Designing Dread Elves, Not Dead Elves – Entry 2

So after my previous Dread Elf post focusing on list writing and what the book offered that was actually worth putting on the table, I have not one but TWO battle reports, albeit condensed somewhat and lacking pictures (sorry!). The first was against Dan P’s Beastmen army, the second against Mike’s Vermin Horde.

The Wild Hunt

As mentioned in the last post, this was Dan’s first game of 9th Age. This meant that bringing my tournament list was somewhat unsporting of me, but I am playing Dread Elves who are fighting fiercely for bottom place in the ‘most useless army’ competition. Reminding myself that my army’s ability on the battlefield was comparable only to Demons and the decision not to put anything on the table, I felt somewhat better about it.

Dan also got to write his list on the day, knowing what he’d be up against. Armed with that knowledge, and his experience in WHFB, I quashed any guilt I felt. Knowing he’d be playing Beastmen, my plan was to deploy awkwardly and limit how many charges he could get at once. Having talked to Doran plenty of times about Beastmen, and having heard about Dan A’s ambushing badasses, I knew this might not be easy. My other option was to move into the centre of the board quickly and mash whatever he did deploy while the rest of it caught up. That bought me time and potentially options, but could leave me surrounded. It could also be bad to abandon my deployment zone depending on the mission.

As it was we rolled capture the centre and Dan had put not that much in ambush – and when I say ‘not that much’, I mean only two units of 25 Wildhorns and one unit of 14 Mongrels. On the board would be 40 Longhorns, 6 Minotaurs and four chariots. Suffice to say I was not comfortable with any decision I had to make at this stage.

Dan got to pick edges and gave me the side with a massively inconvenient twelve inch long impassable ruin running long-ways in the centre of my zone, about thirteen inches in from the board. I can’t blame him, but it was unhelpful. I set my larger block, complete with general, BSB, both sorceress and the Divine Altar in tow, off to the left of the wall with a hunting chariot on their left side. My Tower Guard ranked up behind the right hand side of the ruin as I was worried their smaller unit size and lack of ward save might attract some unwanted magical attention. Further to the right were my two units of Corsairs and the other hunting chariot. The assassin crept into the Tower Guard, taking advantage of their Bodyguard rule to give them Stubborn once he revealed himself, and I was set.

Dan placed his Longhorns in the centre, the Minotaurs in a wood facing my spear block and all four chariots on the right, bearing down on my slightly nervous Corsairs. I didn’t Vanguard them as a result, and made a tough choice with my Raven Cloaks, setting them down behind and to one side of the Minotaurs to harass them and hopefully be enough of an annoyance to make them turn around. Big goals, but they’d clearly decided they had to impress someone. Dan Vanguarded all four chariots, swinging them round to face the centre and my bigger block, apparently confident their T4, 4+ Sv and 4 Wounds would keep them save from my pathetic ranged attacks.

In the first two turns I played fairly conservative on the left, my big block lining up between the impassable ruin and some dangerous terrain so it couldn’t get flank charged. I resigned to being rear charged and moved the Tower Guard off to the right where my Corsairs desperately tried to run interference on the chariots, managing to catch two in combat. My hunting chariots sniped at things but didn’t achieve much.

Dan brought on his ambushers, one Wildhorn unit behind each of my combat blocks and the Mongrels by my Raven Cloaks to counter-harass them. Everything else wheeled and turned towards my big block of spearmen, which Dan correctly identified as both the backbone of my army and his best chance of scoring points.

Turn three saw my Tower Guard glumly turn around to face the Wildhorns behind them, reluctantly accepting they would be of minimal use this battle due to deployment issues. I cast Burning Ramparts on the Wildhorn unit behind the big block which Dan either failed to dispel or didn’t bother to, I forget which. This was a Turning Point, as was one of his chariots breaking from my Corsairs after losing combat due to being flanked charged and running directly in front of my spearmen.

While I wouldn’t be charging that chariot, it meant he was very limited with regard to charging me in his third turn. He managed to get two chariots into my main unit and the Minotaurs, who made a sixteen inch charge but could only get one model in base contact. The Longhorns lined up behind them, understandably expecting the chariots to be dead after two rounds of combat. He charged my Tower Guard and the rear of the spear block, triggering Burning Ramparts. At this stage he realised the full measure of the cataclysm that this brought down on the Wildhorns; eighteen died, leaving seven to make it into contact after they passed their panic check. This meant that there were too few to deny my rank bonus, which would bode poorly for the combat.

