nearground) a bit, moving one of the units over to the other flank to guard her avatar of Athena (who was one of my victory objectives, the other being her Centaurs). For my part, I named my War Mammoth as an objective and the ruined temple as the other.

For years I've favored deploying my fast, hard-hitting units on the flanks but this game I took a chance and put my Knights right in the center. So it was that knights clashed with chariots on Turn One, kicking things off in grand style!

The "thousand yard stare" of a seasoned veteran...

The lines draw closer together, as the Amazon skirmish screen moves to contact my two infantry units. Meanwhile, the Centaurs and Peltasts move up towards the ruined temple, which has been occupied by my Troll-riding Necromancer, Germanotta. This marked the first game where I was actually able to get some spells off, finally rolling well against the inevitable Counterspell attempts.

Another view of the early stages of the battle. You can make out the Centaurs between the woods and the marsh...and my catapult drawing a bead on them. Shortly after this picture was snapped, I hit the Centaurs with a truly devastating shot from my catapult that wiped out five of the six horses! That catapult is easily the most effective unit in my army (when it hits, that is).

With one of my victory objectives nearly in the bag, I turned my sights on the other. As Athena was hiding behind a screen of Peltasts and a raging river, it would take some doing to get there. Here we see my War Mammoth about to attempt a river crossing. My Skeleton Pikemen, meanwhile, have made short work of the unit of Axewomen and are gunning for the Amazon Phalangites, whose numbers are being steadily whittled down by my archers. (More thoughtful deployment of my missile unit this battle allowed them an opportunity to play a more effective role, as well. I'm learning!)

Seeing what I was up to, Des sends her Barbarian Queen across the river as well. We had three units in total cross the river this game, and all suffered for it. My river-crossing house rules (developed back in the Fantasy Warriors days) proved their worth. Next game that features a river, I hope to see a bridge or ford if only to see how that affects things.

The situation mid-game. The chariot vs. knight contest turned into a real slugfest as neither side could force a morale check and we were both rolling hot on our armor saves...

In the end, though, the chariot unit broke, proving the old truism that if a chariot doesn't shatter a unit on its first charge it's probably doomed. The ensuing pursuit broke the center wide open and left my knights in an excellent position.

The other big melee in the middle. I'm finding Undead in melee to be an interesting spectacle. Being Fearless, they don't run away, but if they fail morale checks they tend to start disintegrating rapidly. Win or lose, my units are usually pretty depleted after a melee.

River crossings completed. Odds weren't looking good for my poor Mammoth, facing off against a General, a unit of Peltasts, and an Avatar.

After this picture was snapped, I charged the Amazon General with my Mammoth. She had lost 3 of her 6 Wounds crossing the river, but alas I was unable to finish the job. The Peltasts counter-charged and between them and the General my mammoth went down like a Mumakil. You can also see in the picture where I charged the Phalangites with my Pikes. Despite catching the phalanx on the flank, some phenomenally bad dice rolling on my part led to my unit's rapid disintegration. Ah well.

Meanwhile on the left flank, the lone remaining Centaur had charged Germanotta in her temple fastness and been dispatched. One victory condition met by each of us! I then managed to actually cast Raise Dead (a remarkable achievement for this army, trust me) and bring up some fresh skeletons to intercept the Peltasts who were menacing my Necromancer. As their numbers dwindled, Germanotta spurred her Undead Troll forward and joined the fray, cutting down Amazons with bolts of eldritch energy from her impeccably-manicured fingers.

As the melee in the center wrapped up (leaving just my Reaper and a single Skeleton Warrior standing!), my knights became the third and last unit to ford the river. Des had moved her General and Peltasts around to counter this move, and combat was joined.

I lost several knights in the ensuing melee, but the Peltasts could not stand up under the charge and fled, carrying their Queen with them. The loss of a General was good enough to trigger a Command Test (another FW-inspired house rule) and the Amazon army quit the field just as the sun began to set...
So it was a minor, somewhat Pyrrhic victory for me, but a win is a win! Woohoo!

It was quite an epic game: seven turns and about four hours! I was glad for the Command Test rules because without them the game would have probably dragged on for another two or three turns at least and by the end we were both pretty much ready to pack things up. We both had lots of fun, though. Those Amazons are a bunch of badasses, I must say. I'd love to put together another army just to see how they fare against them. May be a project for 2012...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Armies of Arcana House Rules

As I mentioned in yesterday's battle report, my last game of Armies of Arcana brought with it my critical mass moment - the moment I realized I'd played the Rules As Written enough to form opinions on what I wanted to add or change.

