Surrey Spartans Smackdown 2016

And so the Spartans Smackdown has finally come around! It was a great two days of gaming with a large number of great people. My normal trepidation about the character of people who play Warhammer/9th Age and their unnecessary pedantic ism was swiftly banished and I thoroughly enjoyed the entire event.
In the end my list was as below:
Player: Chad. Army: Dwarves Holds
Characters – 1352
Runesmith: Plate mail, Shield , Rune of Gleaming, Rune of Resilience, Rune of Reckoning, Rune of Brilliance, Rune of Devouring, Rune of Dragon’s Breath (General) – 434 pts

Runesmith: Plate mail, Shield, Rune of Gleaming, Rune of Resilience, Rune of Reckoning, Rune of Denial, Rune of Dragon’s Breath, Rune of the Forge – 404 pts

Thane: Plate Mail, Shield, Rune of Dragon’s Breath, Rune of Kinship, Rune of Steel – 276 pts

Thane: Plate Mail, Pistol, Rune of Dragon’s Breath, Rune of Kinship, Rune of the Forge, Rune of Iron – 238 pts

Core – 1136
25 Grey Beards, Hand Weapon and shield, Heavy Armour, Champion,– 580 pts
24 Grey Beards, Hand Weapon and Shield, Heavy Armour, Champion,– 556 pts

Special – 710
6 Hold Guardians, Innate Defence (6+), Plate Mail, Champion – 690 pts

Clan’s Thunder – 200
Steam Bomber – 200 pts

Special & Clan’s Thunder – 244

7x Rangers, Crossbow, Greatweapons, Shield, Skirmish – 244
Engines of War – 870
2x Dwarven Ballista, Flaming, 130 X2 = 260 pts

2x Flame Cannon, Rune Crafted, 170 X2 = 340 pts
1x Cannon, 270 pts

Total – 4492 pts

It was in fact illegal on first submission  – I had an Engineer without applying his points to the Engines of War section – so a last minute replacement for the rangers was made. This was then submitted late, so I was going into the event with a -10 point penalty! Ah well, I’d just have to play hard!
Game 1 – VS Ben Gibson (Saurian  Ancients) – Table 19

Ben ended up getting my vote for best sportsman – an award adequate meaningless by the lack of an actual award or even a certificate,  sadly. Best in race got a bit of paper even if there was only one player in a given race, albeit unnamed, so I’m not sure why it was decided Best Sportsman wouldn’t but hey. We were playing Hold the Centre and started way down on table 19/20. However, this was in the heated room at the club – electronically rather than by the combined body heat of 25-30 gamers – so everyone of the five tables there started the day by coming together to come up with a plan for all of us to stay in that room.

They only way to do that was for us all to score zero victory points and zero tournament points, so unfortunately it didn’t look possible. Instead we turned our attention to playing the game.

I had snuck a look at Ben’s list in the tournament pack and knew it was essentially a less shooty, more reptile-filled version of my own balanced list. A medium unit of Saurus and one of Temple Guard who housed the ridiculously magically Old One were the mainstay of his line, supported by two units of ten skinks, a unit of five chameleon skinks, twenty skink archers and three pteradon riders. He also had a skink priest in the Saurus unit, a unit of two Spearbacks, a skink hero of Taurasaur with giant bow and an Engine of the God’s bearing Thyascus. Not enough monsters to scare me, but 2d6+1 S6 impact hits from the Taurasaur could easily trample any of my blocks.

I deployed centrally with my blocks, slightly behind the hill in my DZ. The idea was that whichever one got charged at least one unit could counter charge the following turn. I spread my artillery out fairly symmetrically, placing the cannon on the middle-left so it had a good line over the objective and the central and right areas of the battlefield. The gyrocopter and Rangers with one Thane went on my left, threatening the skinks deployed over there and ready to punish any failed charges from the Pteradons.

The game began pretty much as it continued after I won the roll for first turn – as one giant standoff. Ben respected my blocks too much and I was too afraid of his counter charge, while he was confident in his magic giving him superior firepower and I had my faith in siege engines.

