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.


  1. Wow! What an incredible battle! I love your detailed turn by turn report. I could really picture the grand melee as it unfolded. :)

  2. Great stuff - I'm quite interested in that ruleset and off to do a bit of research on it.

  3. Thanks to you both! I had a lot of fun writing the report up.

    I highly recommend Armies of Arcana, particularly if you're suffering from Warhammer burnout. It's flexible and intuitive in every way Warhammer isn't, and you can use your armies as is with no modifications! There's been a bit of fluff development with the latest edition, but fundamentally it's a truly generic set of fantasy wargame rules.

  4. I think you've sold me on AoA, generic I like a lot!

    My main objection to Warhammer is while GW have a sound marketing strategy to their customer base it seems to me the person who can afford the outlay on the "coolest" most powerful units will always win.
    I absolutely loathe being told by canon what figures I can use because there are other manufacturers out there - as your army pictures have shown that are equally good - if a £20 outlay means no attendant army books then its most definitely up my street.

    Once again many thanks for bringing something to my attention I'd otherwise have missed B-)

  5. Err, I linked your Battle Report to the AoA forum. I later realized I should have asked you first. Let me know if you want the link taken down or if the extra visitors are welcome.

  6. Thanks Lucas! No worries on not asking first - I'd actually meant to link this on the forum myself but lost track of that during the holiday bustle.

  7. Now I've read the rules (a bit!) the fixed armour save ticks my boxes as well, even if its a 4 or 5........I'd probably be tempted to build in a weakness against crushy smashy weapons as well......

  8. "I'd probably be tempted to build in a weakness against crushy smashy weapons as well."

    Absolutely. Here are my Missile Immune house rules:

    - All "Missile Immune" troops are considered to have Armor 5 (Fixed) against normal missiles.
    - Magical missile attacks reduce Armor 5 by full Strength.
    - Artillery attacks reduce Armor 5 by half Strength.

    There was actually a point in the game I forgot to mention where the Amazon slingers got enchanted missiles, but since their Strength is "Weak" it didn't end up making much of a difference!

  9. Remember that any unit with a movement value greater to 15" which flees and reaches the table edges in the same turn is still allowed to stay on the table in order to be able to take at least one Ld test to regroup (and that rule is official).

    If you want to "mess" with the undead rules, why don't you just use the creature generation formula? you could simply give them a maximum armour bonus vs projectile thus fielding a completely legal army more accord to your likes.

  10. PS: if you don't mind, i'm going to link this BR in my own blog

  11. Link away! And thanks for the reminder on the fleeing. None of my units move that fast, but that will certainly come into play with several units in the Amazon army.

    As for the missile immune stuff, I arrived at the house rule as the best option after reading a bunch of opinions on the matter on the AoA boards. The house rule really doesn't change things enough to justify different point values.


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