The core of the system will remain untouched for the most part. The only major rule I'm fiddling with (and this has been a house rule from the outset, actually) is to make Missile Immunity somewhat less powerful. The remainder of my house rules are really additions to the system, incorporating some of my favorite elements from Fantasy Warriors: pre-battle scouting (and its effect on terrain placement and army deployment), boasts, omens, time of day and bad light, and a rational victory system (which incorporates elements from the AoA Meeting Engagement scenario as well).

I'm looking forward to giving these additions a whirl at some point in the near future. I've promised myself I won't play another game until I've finished my river tiles, so it might be a little bit, but when it does happen I'll be sure to post pictures and thoughts as always!

Til then, if you want to take a look at my house rules just click on the nekkid necromancer below:

Monday, June 27, 2011

Armies of Arcana Battle Report #3

Over the last couple weeks we played host to my in-laws, who we finally managed to lure out for a visit to our ancient capital. As usual, this meant a showdown over the flocked battlefield with Des's dad Frank (clearly she got her gamer genes from his side of the family).

Although Frank's more of a computer gamer (insofar as he games at all), I've played a couple minis games with him in the past (a Fantasy Warriors game and a Blitzkrieg Commander game, specifically). This was the first time we'd have the opportunity to have at it on my new terrain and with our new armies. After due consideration Frank chose to play Des's Amazons, leaving me with my trusty Undead.

The game was a lot of fun, but in the final analysis I was somewhat bothered by a couple-three things. Of most immediate concern to seekers of eye candy on this here blog is the fact that due to the bright light flooding in through our dining room window most of the pictures I snapped ended up a bit on the washed-out, poorly-focused side. That's what I get for using my phone instead of a proper camera. (Lesson learned for battle reports: use the right equipment and draw the effing blinds during the summer!) I'll get to the other two items in the post-game analysis below. But first, on with the show (such as it is - as always, clicken to embiggen):

Frank's a canny tactician - he initially deployed almost all of his units in skirmish formation in order to mitigate my catapults' power.

I went for a more conventional deployment. I was mainly interested in the idea of letting my melee units interpenetrate my skirmished archers so that my archers could continue firing even after melee was joined (as my Undead are mostly immune to missiles, there was little to fear about hitting my own troops).

I do wish this shot had come out a little better. I love my necromancer and her wraith boyfriend facing down the avatar of Athena across the gully, as well as the composition of the units drawing closer, preparing for contact.

My left flank turned into a wonderfully roiling melee. Again, I was very favorably impressed with AoA's ability to handle large, complex combats with aplomb.

The wraith and the Amazon queen are about to face off in the center of this pic. The queen owned the wraith, but he managed to get in some good hits before he went down. I really want to either upgrade him to a Lich (still hurting from only having a single spellcaster) or give him a body guard of lesser wraiths (to make him a more formidable force on the field). Either way, we'll have to up point totals...

As the great melee on my left flank was unfolding, Frank got the drop on my catapult with infiltrating peltasts and a reckless chariot charge. Meanwhile, having disposed of the wraith, the Amazon queen had single-handedly charged my archer unit, preventing them from lending missile support. This not being "HeroHammer," the queen was eventually killed, but she took out about half the unit first, which had grave implications for the end-game (see below).

The aforementioned grand melee. Skeleton knights versus a chariot, axewomen, and centaurs. A thing of beauty.

I finally got to get my undead mammoth to grips with the hated phalangites! This is after the mammoth had completely obliterated an unbloodied unit of axewomen in a single turn. It's always great when your centerpiece model also turns out to be your best unit in the army.

The situation near the end of battle...
Yes, you read that right. The battle ended rather abruptly on, I think, turn five or six. And so was born my undying antipathy for the "Attrition" scenario in the AoA rulebook.