My Lord and BSB each killed a chariot, the spearmen brought down a wounded Minotaur and a healthy one, and I think I killed two Wildhorns with my back line. I lost maybe three spearmen in return. The Minotaurs held but the rear Wildhorns fled, again triggering Burning Rampants. Dan took them off and reformed the Minotaurs so all six remaining beasts could attack. The Tower Guard and Assassin killed seven Wildhorns and lost four of their number, a pathetic display considering their advantages, and by some miracle the Raven Cloaks weren’t wiped out by the Mongrels, instead routing and wiping them out.

In my next turn all of the Minotaurs died before they could fight, and the Wildhorns fighting the Tower Guard lost by another embarrassingly narrow margin to ‘the best unit in the Dread Elf book’. Eventually the blocks met for a massive smash but Dan didn’t bother making his attacks after I killed somewhere between fifteen and twenty Longhorns as he wasn’t confident of matching the combat resolution. We called it there.

I did feel bad afterwards. I had apparently come to a destruction derby driving in a tank with a forward mounted steamroller. However, had he dispelled Burning Ramparts then things could have gone very different – he also had no wizard of his own, trusting in his Totem bound spells to be all the assistance he needed. He acknowledged this error afterwards, as it also denied him access to a dispel scroll.

He also said I used the terrain very well, and I think I did. Using the impassable wall and the dangerous cracked ground to guard my spear block’s flanks made it untenable to wrap around my unit without a lot of time consumed and risk taken. Burning Ramparts did a lot of work, and maybe saved the unit – definitely save a few elf-lives – but I’m confident I would have held without it. Without ranks, I had a combat resolution of +15 with wounds and banners, vs +7-8 for Dan from surviving charges, wounds and rear charge. I don’t think another eight attacks from the Wildhorns would have swung it, even with their rank bonus.

So it worked! My one block chewed through nearly an entire army! An unprepared and unpracticed army, perhaps, but an army all the same. This was a favouring omen, and kept my spirits high while I planned a second game!

A Tide of Fur and Filth

It took three weeks to organise my next game after DJ chickened out, making up an excuse about having a family or some such…blasted ‘grown ups’ having loved ones….

Mike took up the gauntlet, his sneaky ratmen coming together from the gloom to face down my Dread Elves. I had changed my list before I saw Mike’s, so didn’t tailor it in anyway specifically to face his rats.

“What’s that? You changed your list? Again?” Yes, but I kept the spear block, the Lord and BSB exactly the same. The only change to the sorceresses was that the one without the dispel scroll was now on Wilderness, having previously been Shadow. My Fire wizard was leaving the block, as she became next to useless once I was in combat. I scrapped the chariots and the Tower Guard, as well as a unit of Corsairs and the spear block’s Heavy Armour. In their place I got 12 Repeater Auxillia with standard for the Fire Mage to hide in, a unit of Dark Acolytes with a champion, two Dread Reaper Artillery, two units of five Dread Knights with Standards and an extra Raven Cloak.  This gave me a lot more scoring units, two of which were highly mobile and the third could deal with standing still for a whole battle, along with a very dangerous and very fast chaff-clearing unit with a high-damage spell. This change was mainly because I came into possession of five shiny new cold one knights ready painted and five Dark Acolytes, undercoated. I hoped that their mobility and the added threat/temptation of three smallish high value targets would distract attention from the main block, which still stood at about 1100points all told.

I had the advantage of having seen Mike play Doran the week before. This meant I knew what was in Mike’s list and, although I couldn’t change mine as it had to be versatile and tournament prepared, I could adjust my tactics. Which was good, because I wasn’t really ready for Mike’s new take on the Vermin Tide.

He had two Lightning Cannons, two volley gun crews, two units of six Jezzails, a unit of ten rat ninjas with ambush and poison, two units of nine plague globadiers and not one, not two, not even three but four wizards. Protecting them were two units of 25 plague rats, two units of 25 slaves and a unit of 35 vermin guard. Oh, and two Dreadmills. That’s a lot of firepower and a lot of bodies. I left the Spartans before the end of the game, but most of Doran’s big stuff got sniped. I heard later he’d cleared up and gone 17-3 by his estimate – all because Mike had ignored his big block of infantry in the middle.

A good omen for my Dread Elf raiders.

Mike got the privilege of setting up the board by virtue of me being late. He set us up with a fairly balanced set of obstacles, and got the choice of sides because I wanted to drop everything so I could go first. One side had a forest in the centre, a hill to one flank, a ruin just outside the zone and an impassable rock formation on the opposite flank to the hill. The other had another wood in the centre, six inches outside the zone, a hill opposite the impassable rock formation and a second impassable rock on the opposite flank to the hill. Mike took the side with the ruin so it was up to me to make best use of what I had.

