1,500 points, three-way battle handled by a few common-sense house rules. We deploy one by one, and in each phase we take turns to act with one unit at a time each. After the first turn, the second player starts play in the second turn, and the third starts in the third turn, etc. Jason won the roll to start, so in turn one, he began the movement phase by moving his first unit, then Martin followed, then I did, until the magic phase began, when Jason again acted first. In the next turn, Martin starts play, and so on. We like this approach: it makes the whole battle feel more immediate, but doesn't undermine the importance of thinking strategically.
Martin’s Orcs and Goblins:
- 2 Night Goblin Shamans, both hiding in:
- 120 Night Goblin archers with the Spider Banner. I don't know if anyone else has encountered this tactic, but it's become infamous in our group. Each shooting phase, this unit puts out several dozen shots, with any 6s to hit being automatic wounds. He can improve this to 5s with a spell. In practice, anything it's targeted has been reliably killed.
- A horde of roughly 60 Orc Boys.
- 5 Orc Boar Boys.
- A Doom Diver catapult.
- 1 Firebelly, bunkered in:
- 8 Ironguts.
- 4 Leadbelchers.
- 4 Leadbelchers.
- 4 Mournfang Cavalry.
- 1 Thundertusk.
- 1 Runesmith.
- 2 units of 30 Dwarf Warriors with Great Weapons, one of which hosts the Runesmith.
- 3 Gyrocopters, one of which has Vanguard.
- 1 Cannon.
- 1 Grudge Thrower with the Rune of Penetrating.
- 2 Organ Guns.
Yes, I went with a gunline, but I could’ve gone for even more of a gunline. I could’ve taken Quarrellers or Thunderers as my core instead of Warriors, and I could’ve taken more artillery instead of Gyrocopters. I also think the case for a gunline – already strong since Dwarfs have so much great artillery – becomes unarguable in a three-way battle, when your opponents could distract one another. You can only capitalise on this possibility if you can inflict damage from afar. Both Martin and Jason invested lots of points in shooting options: Leadbelchers and a Thundertusk aren’t cheap, and though goblins are, the Goblin Deathstar has always been a linchpin of Martin’s tactics whenever he’s taken it.
We had an argument over terrain; for obvious reasons I lobbied for less rather than more, whereas Martin and Jason didn’t. We reached a sort-of compromise, and here’s how things turned out: there’s a small village of about three buildings in the centre-right of the table, a small copse of trees in the bottom-left, and an outcropping of rocks and trees in the top-left.
When rolling for ancestral grudge, I got hatred against Jason’s army, and Dwarfs hate Greenskins anyway. As it turned out, neither of these things mattered all that much.
From my perspective, I got the bottom-left corner of the table. Jason got the bottom-right, and Martin got the top-centre. The copse of trees essentially formed the top-right corner of my deployment zone. I put my gyrocopters behind it, and split my army on either side, with my left flank facing Martin and my right facing Jason. On my right, I put a cannon and an organ gun in front of a warrior unit, and on my left, I put another organ gun ahead and slightly to one side of the second warrior unit. I put my grudge thrower further back and between the two warrior units, caring less about its line of sight because it can fire indirectly.
Martin put his boar boys on his right flank, or my left from my perspective, with the Deathstar just inside them. Naturally he was counting on the Deathstar to do the most damage, and his chatter before the game was explicit about his intentions to come for me as hard as he could. This was fair: as the ranged army, he argued that I’d benefit most from he and Jason fighting each other. If you were uncharitable, you could call this a ruse to get Jason to come after me rather than him, since anyone would benefit from this, but his point was that I'd benefit more (which is true, and exactly why I took a gunline).
Martin put his Orcs on his left (my right), where they faced the village, and his Doom Diver between the Orcs and the Goblins. I think Jason mostly bought what Martin was saying and so wanted to come after me, but he picked the wrong troops: he put his two Leadbelcher units on his left, facing my right flank, perhaps planning to cripple my shooting early by sending his shooting against it. He put his Ironguts in the central corner of his deployment zone, facing the village, his Mournfangs to their right, and his Thundertusk on his far right.
My Gyrocopter vanguarded over the copse, intending to go after the goblins. Since Martin also plays an Elven race, as does the fourth regular member of our group, I am now taking at least three of these things, with Steam Guns, to every battle. I hadn’t expected Martin to bring Greenskins, but as the Goblins represented a huge threat and happened to be the only T3 targets on the table, I had a clear purpose for my Gyrocopters anyway.
