Monday, July 27, 2020

Battle for the Comet

This Sunday Goblin Grot Spider Riders, Skaven and the Oger Ogor Mawtribes fought against Dark Elves, Fyreslayers, Dwarves and Bretonnians (*cough* Flesheater Courts *cough*). Seers foretold three precious comets would land in the (wisely) abandoned village of Schweifsternheim. Whoever could claim the precious rocks would gain untold power and riches. Reason enough for a good scrap.
With a deranged roar the packed Ghouls stormed a horde of Skaven Clanrats.

Seven of us got together to have a fun afternoon gaming (using AoS rules). We actually planned for eight but one of the group had to cancel at the last minute. We also planned to use the latest General's Handbook, but not a single one of us actually bought it. With one player missing we simply shoved two Realm of Battle boards together and two of us who had yet to complete their lists (Dark Elves and Fyreslayers) made 1.000 point armies instead of 2.000 points. For those still wondering, yeah we're casual gamers :). Most of the comments on the battle itself will be in captions with the pictures. I'll blab a bit about how we went about the practicalities of a multiplayer wargame in the general text. 

A rather nasty horde of giant spider riders crawled towards the Dark Elves. Both sides filled with avarice at the riches about to fall from the sky.

Dwarves and Bretonnians Flesh Eaters formed a line versus Skaven and Ogors. The ravenous hordes would face off until the comets landed.

To prevent a silly clobbering of models (there were no orcs present this day). We drew an objective card from (an older) objective deck. It stated a comet would land on a random spot on the table at the start of turn three. Whoever held this objective at turn five would win the battle. As the battlefield was rather large (and Dwarves are very, very slow) we decided to turn this into three comets. No two comets could land in the same place and whichever side had two out of three in turn five would win the game. The advantage of an game with an objective is that you actually need to do some thinking ahead. Just clobbering each other won't cut it. 

A small but hardy band of Fyreslayer mercenaries quietly stepped between the Dark Elves and Flesh Eaters. If there was Ur-Gold in the comet, they would claim it. 

Dwarf Organ guns (actually firing for a change) drew first blood, hurting a Stonehorn. 

Age of Sigmar has many helpful rules for multiplayer games. We ignored all of them. Each player had access to their own set of command points (no sharing). We tried to keep an eye out for combat where three parties were involved to rotate the order between group one and two. This mostly resolved itself and all in all went quite smooth. As there are plenty of synergies and other rules to keep track of, we decided not to include complications like weather rules, extra terrain rules and the like. Just an objective, crisps on the table and go. 

Forgotten inside the toll booth a trembling road warden hid behind the money chest. 

The packed mass of Skaven advanced as a Doom Wheel and Buddy the Hell Pit Abomination covered their flank.

The leftmost battle board was filled with a 2.000 point Spiderfang army. Goblins Grots riding giant, poisonous spiders with humongous arachnids as backup. On the other side where 1.000 points of classic Dark Elves fighting alongside 1.000 points of Fyreslayers (half-naked mohawk sporting Dwarves with a fire fetish). 

Fierce shouts from their bosses (and lack of control over their mounts) gave the Spiderfang Grots unexpected courage, even in the face of the summoned Molten Infernoth elemental. 

Dwarving the houses around it, the humongous Arachnarok nimbly sprinted forward. 

The second table had 2.000 points of Skaven facing a matching force from the Flesh Eater Courts (insane ghouls who think they are noble knights and their serfs). A 2.000 point force from the Ogor Mawtribes faced of against Dwarves (not Dispossessed as their owner quite fiercely proclaimed). We use the matched play points as guidelines to keep battles playable in (mostly) an afternoon. As Games Workshop is gradually disappearing older units and their points costs. We use older General's Handbooks to figure a reasonable facsimile or the tried and true smile and wave method where even that is impossible. It's just a game, lets have some fun.

Skaven courage might've been bolstered by a Verminlord Warpseer, it didn't stop a present arch-warlock from frying itself within an inch of its life with a failed Warp Lightning spell. 

The Dark Elf and Grot lines where slow on the charge, giving other races around them plenty of time to get stuck before picking their targets. Also the treacherous Grots murdered some Skaven allies with a run amok Endless Spell, drawing immediate compliments from the Skaven general. 

Aside from an army I supplied the terrain and tables (actually repainting one of the Realm of Battle boards in the days prior to Sunday). I rather like battle mats but the old plastic Battle Boards are wonderful as you can easily transport them and they turn slightly too small tables into full (and rigid) wargaming size. No leaning on the table though! Also I got to use almost all my finished Townscape buildings in a battle. 