By turn two he had engaged my cannon and my right most Ballista after it sniped a Spearback. My general’s block charged to save the cannon but I2 ensured they struck too late. The Skinks pathetic melee abilities meant the Ballista survived and actually won a combat on turn three, panicking the skink archers who eventually ran off the board and freeing itself for a second shot, kebab’ing the last Spearback. After I used my Rune of Devouring on his Unerring Strike spell and panicked his other skink skirmishers off, I  was firmly sitting on a small ranged advantage.

Ben moved into range of my Flame Cannons, willing to take the hits so he could threaten the objective on Turn 6. I was so sure he wouldn’t be charging me I turned my smaller unit of Greybeards around so the Runesmith could Dragon’s Breath his pesky Chameleons.

I surged forwards on Turn 5, blocking the Flame Cannons but proving their ridiculous accuracy by doing so, since they don’t actually roll to hit, and camped out 6” from the Centre. By his Turn 6 Ben’s Saurus unit was left at two and the skink priest, but still counted as scoring so he was able to challenge the objective with an equal number of Scoring Units as I had.

My Rangers had been in a position to either charge or move onto the Centre themselves. I didn’t because I had been mistakenly confident of killing 5 Saurus with the Rangers, two Ballista, two Flame Cannons and the Gyrocopter. A mistake, in retrospect, and one that cost me the objective.

However since I had only lost my Cannon points-wise, despite Ben charging the Ballista on the right flank  twice and levelling a significant amount of Magic at me, I still came our with a 12-8 win.

This was nothing on my fellow Spartan Ric’s runaway 19-1 victory on the table next to us, so I did not take Best Spartan in round 1. Congrats to Ric on that tremendous victory, especially considering he was running a fairly experimental VC army.

Game 2 – VS Roger (Dwarven Holds) – Breakthrough, Table 9

This game, and Roger’s tactical insight, highlighted the tremendous flaws in my list. I enjoyed it immensely though, and Roger was a pleasure to play against!

Roger’s list was similar to mine but had been more expertly chosen. He had a Dwarven King on Shield Bearers and a BSB in a block of 38 Great Weapon wielding Clansmen. His king had Devastation and Smashing, so I  wasn’t going near him with my characters. He also had a Dragon Seeker with the exact Runic combination I use – Fury, Might and Speed, combined with Monster Hunter – with nine skirmishing Seekers. Again, that was nothing I wanted to touch. There were also two individual Steamcopters, two units of five Rangers with crossbows,  a Flame Cannon, an Anvil of Power and two Rune Crafted Organ Guns. Oh, and ten Clansmen and ten Miners.

With the change to artillery having T4 and 5 wounds, the Organ Guns mangled my ranged firepower in short order. By the end of turn three I had done three wounds to one of his guns while he had perforated all of mine. My Rangers, after being deployed outside of cover in his DZ had spent the game cowering in some handy ruins while receiving an awful lot of attention from Roger’s gun line.  They  were only saved by those ruins, and I imagine they almost had more holes than bricks in them by the end of the game!

Turn 5 saw Roger move his horde of Great Weapon wielding Clansmen move up to charge my Greybeards. I had decided I was going to lose already, only challenging his Miners’ control of the objective with two Rangers and having lost about 1000 points for no gain apart from that. So I double charged both Greybeard units into his Clansmen, the last brave act of the older generation trying to teach the upstarts their place.

I got Gleaming and Resilience off on both units, a horribly potent defensive mix that meant his King killed a measly two of my Dwarves. In return the two Runesmiths got 21 hits with their combined Runes of Dragon’s Breath, killing ten of Rogers Clansmen, and then they and the Greybeards kill another seven or so with their S4 Ap1 attacks. The clansmen killed one or two, the magical buffs protecting my Greybeards on top of their 4+ save and shield wall. Roger took a second and then declared his King would have to auto-break due to combat resolution! With two units to pursue his circa 1000 point unit, I was back in the game!
Except he out ran them by two inches and rallied in his sixth turn. He also charged his Seekers into my Hold Guardians, a combat I had postponed by not doing the same thing in my turn five. His Dragon Seeker hit and wounded with all seven attacks, his multiple wounds rule meaning that he ripped five apart all by himself! My champion got one attack through – my rolling was dire – but only got one wound from the D3 roll before fleeing and getting caught.