Jason advanced all his troops in the obvious directions: Leadbelchers to me, Ironguts to the village, Mournfangs and Thundertusk to the right of the village towards Martin. Martin advanced his Orcs toward the village and parked his Boars behind the rocks, perhaps thinking to use them in tandem with his goblins in an attack on me. I advanced my gyros at full speed toward the goblins’ flanks, and Martin elected not to move his Deathstar so as to shoot them better. They tied up the goblins and the Doom Diver for a couple of turns of shooting, and in the event, only one of them survived – with just one wound – to unleash its Steam Gun upon the Deathstar’s left flank (or their right, as I face them). It boiled over a dozen of them, which by any measure is a good death toll.
In fact, I killed about thirty goblins, which if it had happened in one phase would've forced a panic check and maybe got rid of them for a while. But it happened over two turns with help from the Grudge Thrower and an Organ Gun, so no panic check, and no reduction in the number of shots the Deathstar could put out. It was then that I realised the futility in trying to kill or panic this thing: it’s a sponge for damage and a great distraction for shooting or magic. Trying to grind it down is pointless.
Jason’s Leadbelchers killed two cannon crew, panicking its last remaining operator. That cannon didn’t fire once, all game. The rest of my early shooting was similarly ineffective: the second Organ Gun managed one wound on the advancing Leadbelchers, but until about turn three, all my gunline had done was pointlessly waste itself on those thirty goblins. Apart from them, a couple of Orcs and Jason’s wounded Leadbelcher, all the losses had been mine: two-and-a-half gyrocopters lost to the Deathstar and the Doom Diver, and a cannon crew panicked to Jason’s Leadbelchers.
Martin fumed a little over an early magic phase: we’d agreed to generate our own power and dispel dice (otherwise two players would each generate dispel dice based on the active player’s power dice roll, which would leave them with a combined pool that could easily overwhelm the active player’s power dice), and I had an unlucky roll. I sat with three feeble dispel dice to resist a magical vortex, cast by Martin, that could’ve devastated my army. Jason sat idle with plenty of dispel dice for the job, and I talked him in to dispelling it on my behalf, arguing that he couldn’t know Martin wouldn’t use it against him. Martin now wants to revisit our house rules for handling a three-way magic phase.
Turn three was decisive for several reasons. For one, Jason’s Mournfangs had reached Martin’s left flank, and in a rare tactical blunder, Martin had forgotten to turn his Orcs to face them in his last movement phase. They declared the charge, slamming into Martin's flank. Martin consoled himself by turning his goblins to face and shoot down my last gyrocopter, which he has learned to hate after a couple of games seeing what it can do to Elves. Martin advanced his boars for a possible charge on my leftmost Organ Gun, so I advanced my Warriors to protect it, and for two more turns Martin left his boars parked. My Organ Gun had too many other targets, so didn’t fire on them. In any other game, five cheap boars would’ve done a good job committing 400 points of Warriors and a character to a fruitless, two-turn staring contest, but as it turned out, it didn’t matter much.
In combat, the Mournfangs gave an unequivocal practical demonstration of our theoretical knowledge that they were dangerous. With no casualties sustained in return, they routed, caught and cut down all of Martin’s Orcs. They’d been softened by magic from Jason’s Firebelly and shooting from his Thundertusk, but there were still almost 50 of them, and then there were none.
On the next turn, Jason charged his Mournfangs into Martin’s Goblins. The Thundertusk, perhaps feeling redundant, turned around and started coming my way. Fortunately for Martin, the Goblins were facing the Mournfangs having turned to shoot down my gyrocopter, and so elected to stand and shoot. In the game’s second display of butchery, they killed all but one of the Mournfangs despite the Ogre cavalry having 3 wounds, T4 and and a 2+ armour save each. The pendulum then swung back in Jason’s favour when the lone Mournfang defeated the goblin horde in combat, and then back to Martin when they passed their break test! In the next round it swung back to Jason again, when the Mournfang once again defeated the goblins, this time routed them, pursued, and cut them all down: almost 90 Goblins, massacred by one Mournfang. Astonishing.
Meanwhile, vindicating my game plan and proving Martin right, I was sitting in my corner and getting on with the quiet business of killing things from afar. My Grudge Thrower stepped up in a big way and landed a rock in the middle of Jason’s Ironguts unit, killing the Firebelly and three of his bodyguard. In the next turn, I made the luckiest shot with it I think I ever have, hitting the Thundertusk and rolling a 6 for the Grudge Thrower’s multiple wounds, taking the beast from perfectly healthy to perfectly dead in one shooting phase. In the first of these turns, I also rolled 20 for my anti-Ogre Organ Gun, and killed two Leadbelchers. Jason would later complain that I didn't roll one misfire all game, but after my last battle - where, in a 1/216 chance, I rolled two misfires and then a 1, clearing my Organ Gun from the table before it had fired a shot - I felt like I was owed.