Basically, there are two scenarios laid out in the rules. Our previous games had used the other scenario, one I rather liked, in which each player names Victory Conditions that the other player must meet in order to win: "destroy this unit" or "take this hill," for example. The Attrition scenario, however, simply used a break point system in which once an army reaches a certain threshold, you have to dice every turn to see if you quit the field. Fantasy Warriors uses a similar mechanic, but the FW system is much more intuitive and easier to keep track of - not to mention it tends to produce more realistic results. One thing I particularly disliked about the Attrition scenario at play here was that a unit counted against you not only if it was destroyed or routed, but if it was "depleted" - reduced to a quarter of its value. My archers, being both Undead and missile troops, are worth a huge passel of points. So the Amazon queen's attack on the unit, which "depleted" it, counted against me even though she was killed and my unit was still in fine shape on the field.

As it turned out for this game, it was determined (after a lots of bothersome arithmetic - another tiresome element of the scenario) that both armies had reached their break points on the same turn. The Amazons had a higher chance of success though - for reasons I won't get into here because, frankly, I'm tired of complaining about the details of a scenario I'll never play again - and two dice rolls later the Undead were quitting the field, yielding a Major Victory(???) to the Amazons.

Yeah, not a fan of this scenario at all. Can you tell? An abrupt ending and a wildly inappropriate victory level just left us both with a bad feeling in our dice hands.

I'd feel the same way even if I'd won, for the record. I don't generally play miniatures games to win, but rather for the visceral experience. Part of that includes playing a system and/or scenario that I feel gives "realistic" (or at least satisfying) results. The core of the AoA experience is still brilliant, and the rules remain my go-to fantasy set. But I realized after this game I've got enough RAW games under my belt that it's time to start a-tinkerin'. I'll post my house rules (primarily just an amalgamation of some of my favorite pre- and post-battle elements from Fantasy Warriors - the core AoA system is to remain largely intact) in the next day or so, but suffice to say that from now on the real games will begin. Going hand in hand with that, I'm hoping to start up a little campaign to put our Undead versus Amazon showdowns in a larger context. I'll post about that as well if we get around to it.

The other thing that bugged me about the game had nothing to do with the mechanics. As you can see in the above photos, I got a little experimental with the field, creating a sort of inlet of water (due to the fact I didn't have enough edging tiles to make a full river). Even if I'd pulled off the full river effect I was going for initially, the hexagonal banks were just driving me crazy. I've had plans in the offing since I first picked up the Hexon II tiles back in '07 for creating much more naturalistic river tiles, and I think the time has finally come to jump on that project. I always love a good river on a battlefield, and battles for fords or bridges have formed some of the most epic moments in games past. Hopefully next time we play, I'll have the new tiles ready so the waters can flow read with Amazon blood. Muahahaha!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

[Project Ork] In Which I Drink the Kool-Aid

It's about time I wrote a bit about my big project for 2011. But first, some background.

As I've written about recently, this is my year for re-invigorating my atrophied miniatures hobby. Back when I first got into gaming, miniatures wargaming held as strong a pull on me as RPGs. (Strangely, these two interests never really intersected - I've never been a big fan of using miniatures in RPGs.) I picked up Fantasy Warriors within a year of my first-ever gaming purchase (the Mentzer Red Box) and was soon painting armies with great enthusiasm (if not so much the skill to match).

The following year a friend of mine received the boxed set of Warhammer 4th edition and I received Space Marine (the forerunner of Epic 40K) the same Christmas, and we were thrust headlong and screaming into the abyss of Games Workshop fandom. For the next eight years or so, we played a wide variety of GW games: Man O' War, Necromunda, Mighty Empires, as well as lots and lots of Warhammer and Epic. For a variety of strange and obtuse reasons too byzantine to get into here, we never managed to add Warhammer 40,000 proper to our roster of games.

As much as we were enthusiastic players of GW games, we also experienced all of the usual dubious joys that come with that territory: the price gouging, the planned obsolescence, the corporate policy of not supporting  long-time players in favor of bringing in new blood, and so forth. Not to mention we were playing these games during what could be termed the nadir of Games Workshop in terms of both rules and figure quality ("Herohammer," kiddified marketing, atrocious plastics, and so forth). In due time, we hit the point of burnout on our GW hobby. Armies were sold off, plans were made to move on to other, more "indie" genres.

Those plans never really panned out. As a historian by training and interest, I found myself drawn towards the historical miniatures genre. Certainly the fractional price point of 15mm figures compared to Games Workshop was a big draw. Unfortunately, this was still in the dawning days of the Web, and I found myself largely adrift without guidance or any idea of how to get jump-start my new hobby. This was back before games like Flames of War and Warhammer Ancients revolutionized the historical miniatures hobby by introducing concepts to rulebooks such as readability, color photos (or images period), decent page layout and organization, or addressing themselves towards a newbie audience.