Roger deservedly won 17-3, having pitched me to the post on the objective by one unit after one of my Greybeard blocks charged into his Flame Cannon and snuck two dudes into his deployment zone with canny angling. We had a good tactical discussion afterwards about the superiority if Organ Guns and sword-and-board Greybeards, during which Roger said he thought it could have been very different if I’d caught his Clansmen with general and BSB, and especially if I’d got his Dragon Seeker. I was tentative in my agreement until threw some points values out there – if I’d managed better rolls on those two occasions I would have scored another 1500ish points. I still would have lost, but possibly only 13-7. If I’d got my Generals unit of Greybeards into his deployment zone…

I conceded it was a closer game than it looked. But that’s why I enjoy 9th Age – even facing such a seemingly total defeat, I could have swung a victory. Alas it didn’t happen, and I fell from the heady heights of table 9 to table 15.
Best Spartan of Round 2 went to Matt ‘The Stampede’ who cleared up 15-5 against his opponent after losing everything but his block of 50 Gors to shooting. However, I remember Dyson did quite well in this round too but I can’t remember the score. I have a funny feeling it was 18-2, which would give him the title if that was the case.
Game 3 – VS Michael (Vampire Counts) – Capture the Banners, Table 15

I’m going to begin my report of Game 3 saying I would have voted this man for best painted army. He had converted a lot of his flying beasties to be perching on, launching off or flying over/around various bits of got hic architecture – railings,  crypts, mausoleums – and his painting work was also excellent. Unfortunately he either didn’t enter or I didn’t see that he had, so I couldn’t vote for him. He was also a very decent guy, which is always a plus in an opponent!

He had brought two units of 30 zombies, a unit of 25 sword and shield skeletons, 12 Barrow Knights with BSB in, 2 units of 2 bat swarms, 2 units of 2 spirit swarms, 5 (Spectral Knights), a unit of 3 Vampire Spawn, a Vargeist-monster-vampire thing, a necromancer and a vampire lord on zombie dragon. He also explained that his Necromancer could pump up the zombies and skeletons to twice their starting numbers. Great.

Game three was Capture the Banners, so we nominated three of each other’s Scoring Units as kill targets. He chose my smaller Greybeard unit, my Rangers and my Hold Guardians. I chose his Barrow Knights, ass they were clearly going to try and get in combat anyway and this way I could focus them down for double value. I also chose his two zombie units, because I reasoned the skeletons might survive longer in combat and get raised more as a result.

Turn one saw Michael move forwards very aggressively with his Knights and Dragon on my left flank while his swarms and Vampire Spawn flapped out across the centre. His Vargeist-thing had used it’s vanguard movement to get half way to me anyway, so ended the first turn in my deployment zone staring at the flank of my Greybeards! I used my Rune of Devouring as soon as he cast Invocation of Souls with his Necromancer – no more of that, thank you very much! He did ask why I hadn’t chosen his Vampire Lord’s summon wolf bound spell, and the truth is that I forgot but I was also happy that his cheap bunker of bodies wasn’t going to getting big enough to worry me. In my go my non-objective Greybeards guarding my left flank turned to face the oncoming undead horde while my artillery tore the Vargeist-thing apart. Sod letting that thing flap about behind my lines!

Turn two Michael moved his swarms, Vampire Spawn and Spectral Knights to get a turn three charge on my artillery while bringing his Dragon closer, bravely hiding the undead avatar of terror and death behind a bit of impassable terrain. The Barrow Knights declined to charge my non-objective Greybeards, Michael explaining he was okay to get the counter charge with the Dragon as he thought his Barrow Knights were tough enough to survive a round of combat – and that was if my Dwarves managed a ten inch charge. He summoned some Dire Wolves, miscasting it on four dice so the spell was lost for the  rest of the game. He couldn’t quite place them to redirect my Greybeards, the impassable terrain making effective placement impossible. Instead he readied them to distract my slowly inbound Hold Guardians.

