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!
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|
|Undead Moving Out|
*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|
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...|
|...as, on the other flank, my mammoth bears down on a hapless unit of axewomen|
|The knights surrounded|
|The Big Brew-Up|
|The Pikes Try Their Luck|
|Let's face it: when two half-naked chicks riding monsters square off, everyone's a winner!|
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|
|The Swirling Melee|
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!
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.