Tuesday, November 13, 2012

First blog post, first trial of Mantic's Kings of War

I should probably start this blog by explaining a bit about myself and what kinds of things you should expect to read about here, but pffft!  I can always do that next time.

Let's get right to business: this Saturday, November 10th, after about a month of work assembling the final models needed to finish two 1,000 point armies (Orcs and Goblins) and re-doing movement trays I finally got a chance to try out Mantic Games' "Kings of War" fantasy battle system.  I'd backed their Kickstarter campaign *cough* quite excessively *cough* and have wanted to give the rules a spin ever since, as they look clean, simple and straightforward. None of the vague and overly complex rules you'll find elsewhere that can induce hours of arguments and page-flipping. Kings of War looks to me like a good set of 28mm rules for reasonable opponents who are interested in enjoying a bit of carnage over the tabletop without cutting each other's throats with rules loopholes.

I enlisted the generalship of my friend, Rich and with a couple of army lists and a box of terrain we were ready to give it a go!

Orc Gore Rider Regiment (10) = 175pt. w/command
Orc Morax Regiment (20)= 175pt. w/command
Orc Ax Horde (30)= 175pt.  w/command
Orc Sniff Troop (5) = 50 pt. 
Orc Gore chariot (1)= 55pt
Orc Krudger (mounted on a boar) = 140pt. 
"Wip the Half-Cast" = 120pt. 
Orc Krudger (on foot) = 120pt. 
-Total points: 1010

Goblin Sharpstick Horde (40)= 165pt. w/command
Goblin Sharpstick Horde (40) = 165pt. w/command
Goblin Spitters Regiment (20) = 115pt. w/command
Fleabag Rider Sniffs Troop (5) = 75pt. w/musician upgrade. 
Fleabag Rider Troop (5) = 90pt. w/command
Big Rocks Thrower = 50pt. 
Trolls Troop (3) = 120pt. 
Giant = 180pt. 
Wiz = 50pt.
-Total points: 1010

These two lists were based on the models I had assembled many years previously for playing Games Workshop's Warhammer Fantasy Battles game. I dabbled in that game system and enjoyed it at very small points values, but never got into it "whole hog". These might not be the best lists for one or both armies; I wouldn't know at this point, but you might as well start somewhere and this is what I had available.  With the arrival of Mantic's "Kings of War" hardcover rule book (and the first trickle of what will be an avalanche of models) I got the final 20 or so models banged together and we were ready to march.  Rich chose to command the Orcs, so I would be coaching the Goblins in our first battle.

On with the photos!
Game One Deployment:
(we ruled that the tall hill was impassible, btw)
 Orc right flank: Ax Horde (30), Krudger on Gore, "Wip the Half-Cast", Orc Sniff Troop (5)
Orc left flank: Krudger on foot, Morax regiment (20), Gore Chariot, Gore Rider regiment (10)
Goblin right flank: Flearider Sniff Troop deploys opposite the Orc chariot & Gore Riders.  Gulp!
 Goblin center: Sharpstick Horde (40), Wiz & Trolls
Goblin left flank: Flearider Troop, Spitter regiment (20), Sharpstick horde (40), Giant, Big Rocks Thrower
Following our setup, the Orc Sniffs used their Vanguard move to get into the forest in front of them. Then our main blocks of troops and heroes edged nervously forward:

The trolls have moved to reinforce the Fleariders, while the Orc Gore Riders angle to squeeze past the Morax regiment and the forest.
The Giant charges the Ax Horde, while the Fleariders angle for a flank charge...
The Goblin Sharpsticks join the (now battered) Giant, while the Orc Krudger charges and annihilates the Fleariders on the hill.  Wip the Half-Cast loiters nearby, healing the Orc horde.
 The previous two pictures demonstrate one aspect of the rules that did trip us up, although a better example is coming in Game Two.  When charging, a unit doesn't need to respect the 1" away-from-other-models rule, so the Orc general on the boar was able to gallop (do boars gallop!?) behind his ranked Orc warriors to slam into the Fleariders and mash them to a pulp.  I wasn't expecting this maneuver, but hey, we're noobies!  I'll also take this opportunity to say that Wip the Half-Cast is a *great* character.  His ability to either Heal or Zap! is really worth the points.  Imho, this Ax horde probably wouldn't have survived my concentrated efforts if not for his repeated Healing spells bolstering their numbers.