My Greybeards then bust out their speed freak nature, made their charge and slew eight Barrow Knights with a combination of a thunderous S5 charge, the Rune priest’s Rune of Dragon’s Breath, his Armour Piercing bonus for the unit and some unlucky rolls for Michael. The Knights killed one guy through the Greybeards defensive equipment and Rune of Resilience, leaving the remaining Knights and BSB to crumble. Grumbling about the shoddy metalwork of their opponents armour, my Greybeards turned to face the Dragon.

Michael started his turn three by charging his Vampire Lord on dragon into my Greybeards, confident his Breath Weapon and Thunderstomp would win him the combat. He also charged both Flame Cannons and a Ballista a Spirit Swarm, Spectral Knights and Vampire Spawn respectively. His summoned wolves also charged into my Hold Guardians, hoping to redirect them with the overrun.
All my artillery pieces survived, miraculously, although two were only on a single wound. They stubbornly refused to budge as well, meaning my General’s unit was in a very good position  to mop up all three small units in my turn. The Dragon massacred about eight or nine Greybeards with a combination of everything, and they fled even though they were Steadfast! Cowards! Thankfully Michael decided, after some discussion, not to pursue and turned to face the rest of my army – and my scoring units. Personally I would have chased for the free thousand points those Greybeards and Runesmith represented. They only ran seven inches too, so didn’t quite make it off the board which I think Michael was banking on.

The Dire Wolves were massacred and I took a reform, passing the Leadership check safely on the Hold Guardians LD of 10.

In my next turn I charged the Dragon with the Hold Guardians, hoping that their D3 wounding fists would put it back in the grave. I also charged his Vampire Spawn with my General’s unit, ready to roll along and save my artillery line. At this point my Steam Bomber, who had finally escaped the Dragon’s attention/charge arc, started gunning across the battlefield and bombed the Bat Swarm that hadn’t charged, killing it outright! My fleeing Greybeards also rallied,  which was nice.

Since most of my artillery was in combat and my magic had been dispelled apart from giving my General’s unit rerolls to hit in combat, we moved straight to the hack and slash! I started with my General’s unit, who butchered the Vampire Spawn but not before they ate the last of the Flame Cannon crew. The General then led his unit into the Spectral Knights, who didn’t manage to kill the Cannon crew and the Spirit Swarm was also run into and destroyed by combat resolution after also failing to kill the Flame Cannon they had charged.

The Hold Guardians were much less successful, managing a single paltry wound on the Dragon and losing four wounds in return. Despite this miserable performance  they held.

Michael began turn four by pulling his remaining Swarms back to cover his zombies, who had spent the game ironically behind the protection of a church, although the lone Steam Bomber was unlikely to achieve much. In combat my Hold Guardians managed a single, solitary wound again and lost four more wounds – but again, held firm. To add insult to injury, the Vampire Lord had recovered a wound in his magic phase but miscast, wounding himself in the process so now I was only 50% responsible for the damage head taken.

My turn four saw the non-scoring Greybeards charge the Dragon in the flank, hoping Thunderous Charge would give them the kick they needed to bring the beast down. I got Rune of Resilience off but nothing else on the Greybeards. Another five brave Dwarves died to the Vampire Lord and his mount as they ripped into the slightly softer Greybeards for combat resolution, and I only managed two wounds in return. But with all the bonuses from charging,  flank and ranks, I actually won the combat by just enough to send the cursed creature back to he Hell it came from!

We stopped here, as all that would have been achieved was my Steam Bomber killing not enough zombies to matter. Totalling up the score, I won 20-0, getting to take the title of Best Spartan in Round Three – although again I believe Dyson was close with around 17-3 for his game. If Michael had charged with his Barrow Knights on the second turn then he would have been at S6 and I would only have had S4. Had he pursued with the Dragon, or had those Greybeards fled the board, it would have been a very different score to finish.

Day One drew to a close and, after three great games against three great people, I headed home without checking my standings.