We rolled Breakthrough deployment, the awkward one with the asymmetric zones, and got Capture the Flags (Banners) for game mode. After I’d nominated my Auxillia, one unit of Knights and the Spear block as my banners I just had to set up. This left me with the awkward decision to march through a forest with my block or try something intelligent. Since I was dropping everything I took a risk on my intelligence. My bolt throwers and Auxillia went on the hill, with the Dread Knights on the right side, the unit with the banner behind the other. The Dark Acolytes went on my far right, hoping to loop around the impassable rock formation quickly with their 20” movement, and my Fire mage ranked up in the Auxillia. My Spearmen – with general, BSB and my new Wilderness mage – were slightly off centre, using the ruin for cover (I hoped) while the Corsairs drew the shortest straw and stood dead centre hoping to dash into the wood and maybe cheekily flank charge something.

Mike took the bait offered by my heavy cavalry and set up all 12 Jezzails opposite them and my Bolt Throwers. A Dreadmill came down opposite my Dark Acolytes, changing their planes, and the flank was completed with a unit of slaves, one of plague rats and one of globadiers. He put his other plague rats and his vermin guard in the centre, using the wood for soft cover, and a unit of slaves on their right flank to screen his more important units and some globadiers for harassment purposes. He had shifted some points around and now had a naptha thrower as well as two volley guns, which all took position in front of the vermin guard. I got a free Turning Point when he deployed his cannons on my far left, looking pretty lonely, and declared his gutter ninjas as ambushers. My Raven Cloaks once again said goodbye to whatever loved ones they had, sold their watches to their best mates in other units and offered the money to the Deep Gods of Luck before setting up in clear view 18” in front of the cannons.

Turn one Mike immediately used the Lightning Rod, giving me a mighty -3 to hit with my shooting, and stopped flying movement – which would have been upsetting if I’d had either. I amrched the corsairs and spearmen into the centre, looking to charge with the big block next turn. My shooting was minimal anyway and achieved nothing, and my Magic phase was equally disappointing but drew out an early dispel scroll. My cavalry had moved up, somewhat awkwardly, to avoid the Dreadmill but threaten/tempt the Jezzails.

Mike discovered a small exploit involving Random Movement which meant he could essentially keep his central Dreadmill in the same place – if something with Random Movement hits an allied unit, it bounces off to a distance of ½ inch. The other one peddled slightly sluggishly down my flank, the engineer apparently not too keen to engage ten cold one knights and two bolt throwers. His shooting killed off my non-scoring unit of cold one riders and a spearman – importantly, the Raven Cloaks forced him to make a difficult decision with his Lightning Cannons, which opted to move down the hill and round towards his army instead of firing. This would mean I couldn’t charge, and a Globadier managed to snipe a Raven Cloak while the slaves on my left flank moved to threaten a charge.

Turn two the Raven Cloaks skirted the hill to threaten the Lightning Cannons again, having already distracted most of a whole flank. I charged with the main block, declaring one of the weapon crews who fled. My re-direction into the plague rats fell short so I ranked up awkwardly beside the ruin. My surviving Dread Knights reformed to face the oncoming Dreadmill while the Dark Acolytes bravely ran a gauntlet and ended up only three inches in front of the Jezzails. If even just the sorcerer could get through and behind Mike’s lines it would be worth it. My shooting and magic took four wounds of the central Dreadmill, so we moved on to Mike’s turn.

Mike issued no charges, except the Dreadmill in the centre decided enough was enough and drove into my Spearmen. His cannons shot at the Raven Cloaks, one missing and the other failing to wound with its S6 shot. My Spearmen prepared to weather the storm of incoming Callous fire under their Gungan Forcefield but instead the Corsairs got shot – I’ll consider this a Turning Point, as it was a wasted round of shooting in my opinion. Mike later explained he didn’t want to kill his own Dreadmill and didn’t think he’d kill much – as it was, one volley gun team ran out of ammo and was removed and only four Corsairs died. The Dreadmill misfired and fell apart, saving me from impact hits, but his Jezzails annihilated my Dark Acolytes, scoring nine wounds. Mike’s magic was dispelled or failed and there was no longer any combat.