Over time, however, even as these things got better, I found myself well along a path towards increasingly idiosyncratic interests, ordering minis from backyard manufacturers around the world, picking up obscure reference works from Ukrainian distributors, and pursuing increasingly arcane projects. This culminated with my long and largely unrequited interest in World War II miniatures (which, if nothing else, has left me very well grounded in the history of that war and of the 1940s in general) ultimately taking the form of a collection of 1/72 scale plastics modeled on an obscure and little-known campaign.

Cut to a couple months ago.

I had finished painting up our fantasy armies and was planning to (yet again) re-base my WWII miniatures in preparation for yet another permutation when I realized I was done. After 15 years of collecting and painting WWII minis, I felt I'd reached my end. Not just for the Second World War, but for 20th Century wargaming in general. I wanted to branch out to something more colorful, and also something less close to our own time.

So I started thinking about a new project. I made a decision: to sell my WWII collection and use the ensuing funds - and only those funds - to start the new project. After due consideration, I settled on returning to an old, unticked box, and drink the Kool-Aid: I would at long last start a Warhammer 40,000 project.

This is a huge step for me. Apart from a brief dalliance with Mordheim about six or seven years ago, I haven't played a Games Workshop game in a regular way since 1996. I've attempted to start a project or two, but even then the last attempt was years ago.

Another significant element of my decision is the fact that I'll only be collecting one army. I've gotten into the habit over the past few years of collecting two armies at once. This is because I've largely been the sole torch-carrier for my hobby, even in its greatly reduced state. That meant I couldn't rely on others to collect their own armies for me to play against, and that I had to make sure I was able to supply an opponent with an army if they were interested in playing a game here and there. By choosing to collect just the one army, I'm basically accepting that I'll be going out to play with strangers, something I've never done in the past.

On the one hand, with a 40K army I'm sure I won't lack for potential opponents. On the other hand, these opponents will be drawn from a pool that is notorious for having among its numbers, well, petulant little bitches. Obviously that's a vocal minority, but they do exist.

My goal going in to this project is to aim for aesthetics over "playing to win." This is kind of my philosophy when it comes to miniatures games to begin with, but I'm really pushing the former category with this project since I have no idea when I'll be sending my troops into combat. Also, there's a definite culture of conversion in the 40K universe, so I'm looking forward to jumping into that and doing some extensive customization of my forces, focusing on painting, modeling, and producing a visually compelling collection.

Speaking of my forces, I've decided to go with Orks. Reasons are twofold. First, my old Epic 40K army was Orks, so I have a definite sentimental attachment. Second, all 40K minis are, shall we say, a bit on the cartoony side. This was actually a turnoff for me when I was taking a fresh look at 40K, but I like that Orks are unapologetically so. I like their sense of fun, their ridiculousness, the fact they don't take themselves too seriously. In terms of setting, they're a refreshing break from the relentless seriousness of the other races. I like that they fight for the love of it, not because they're EEEVIL or because they're grimly determined or inscrutable or what have you.

I've decided to go with the Blood Axes clan. Call it my contrarian nature at work again, I suppose. The Blood Axes are hardly a popular choice of clan, even in the canon (despised as they are by the other Ork clans). But I like them because I saw an opportunity to do a bit of an homage to the World War II origins of this project - the Blood Axes pattern themselves on human military conventions. I found a company in Poland (there I go ordering obscure shit from Eastern Europe!) that does resin Ork heads with German-style helmets. I've decided to evoke a sort of Germanic flavor with my boyz, modeling camouflage patterns on WWI German camo, for example. I'll post more details about individual units as I work on them, but for now the old minis have been sold and new ones are arriving as I type.

Some observations so far: After so many years of toiling in obscure corners of the miniatures hobby, it's a pleasant surprise to find the Internet such an embarrassment of riches in 40K resources. Galleries, how-to guides, tactical overviews, and - most critically - lots and lots of great discounts on the second-hand market. I've been able to put together an (at least) 1,000 point army on $260, not bad for a "horde" army like the Orks.