 

Day Two

Game 4 – David Dyson (Demonic Legions) – Hold the Centre, Table 8

Leaving early on Day One meant that when I turned up on Day Two I was very surprised to be greeted with the news that I was on table 8. Such a grand position for an emergency list that I knew was flawed (cough, pistol on Thane, cough – and that’s just the start)! My next opponent was a Spartan – with about a fifth of the players there being Spartans I would have been surprised if I hadn’t played one.

I was drawn against Dyson and his Demons – he was running a Pestilence Demon Prince, 25 or 30 Tallymen, 25 Bloodletters, 6 Plague Beasts and 6 Fiends of Lust. He had a Herald of Wrath and one of Pestilence, both slightly tooled up – importantly the Plague Bearers were granted Poison 5+ by their Herald.

We had to Hold the Centre, which was handily located behind a large impassable turret on one side – Dyson let me chose sides so I took the other one and deployed on a hill overlooking the objective with my General’s unit and the Hold Guardians, placing my other unit slightly off to one flank facing Dyson’s Plague Bearers and Fiends while his Bloodletters took a central position. The cannon and a Ballista went down on my left with the Steam Bomber, another Ballista in the woods on the far right to try and bait out the Fiends and the two Flame Cannons went down on the middle Hill as well. His Plague Beasts faced off against my Cannon and Ballista on the left so I placed the Rangers and both Thames over there as well to stop any flanking shenanigans.

By Turn 2 I’d eaten his one bound spell and he’d charged my Rangers with the Plague Beasts, my General’s unit with his Bloodletters and my right flank Ballista with his Fiends – really fast moving stuff! The Fiends took all but one wound off my Ballista yet it held, I won combat in the centre by a few points, although for limited Instability damage due to his BSB,  and the Plague Fiends had been reduced to a single model after Dyson had only killed one dwarf and between the Thane’s attacks, their Dragon’s Breath and the Ranger’s Great Weapons tallied up a massive 8 wounds to kill three, then two with Instability!

I counter charged the Fiends with my second Greybeard unit in the flank and swung my Hold Guardians round to flank the Bloodletters. The cannon took 3 wounds off his general but my other artillery couldn’t quite finish the job. I got Resilience off on my general’s unit who once again won their combat, although despite the Instability losses Dyson knew his unit wouldn’t run. My normal tactic of winning and overrunning wasn’t going to work, which was a big problem. More so for my other Greybeards, who had killed four Fiends in total but we’re now in charge range for Dyson’s general and his Plague Bearers. The only good news was that my Rangers were half way back to the action, having finished off the final Plague Beast.

Turn Three began with my non-General Greybeards getting smashed in the flank by Dyson’s Tallymen and General. It also saw his Hellhounds arrive, which didn’t look good for my General’s unit as they lined up directly behind my central Greybeards. In combat I killed a few Tallymen and the solitary Greybeard in base contact with Dyson’s General hit, wound and then saw the Daemon’s invulnerable save keep him in the battle. They fled, having lost horribly, and were caught and dismembered by the Fiends.

My turn three began with a mistake; I forgot to charge the Bloodletters with my Hold Guardians, and moved my Rangers first. This was utterly irrelevant to the board, and I asked Dyson if I could still charge in – initially he said yes, but then after I allowed him a slightly graceful method of denial he took it. As I said at the time, he was perfectly within his rights and it was a tournament game. In a friendly, it would have been out of order as my Rangers movement was inconsequential, but it wasn’t a friendly. This was a serious game, and we both knew that charge would have torn apart his Bloodletters, saved my General’s unit from a rear charge and probably cost him the game!

So, with an appropriate amount of grumbling from a Dwarven general only fielding Greybeards as infantry, I moved the Hold Guardians forward instead to block Dyson’s Tallymen from the objective. I made a mistake here as well by moving them so only the back rank was within 6″ of the objective. Had the front rank also had been, then I they would have been in a scoring position. This was overlooked, however, as my surviving Ballista managed to take Dyson’s general out with a shot straight through it’s infected hide! Thanks to the fact Instability is nowhere near as bad as Crumbling, this didn’t matter to any of Dyson’s units.

Combat saw my General’s unit, with a little magical support, win yet another round of combat and take the Bloodletters down to half strength, but the Instability wasn’t enough by a long way. The rear ranks braced themselves for Dyson’s inevitable charge.