Turn three I finally got a charge with the spear block – declared on the weapon team, who I expected to flee. Mike held with them, really super annoyingly. This meant I could be left in an awkward place next turn depending on my overrun roll. The Raven Cloaks charged the nearest Lightning Cannon, which held, and my surviving Dread Knights charged the Dreadmill, which had again moved rather lazily, allowing them to hide behind the impassable rock formation from the incoming Jezzail fire. Magic actually happened this turn; my Fire sorceress barbecued two Jezzail teams while my Wilderness mage used Beast Within on the spear block, turning them into a very respectable combat block – and also tough enough to survive the oncoming tirade of fire coming my way. The naptha crew were steamrolled and I thankfully made the distance with overrun to hit the plague monks. The Dread Knights did two wounds to the Dread Mill for no loss, staying somewhat safe. The Raven Cloaks shish-kebab’d the Lightning Cannon crew and overran into the other one, even though the slaves were breathing down their necks. Blood and glory, right?

Mike’s turn three saw the vermin guard counter-charge my spear block, so that now 100 models were involved in the fight for that central wood, while the slaves charged downhill in a chittering, flea ridden mass at the five Raven Cloaks. The remaining weapon team had to charge my spear block as well to get out of the vermin guard’s way but it was a sacrifice he was willing to make. Mike’s central globadiers got into short range of my Corsairs while the others moved to bombard the big melee. My right flank became utterly unimportant at this point, as my Bolt Throwers were taken out by a combination of long ranged sniper fire from the Jezzails and the gutter ninjas, who fled after losing three of their number. Once the Jezzails died to magic, there was not much happening so I won’t mention it any more.

The Raven Cloaks managed to shish-kebab the second Cannon crew before two died and they fled from the slaves, who pursued off the board. My knights didn’t manage to kill the Dreadmill but two survived until the end of the game, and my Auxillia & Fire mage spent the rest of the game killing slaves and plague rats.

In the big central combat, the magically enhanced were-elves killed twenty three rats across both units, losing only seven of their number in return – I say only, this was about 20% of the unit BUT comparably it was nothing. The plague rats ran but the vermin guard maintained ranks and Stubbornly held. In the next turn they were wiped out to a rat, leaving only Mike’s general, BSB and a wizard (the other one having been petrified by the Medusa on the Altar), who fled. I caught his general, the other two rat ‘heroes’ apparently having hamstrung him as a sacrifice to their own greater good.

In Mike’s turn the mage and BSB fled the board and I asked him if he wanted to call it there. He still outnumbered me, despite the loss of sixty or so rats, so said he’d carry on. He changed his mind after I pointed out my central block was roughly 1200 points, however, and we called the game over.

The armoured steam roller that is my spear block performed outstandingly again, taking on more units and more models – albeit less well equipped ones but if I wanted a fair fight I’d probably win less games! Having 30 spearmen all making their attacks on top of the two characters is truly a sight to warm the hearts of Dread Elf Vikings everywhere, and utterly ruined everything they touched. The shield generator performed outrageously well, having something like a 55% successful save rate rather than the statistical 33%. This was somewhat balanced by my sub-par casting dice but unlike Mike I wasn’t depending too much on that side of things.

Mike immediately recognised his error in placing the cannons by themselves when my Raven Cloaks were yet to deploy, but compensated fairly well – although I personally would have fired at them in turn one, hoping to break them or reduce their combat efficiency. His blocks were also very spread out, meaning they couldn’t support each other which they really need to due to their small size and relatively low power. Mike has apparently given up on Skaven blocks though, besides slaves and tar pits, and is looking at shooting. I think next time we meet I may be marching through an additional layer on firepower provided by thirty to forty slingers – and that would put the shield generator under a real stress test!

So how was my first venture with cavalry? Yup, you read that right; that was my first time in about five long years of using cavalry – except Gyrocopters. I’m pretty sure that using them in small units as bait is commonly accepted as being the wrong way to do it, but it did work for me here. Not only did they distract a Dreadmill, nearly killing it, and twelve Jezzails but also a wizard and the attached power dice. Combined with the Dread Reapers they cost a total of 660 points, which is an expensive distraction, but if it means that the spear block gets into combat with minimal to no losses I’ll happily accept it. I think I’ll try to use them more instrumentally next game, but starting cautious seems better.

Although I’ll be the first to admit throwing the Dark Acolytes in front the Jezzails wasn’t cautious. Worth the risk I felt though.

Had Mike had some hard hitting unit, like cavalry or ogres, I wouldn’t have been so aggressive with the Spearmen, as being flanked charge and disrupted could ruin their chances in a combat. However, against Mike’s multiple medium units and massive shooting I couldn’t hang about, and I needed to get his banners. The final score came to something like 17-3, so another successful outing for the Dread Elf Viking horde. For my next game I’m going to try and get Richard B’s ogres as an opponent – his list defines ‘big’ and ‘scary’, made up of a lot of monstrous cavalry, so it will be a very different throw down to what I’ve faced so far!

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