Despite my mixed feelings about returning to the Games Workshop fold, ultimately I'm excited about this project and enthusiastic about seeing how the minis turn out.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Armies of Arcana Battle Report #2

After far too long of a break, I was able to play my second game of Armies of Arcana the Sunday after Christmas. It was also the first game played with our new armies (our first AoA game way back in April '09 utilized our old Fantasy Warriors armies as a sort of compare-contrast test of the new rules). I'm happy to report that our armies both performed to expectation and AoA continued to prove itself a simple yet elegant set of rules. (Of course, there were a couple rules oversights that affected things, although I don't think enough to change the eventual outcome; rather, the game went on for a couple extra turns beyond what it might have otherwise.)

In accordance with our usual practice, I set up the table and let Des choose table edge. I actually set everything up a couple days before we played and ended up culling out some of the trees on the right-hand side of the table - I have to break my habit from years of skirmish games that more terrain is always preferable. For these mass combat games, you need to allow room to maneuver and gain line of sight!

Initial Setup
Above is the initial setup. The offending forest that was winnowed down is on the near side of the table. The table surface covered about 5x4. I think for future games I'll use the whole 6x4 setup my table area allows, as I discovered that AoA is much more a game of maneuver than Fantasy Warriors was.

Des chose her side and we deployed our armies. We chose to play the "Attacker/Defender" scenario and Des won the dice roll and chose for her army to be the attacker. She reserved her peltasts on Infiltrate and set up the rest of her army accordingly, then I followed suit.

For this scenario, for every 2000 points (or part thereof) of their army, each player nominates one victory objective that the other player must achieve. Since we have 3000 point armies, that meant we were each nominating two victory objectives. I nominated the ruined temple as terrain that the Amazons had to occupy and my Necromancer as a character the Amazons had to defeat. Des chose two characters as victory objectives, her Priestess and the avatar of Athena. The scenario had been laid out: the necromancer Germanotta had been despoiling a sacred ancient temple to Athena and had to be stopped! In return, Germanotta had ordered the death of her rival, the Priestess, and the destruction of the avatar the Priestess had summoned!

The Temple Objective

View from the Amazon Lines
As planned, the game opened with me sending two powerful flanking units off in a wide pincer movement. My unit of Skeleton Knights wended through a narrow stretch of the woods to their left, making for the ruined temple. The Undead Mammoth meanwhile lumbered off along the right flank with objective of smashing the Amazons on that side and hopefully drawing some forces away from contesting the temple while aiming for either the Priestess or the Avatar in the bargain. My archers, meanwhile, moved up and prepared to unleash a volley of arrows into the Amazon ranks (lesson learned: missile units can't fire if they move more than half their move in a turn; in the future, I'll be sure to creep my archers forward, allowing them to fire every turn).

Undead Moving Out

As anticipated, Des tapped her Infiltrating peltasts as my cavalry approached the temple, deploying them directly on top of the victory objective and launching a volley of javelins* at the undead knights as they emerged from the woods. Clearly the temple was going to become a focal point of the battle...

*The Undead as written in the rules are Missile Immune, meaning they take no damage whatsoever from missile weapons. I didn't particularly like this rule despite the benefit it allowed me - it just seemed a bit too heavy-handed and unrealistic. Accordingly, we've adopted a common houserule giving the Undead a fixed armor save against missiles. The result is that it's very difficult to hurt Undead with normal missiles, but it is possible to get a couple hits in. Much better.

The Amazons are a very fast-moving army, and they were quickly countering my moves not just with the infiltrating peltasts but with the centaur cavalry and light chariots charging across the table. The centaurs, in particular, greatly concerned me as they were making a bee-line for my Necromancer! If they managed to take her out with the peltasts holding the temple, the game could well have ended just as it was getting under way!

The Amazon Counter-charge

View from the Undead Lines
The chariots smashed into my archers; crucially, I forgot that my archers could "Stand and Shoot" as a charge reaction. This balanced out since we didn't apply the reaction to the peltasts when they were charged by my knights, and we remembered the rule from that point out.

In an act of desperation, I turned my pike unit 90 degrees and marched them in front of my Necromancer. They didn't have enough movement left to turn back to face the oncoming Centaurs, so I knew I would have to take a flank charge, but that was fair trade for protecting my remaining victory objective.

Germanotta was already one wound down from a Centaur arrow...