Behind the toll booth a small unit of Skaven got the wonderful news they would be in reserve, instead of facing actual combat.

With a word of magic the Sorceress lifted herself up to the height of the local watchtower on a pillar of magic. 

The battle itself was a lot of fun (see captions). I discovered just ahead of the game that all the silly cheat-prone artifacts from the Malign Sorcery supplement have been scrapped in this year's General's Handbook (the app no longer offered them). That saves both on planning an army and idiotic combinations during games. Later on I learned that the artifact giving my Skaven Vermin Lord an extra save after the extra save no longer works as well. Good. It was an overpowered game-spoiling rule (and I got a lot of use out of it this one last time). In an unrelated side-not We heard a rumor that Storm Shields in 40K have finally been 'reduced' to a 4+ invulnerable save. Make it 5+ GW and the game might become fun again. Where was I? Oh yeah AoS.

With a deafening roar Ghouls and Skaven lines met. The Ghouls had first (and second) bit. Pumped up by dark magic the front 10 ghouls managed a horrifying 6 attacks each in 2 waves, doling out a total of 120 attacks on the front unit of 40 (10 after the attack) Clanrats.

Most likely all 40 Skaven Would've been down if it weren't for a Mystic Shield letting the Skaven re-roll 1's on their armour saves.

I had a brief moment of old school nostalgia. <grandpa speaks alert!> Back in the bad old days before the internet you had Warhammer Armies or (just after that) an Army Book with your rules. Now you have Battle Tomes and if you invest at launch handy cardstock cards with your rules. BUT, you also have faq'ed rules, changed stats, options scrapped and options added through GW's online channels. All well and nice, but what are your cardboard cards and books worth if the rules keep changing? I guess the tournament math-hammer crowds love this, but for a casual game? Its confusing enough that the paid Azyr app and the free Warscroll Builder can't agree on points or rules. If GW itself can't keep up, how are we supposed to?
Answer: don't, just relax and enjoy the cardboard cards (its only a game).
But I have to say it looks bad when the paid app and the free app not only disagree, but the paid app turns out to be the one in the wrong. <dispel grandpa.>

Aside from getting their Warden King stomped into the ground, many dwarves ended up mushed and ready for the ogre cook pots. 

Twenty lucky Clanrat reserves, aided by a completely useless Grey Seer crept off to 'protect' a comet already under Ogor control. Skaven tactics at their finest.

All groaning and longbearding aside, AoS is a hell of a lot of fun. When it works, it really works. We saw a murderous giant spider pumping out enough poison to take down a dragon (18 mortal wounds in one go if I heard correctly). The ghouls unleashed an unbelievable storm of violence when aided by frenzy inducing powers, and the Warp Fire Throwers got into their element on the tightly clustered ghouls. Extra cinematic points for the Ogors who in their charge ignominiously trampled a Dwarf Warden King into the ground.  

Howling with rage Buddy the Abomination faced off against an Abhorrent Ghoul King and a Varghulf Courtier, reducing both to their last wound. Their reprisal took Buddy  down to one wound as well. A badly misjudged Arcane Bolt by the Sorceress took down Buddy in the next magic face. The abomination exploded in a swarm of rats, taking both its enemies with it into the grave. 

One comet fell straight into the lap of a Grot Boss (back of picture), the other one landed by the feet of a Magmadroth. Meanwhile four Rat Ogres, cunningly sent through a Gnawhole attacked and (with some effort) killed a Fyreslayer Auric Runemaster.

On the subject of Dwarves, they most definitively need a (fan made?) Battle Tome. Their rules are very, very bad. Almost no synergies for one (although this cuts down on the confusion). Front and center to their problems is the horrifying armour save they all have. This is understandable. When AoS was released five years ago a standard save was 6+ and heavy armour 5+. Only a few extreme armour fetishists got a 4+ save. Shields did not add to this, but tended to give a special rule like a re-roll. Then the Stormcast came in with a standard 3+ save peaking to 2+ (re-rollable) in some cases. This got the usual GW arms race started. On the one had towards weapons with rend (to reduce armour save) and on the other towards more armour saves for other races. In between them making regular line infantry about as useful as a cardboard placard stating 'do not pass'. 

From the pinnacle of the Balewind Vortex, the Dark Elf Sorceress signaled ten Dread Knights held in reserve to take one of the comets. 

Ogre Iron Guts spotted and promptly filleted three hapless Infernal Courtiers.