The other Sharpstick horde looks decidedly outnumbered.  Fortunately, they have the, urm, "brave" Wiz cheering them on from the rear.  Probably more fortunate was the proximity of the forest on their right flank that slowed the Gore Riders!
The Flearider Sniffs played "chicken" with the Gore Chariot, narrowly swerving to avoid a collision, then u-turned and launched a volley of arrows to minimal effect.  The trolls have spotted the emergency situation the nearby Sharpsticks are in and have moved to reinforce.
 This was another spot in the rules that we had to decide on ourselves before starting the game.  There are some rules about shooting that say something about 3" of difficult terrain (can't remember them exactly just now), so we decided that (a) units could not see all the way through and beyond an area of forest and (b) units can only see up to 3" into/out of an area of forest.  The trolls were standing just on the edge of the forest, but couldn't see out the other side (more than 3" deep), which would disallow them to charge in the following turn.
The Goblin Spitters spent three turns trying to score a hit on the Orc Krudger without success.

The Big Rocks Thrower had unfortunately been deployed right behind the big-impassible-line-of-sight-blocking hill and spent the early turns doing nothing.  Now it finally had a shot at the Gore Riders, needing a 5+ to hit.  You can predict the results.  Also, notice the Gore Chariot in the upper right corner. Yes.  The chariot that no longer has any goblin units standing between it and the Rock Thrower.  :-o
The Sharpsticks have destroyed the Morax regiment, but must now face the charge of the Gore Riders led by an Orc Krudger.  The Orc Sniffs are *considering* a flank charge.  The Goblin Wiz cheers on the clearly doomed Sharpsticks.
"Hey now!  Where'd my Sharpsticks go!?"
You can just imagine how well the Wiz (1 attack) fared against the Krudger (5 attacks) in close combat.  Unfortunately, this is my last photo from our first game, so you'll have to use your imagination from here on:
     The Gore Riders and Gore Chariot advanced on the Big Rock Thrower, which after a couple warm-up shots, managed to hit and annihilate the Orc Sniff Troop.  The Flearider Sniffs galloped in pursuit of the Chariot and eventually destroyed it in a rear flank charge, but not before the Chariot crashed into and dismantled the Rock Thrower. 
     The trolls clambered through the woods just in time to get off a charge on the Gore Riders rear arc and destroyed them in one go.  At this point, the Orc Krudger who had just defeated the Goblin Wiz went into a bonafide killing frenzy, slaughtering all 3 trolls in one round, then following up by destroying the Flearider Sniffs on the next turn.  That one character destroyed 25% of the Goblin army on his own!
     On the goblin left flank, the Giant charged Wip the Half-Cast and stomped him into mush, preventing him from continuing to heal up the Ax horde, which managed to defeat the Goblin Sharpstick horde.  The mounted Krudger charged the inept Goblin archers and routed all 20 of them by his lonesome!
     Our game did go 7 rounds, so I can't recall if the Ax horde had the time to pivot, charge and kill the Giant or not, but iirc, my army was completely wiped out and Rich had both his Krudgers and the Ax Horde alive at the end.  With 435 points of Orcs still on the table, Rich could claim a resounding victory against the Goblins.

Despite the brevity of the rules, we spent a fair amount of time page-flipping to get familiar with the system, so this first attempt went quite long; over 3 hours.  Most of our uncertainty revolved around how to determine if the unit leader could see an enemy unit and whether they could charge or not.
     We did get some rules fundamentally incorrect in this (and the following) game.  Most embarrassingly, we added in rules for how combat is resolved from another system without even realizing it.  The explanation on how to conduct combat is only a single page long and we still managed to do it quite wrong!  I can only blame this on my inattentiveness and the fact that when you've played many different-but-similar rules systems, sometimes you will accidentally cross-pollinate.  We only realized our error at the very end of the game and had a good laugh about it.  We don't think it actually ruined that game in any way.  It made combat more deadly, but it added more dice rolls, so slowed things down a little.
     The other mistake we made (in both games) was misunderstanding how many pivots a unit gets when moving At the Double.  I thought all units got one pivot At the Double, but that only applies to Nimble troops (like Fleabag Riders).  As a result, our units were a bit more maneuverable in both games, but c'est la vie.  We'll play it correctly next time.