The Hellhounds went into my General’s unit, and the Tallymen charged into the Hold Guardians. The two remaining Fiends slunk around the back of my Deployment zone, trying to avoid the attention of my artillery. The Hold Guardians lost one of their number – Poisoned 5+ is a real scary thing! But killed enough Tallymen to win the combat slightly. Dys couldn’t get through enough of the Greybeard’s armour to win significantly so they held – for now.

The rest of the game became a mighty slugfest. After two more rounds of combat my General’s unit fled, getting caught by the Hellhounds who pursued off the board. There were only seven Bloodletters remaining, plus their Herald, as Dyson’s 5+ Ward saves had started coming up trumps. The Hold Guardians lost two more members of their unit before I’d killed the Pestilence Herald and by that point the Tallymen had been weakened so much it was clear they were going to fizzle out eventually.

I popped on of the remaining Fiends of Lust but the survivor managed to kill two artillery pieces while the Herald of Wrath did for a third before charging into the Rangers to try and kill them or drive them off the objective. He failed, but Dys managed to pass roughly a million 5+ saves to keep the guy alive on one wound! The Hellhounds pinned the last two Hold Guardians off the objective and, despite being pulped, weren’t banished in time for me to get second unit on the objective.

It came down to my Cannon and Steambomber having to kill three Bloodletters standing within a goblin’s foreskin of the maximum range of the objective. They were steam bombed, machine gunned and cannoned but when the smoke cleared two still stood – the 5+ Ward save that Dyson kept claiming was “rubbish” and “useless” seeing them through!

This was my hardest fought game of the tournament, and between us we had fourteen models on board at the end of the game, paying testament to how tough it had been. Due to canny numbers in my unit (and, frankly, a bit of luck) Dyson hadn’t done enough damage to either the Rangers or the Hold Guardians to get points for them. Since I’d scored points, or partial points, for all of his stuff besides his Herald of Wrath I came through with a hard fought 13-7 win. Which only went to show that if Dyson hadn’t clung to the rules – quite fairly – about my Hold Guardians and their forgotten charge, they game would have likely ended up being a lot more one sided in my favour. It was a great game all round, although I was painfully aware that replacing three or four artillery pieces with two Organ Guns would have been a much better tactical decision.

 

Game 5 – That guy, (Ogres Khans) – Secure Target, Table 5.

I cannot remember the name of the gentleman I faced at the end of Day 2 – I was tired and kinda sick of my army not having Organ Guns, and I’ve lost my campaign pack. I believe his name was Mike, and he was a great opponent two – if somewhat confused how I got to Table 5 after my performance against him, I’m sure! I’m going to keep this short and sweet, since I played this game poorly, had bad dice, and my opponent played very well and had average dice.

The game was over in three turns. My Greybeard units were ground into the dirt by Rock Aurochs and my Hold Guardians were violently deconstructed by a combined charge from a Rock Auroch and seven or so Ogre Mercenaries. My artillery was bombed by a Wrath of God then mopped up by some Tuskar cavalry. I managed to deal a total of three or four wounds between the two Rock Aurochs and killed three Ogres with a Flame Cannon – my opponent kindly killed two more with a miscast. I was 0-20’d in short order.

I could say I was tired and couldn’t be bothered – which was true – but I could have played better and put some more effort in. More conservative deployment, more judicious use of my artillery etc. But I didn’t, so I lost. Hard. That’s what happens when you reach top tables (just – Table 5) with a sub-par army!

dwarves_loss

I came 29th out of 40 in the end, although that was mostly due to dropping 10pts after submitting an incorrect list and then a late replacement. Still, I had immense fun and won the sadly unsupported Best Sportsman award jointly. I told the other guy that if there had been a prize, he could have had it which got some laughs. All in all I very much enjoyed the weekend and would gladly get involved in more 9th Age tournament after experiencing the calibre of players – and people! – at this one. It was a very relaxed event where everyone kept high spirits and as far as I could see everyone enjoyed themselves. Which is what counts, right?

I’ll just remember some Organ Guns next time….

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