I do not like this direction. Personal gripes aside, this has also left races without updates in a rather nasty pickle. Fully armoured Dwarves have a 5+ armour save. Equal to t-shirt wearing Grots or Skaven Clanrats in large numbers. They have almost no access to weapons with rend and no hope of ever getting a new Army Book (aside from rules updates for a few leftover units in the Cities of Sigmar book). Seeing a visually heavily armoured Dwarf army cut down due to lack of armour saves is just sad. With the odds of GW fixing the old armies around zero (unless the Old World Project tries to stick close to the basic AoS ruleset (pretty please!)) this motivates longing looks towards different systems. Dragon Rampant seems interesting (although the complete lack of variety between races caries the risk of blandness). On the other hand the anti-magic in the Dwarf army messed with my spells in a serious way this battle, so down with the lawn ornaments! No armour saves for you! ;)

Taking out the Rune Priest at his Anvil of Doom (and casually murdering some Quarrelers), the Verminlord suddenly realized that not only had most of the Skaven died of routed but (much worse) all comets where out of its reach! Luckily a suspiciously clean (and lively) Grey Seer was near to take the blame...

Assuming you're not a math-hammery type (to each their own) the AoS rules that are up to date (and don't just pimp armour saves) work like charms. When facing Flesh Eater Court units you'd better kill them all or their (hard to kill) bosses will just make them rise again. Skaven are a true horde backed by zany (and unreliable) war machines. But beware, take away their bosses and they scatter. Facing Ogors always (rightly) feels like getting a very solid punch to the face with a gauntlet. And the speedy, poisonous spiders always manage to surprise you (in equal measures by overkill and horrifying failure). It gives an AoS game (from a casual point of view) a truly cinematic feeling that doesn't get ground down by a seventeenth reading of the turn radius rules for chariots I vaguely recall from my 3rd ed. days. 

Skewering the Grot Boss, ten Dread Knights took control of one of the comets, a resurrected group of Crypt Horrors took control of another one, winning the battle for the side of Death and Order. 

The first two turns of the game where a fun and mad jostle for position on the tabletop. With the drop of the three objectives in turn three this changed as we all started to try and move units towards these objectives. Our side made a lot of mistakes here and the other guys had some clever reserves at the ready. We made a final sprint in turn four, but as it turned out had nothing close enough to recapture two of the three objectives. Although our armies took a bigger size chunk out of the enemy, we lost the battle. In other words: a well deserved victory for Order and Death. Also a hell of a lot of fun for all seven of us. Now to actually visit a local GW and pick up the new General's Handbook, I'm quite curious about the 'create your own hero' ruleset.


  1. This is bloody brilliant. Absolutely stunning to look at, and it sounds like it was a blast. Your gaming mindset very much mirrors my own (in the sense that I'm not all about the tournament math-hammer, but AoS is a fun game and can be used to tell some great stories). Plus FEC are hands down the coolest faction in any game that GW has ever produced!

    1. Thanks! It's a joy to see all the effort put into the hobby come together and I quite agree with you that no one holds a candle to FEC in AoS lore :)

  2. Have you looked at Warlords of Erehwon at all? My gang switched over from AoS and never looked back (no axe to grind with AoS we had a blast, just prefer WoE)

    It’s setting agnostic but wears its roots on its copyright friendly sleeve (it’s from Rick Priestley). As we nearly always end up playing multiplayer games the die draw mechanic makes it perfect... I sing the game’s praises when ever I can.

    1. Thanks for the tip. I liked the dice draw mechanic when I played a Bolt Action test game. I did check out Warlord of Erehwon earlier, but its description labels it as a skirmish+ game (40-60 units on the table) without telling me if you can scale up from there. From the site it was a bit hard to tell if I could use my current round (re-)based collection to play. Also I couldn't quite figure out if old GW armies can be proxied into the background. Aside from that it looks quite interesting and its written by Rick Priestly which is an instant plus in my eyes. I'll try to check it out later. I've been meaning to purchase some items for Warlord games for quite a while now anyway.

    2. We scale it up quite a bit, to be honest we feel the die draw makes it even better for bigger games because you don’t get the long times between turns, you’re engaged the whole time. We’ve played some pretty huge games, and nearly always play at least 2,000 points (the points equate pretty closely to similar forces in AoS)

      We’re all WHFB / AoS players so use those armies, some units we’ve had to make ourselves using the points calculator on Rick’s site, once you get the hang of it you can put together units really quickly.

      Bases are also a non issue as you don’t really have to worry about them in close combat, when a unit is engaged, the entirety of both units fight, so square or round, 25s or 32s, it doesn’t matter.

      It’s well worth a go for guys with fantasy armies sitting around, especially armies like dwarfs who aren’t necessarily well represented in AoS, as the investment is pretty small, rulebook and order dice and you’re good to go.

    3. Thanks, I'm going to order a copy of Warlords and give it a shot.