Right!  Fewer pictures from Game Two, but still enjoyable I hope.  We swapped armies and left the terrain set up as before.
Deployment. Take Two.  Goblins on the left, Orcs on the right.  Orc Sniff Troop has already Vanguarded forward.
Orc Sniffs were hoping to get a lucky shot off if they got the first turn, possibly routing a goblin unit before they'd even begun to fight?  It was not to be...
The goblins seized the initiative and marched forward.  The Orc Sniffs are forced to back up or get surrounded.
The Morax regiment is ganged up on by the Trolls and Fleabag Rider Sniffs.
 The picture above is worth talking about for a couple reasons.
     First off, Rich rolled *horribly* for his attacks from both the Trolls and the flanking Fleabag riders.  I believe he caused only one or possibly two wounds with this attack.  What a disaster.  On the following turn the Morax would charge the Trolls and kill them off, negating the big advantage he had at this moment in the battle.
     Secondly, this photo shows one of the times we had trouble determining whether a unit could charge or not:  Following his attack, the Trolls and Fleabag riders backed away one inch.  On my turn, I wanted to charge the Fleabag riders with my Krudger (Orc leader).  The Fleabag unit was in my front arc, so I could see them, they were clearly within charge distance and I could contact the front base of the left-most Fleabag rider.  At that point, assuming the charge was legal, the next thing to do was slide the Krudger to align with the center of the Fleabag unit.  This would cram the Krudger between the Morax regiment and the Fleabags as there was only a 1" gap between them.
     The rules say that units are supposed to stay 1" apart from each other, except when charging, so it seemed to us that (a) the charge move was legal and that (b) it was a little dodgy to align the Krudger with the Fleabags, but ultimately we allowed it, scooching them away from the Morax regiment a little.
     This came up multiple times in both our battles and we did quite a bit of head-scratching over it, but as far as I can tell, I think (hope) we did this charge correctly.  Anyone with more experience with the system, please chime in in the comments section to let us know.
Giant versus Orc Ax horde, Take Two!!  Meanwhile, Wip the Half-cast assassinates the Goblin Wiz with a well-placed Zap! spell.
With the Trolls and Fleabag riders despatched, the Orcs in the center try to hold off two Sharpstick Hordes!
Amazingly, the Orc Krudger survived the *30* attacks from the Sharpstick Horde.  That's one lucky Orc!  The Morax Regiment didn't fare so well in the face of a flank charge and *50* dice!  ouch.
The Ax Horde continues to battle the Giant while Wip the Half-Cast again Heals the unit.  In the background, the Rock Thrower futilely tries to avoid getting charged by the Gore Riders.
Chariot/Fleabag Rider standoff.
 For several turns, the Fleabag Riders and the Gore Chariot sat motionless in a staring contest at 21" while the battle swept on.  Eventually the Goblin commander realized he could move up to 15" distance safely and then charge on the following turn.  The Gore Chariot promptly attempted to "exit stage left!" and save its hide (literally! har-har).  This was one of the moments where pivoting incorrectly saved a unit that otherwise would have been caught and killed.
Oh the humanity!  Err... Goblin-ity?
 Our final picture of the battle.  Luck had abandoned Commander Rich earlier with the Trolls & Fleabag riders... and sure, failing to kill that Krudger was pretty unlikely.  We would find out now that Luck had actually only been toying with Rich and was now going to Get Serious.  
     Having dealt with the Giant, the Ax Horde was moving on for a meet-and-greet with the Sharpsticks.  It looked like the Sharpsticks would get the first charge however... right up until they rolled Utterly Spineless and halted in their tracks.  This was the first of two failed Utterly Spineless rolls that would really sink Rich's hopes of a win or even a tie.  
     The Ax horde, assisted by the mounted Krudger annihilated the Sharpsticks, when it could have easily gone the other way round.  This was then followed up by both Krudgers and the Gore Chariot charging the second horde of Sharpsticks and wiping them out as well.
     I can't recall if the Fleabag Riders failed their own Spineless test, allowing the Chariot to escape, or if it was the 2nd Sharpstick Horde that failed, allowing the Krudgers to gang up on them, but regardless it was another seriously inopportune moment to roll a one on Rich's part.

     After finishing this game (which went by much faster than the first, btw) we felt like the Goblin army was underpowered compared to the Orcs, but looking back on the phenomenal bad luck Rich had in our second game I'm less sure.  The Gore Chariot certainly strikes me as an underpowered unit compared to the others; we both gave it more respect than I think it deserved.  The Trolls were easy victims in both games, although they did have that spectacular charge into the Gore Rider's rear arc.  I'm undecided on those.  The Rock Thrower wasn't particularly effective, but we could see how having 3 of them could get some great results.
     I enjoyed getting these armies fully assembled and back on the table.  I like the Kings of War rules and look forward to more games.  The few rules we puzzled over and/or played incorrectly don't look difficult to resolve for future plays, so I'm optimistic.  
     I've only just started assembling the first of my actual Mantic miniatures; it'll be quite some time before I can field my Abyssal Dwarf army. I'll just keep chipping away at it and eventually they'll be ready for battle too.  Of course, all these miniatures are begging to be painted, which is a monumental task in itself (especially for middle-aged fathers of young kids like myself), but I'll do my best.

This is rather an epic first post!  I can't promise frequent or thorough updates, but I wanted to get these batreps posted somewhere and thought this was probably the place to do it.  Thanks for reading and please leave any comments you have.  I'd love to read some feedback.  :-)

aka Dan