The knights charge the peltasts as the Amazon queen joins the fray

Battle is joined

Athena watches the battle for her temple shape up..., on the other flank, my mammoth bears down on a hapless unit of axewomen
(Incidentally, in the last picture you can see my latest tree basing scheme in action: trees are mounted on a fixed base but are removable for when units pass through. It worked a charm - finally a forest terrain system I'm happy with!)

The chariots made short work of my archer unit but lost one of their number in the bargain. The remaining chariot charged on into my Great Reaper. Meanwhile, my pikes drove off the centaurs and began marching towards the temple to reinforce the knights, who were slowly being whittled away (my few attempts at casting Raise Dead to bolster my numbers were shut down by counterspelling from the Amazon spellcasters - drat!)

The knights surrounded
My Great Reaper drove the chariot off but was nearly killed in the bargain - he would play no further role in the battle. My mammoth smashed into the axewomen and sent bodies flying. Meanwhile, a major melee began to brew up in the center as my remaining archers along with my unbloodied unit of skeleton warriors engaged the other unit of axewomen and the slingers. At the temple, the last of the knights were felled just as my pikes emerged from the woods.

The Big Brew-Up

The Pikes Try Their Luck
With the knights finished off, the Amazon Queen directed her trusty sabretooth steed towards my Necromancer and an epic combat ensued:

Let's face it: when two half-naked chicks riding monsters square off, everyone's a winner!
(Actually, the combat was a bit too epic; due to a misreading of the morale rules, we didn't start making morale rolls until a couple turns after when we should have. Ah well, all part of the learning process...)

Meanwhile, my mammoth trampled and scattered the last of the axewomen and made straight for the Priestess lurking to the rear of the Amazon lines. In a desperate act of bravery, the remaining light chariot, which had rallied in an earlier turn, charged the mammoth despite being down to a single wound. Predictably, it was turned to matchsticks as my mammoth charged on.

Meanwhile, the phalangites finally got into the battle by utilizing a nifty trick called unit exchange, in which they (with a successful morale check) swapped places with the slinger unit pressing my warriors' flank.

(Another rules goof occurred here: my warriors sent the unit of axewomen to their front fleeing around this time. They were now fighting only the phalangites on their flank. Turns out, after one turn of flank combat they should have been allowed to turn to face front; instead, they fought on their flank the whole time. Fortunately this didn't make a huge difference in the grand scheme of things, but it's an important point to remember for future battles in case the phalangites or my pikes [which rely on facing forward to gain combat bonuses] get charged in the flank.)

The Situation Towards the End of the Battle
 Combat continued to swirl around the temple as the peltasts gradually wore down my pikes. The phalangites (who had been reduced by a nasty hit from my catapult that killed seven with one blow) were wearing down my warriors (that Fearless rule is great for Undead staying power - it can really pin units down!), as my mammoth closed in on the Priestess.

The Swirling Melee

In a desperate move, the Priestess (as a master of Water magic) tried to call up a geyser beneath the oncoming elephant, but the creature's great mass easily weathered the jet of water and the Priestess was crushed beneath a bony foot.

With each of us having achieved a victory objective and my mammoth now making for the Avatar of Athena, all attention now focused on the ongoing battle between my Necromancer and the Amazon Queen. Both individuals were taking morale tests every turn at this point (like they should have been doing for at least two turns earlier...ahem...).

At last, both failed their morale tests on the same turn! Germanotta fled directly away from the Queen - and off the table. Just as well, as she was down to one wound. With my Necromancer driven off the table, that was enough to count towards the Amazon victory condition. The game ended with an Amazon victory!

Run Away!

Last Turn
In the end, despite my defeat, I was very pleased with how my Undead performed. I was also duly impressed with the Amazons, who proved to be a satisfyingly tough opponent. Their dominance of the magic phase with two spellcasters was particularly vexing, especially since my army, like Undead armies in every fantasy wargame, benefits greatly from buffing spells. Perhaps I'll promote my Great Reaper to a Lich or add a second Necromancer at some point.

Speaking of magic, that was one facet of the AoA rules we hadn't really explored with our first game, and I found it to be a real highlight. The rules are nicely balanced to keep magic from dominating the game while adding a real tactical element with choosing when to counterspell and when to save up power points.

Despite the inevitable learning curve oversights of certain rules, the game itself is very much in the "easy to learn, difficult to master" category that marks any good set of rules. I can't wait to trot our armies out again for a rematch.
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