My cannon crewman rallied, but then had to take a charge from the healthier Leadbelcher unit. I elected to flee through the Warriors behind him, who duly passed their panic check. The charge by the Leadbelchers was ambitious, and they failed it – Jason confessed that he’d been hoping I would flee with my cannon man and that the Warriors would panic. I have a lamentable history of failing leadership tests even with Ld9 Dwarfs, but I still like to play the odds, and this time luck decided not to troll me. I now had a choice with my Organ Gun: intending to fight the healthier Leadbelchers with my Warriors, whom do I shoot? The advancing Ironguts in the village, or the weakened pair of Leadbelchers, who were well-positioned to hit my Warriors’ flank if they made their charge? Martin counselled the Ironguts, on the basis that they were more dangerous, but I shot the Leadbelchers, since they were closer. I killed one and the other, left on one wound, panicked and fled the field.
I charged the Leadbelchers with my Warriors, failed, and received their charge on the next turn. Whatever; even receiving a charge, I back a horde of 30 Great Weapon Warriors against four Leadbelchers, and was correct: though the Ogres brought down about half the regiment, when the Warriors finally got their attacks, they killed them all.
On the other side of the field, my anti-Orc Organ Gun killed Jason’s last Mournfang as it turned to come my way, and now found its list of potential targets diminishing. Turning to the Boars, it killed two, and with no other troops to command, Martin thought "screw it" and charged them into my other Warrior unit. Taking no casualties, they duly tenderised the Boars, leaving Martin with one Doom Diver to his name. The Grudge Thrower hefted another rock into the Ironguts unit, killing two more and causing them to panic and run.
At this point, both Jason and Martin conceded. Martin had one Doom Diver remaining, while Jason had three fleeing Ironguts and one fleeing, injured Leadbelcher. I had lost a Cannon, three gyrocopters, half a regiment of Warriors, and one of my Organ Guns had lost two crewmen to the Leadbelchers’ shooting, but otherwise my army was intact. We didn't calculate victory points since the standings were fairly clear: I probably had 900-1,000 points remaining, while Jason probably had fewer than 300 (all fleeing) and Martin about 100. It must've been close between Jason and I in terms of who killed the most, but had we played on, the outcome was clear.
MVP of the battle has to be the Mournfangs. Though they got lucky when Martin showed them his flank, let’s not let that detract from their achievement in killing probably 80% of Martin’s army by themselves. In any other battle, MVP would go to my Grudge Thrower for killing a Thundertusk and neutralising an Irongut unit, but even this can’t compare to what the Mournfangs did. I'm interested in hearing your other stories about these: as far as I can see, the best solution is to shoot them, or receive a frontal charge with a hard unit of ranked infantry (Ironbreakers) and kill them with static combat res.
There are many candidates for the Wooden Spoon: a cannon whose crewman panics and then flees without killing anything; five Boar Boys staring at 30 Warriors for two whole turns before charging them, with inevitable results; and, indeed, a regiment of 30 Warriors doing nothing all game except kill a few Boars. The Thundertusk went for a scenic stroll around the village, pasting maybe one Orc with its stone thrower, before being flattened by an artillery masterclass from the Dawi.
Yet the title has to go to Martin’s Orcs: a horde of 60 of them is, I maintain, a terrifying prospect (though Martin keeps denying this, perhaps in a cunning ploy to make us underestimate them), yet in this battle they killed nothing and got creamed in just one turn.
Magic wasn’t that impactful; Jason’s Firebelly miscasted while shooting fire at Martin’s Orcs. Martin’s Shamans managed to hex the Mournfangs and buff his Deathstar, making the Mournfang’s eventual triumph all the more remarkable, but otherwise the Winds of Magic were a damp squib.
I imagine this was a frustrating battle for Martin, fun at times for Jason, and though my shooting stuttered in the first couple of turns, it was enjoyable for me from thereon out. I even managed some combat, cutting up a unit of Leadbelchers and the odd boar, so let it not be said that all I brought was shooting.
Martin’s army crumbled when the Mournfangs swept up his flank. If he’d faced them with his Orcs, everything might’ve worked out differently: we don’t know whether they’d have held, but a rank bonus and a proper number of retaliatory attacks would’ve made a damn good difference. Clearly, the guy hates my gyrocopters so much that killing them is the first thing on his mind.
In case others of you have had to face the Spider Banner Goblin Deathstar, this battle provided us with our first solution: hard cavalry. It needs to be fast enough to get there without taking too much shooting, and hard enough to endure it when it does: the goblins will stand and shoot at a frontal charge and chances are you’re probably in range for at least one shooting phase before you can get to combat, so unless you get a flank charge and your opponent picks his targets poorly, you’re going to have to endure at least two volleys. Again, unless you get a flank charge, you’ll also need to do enough damage to break steadfast and their rank bonus. The job starts to look impossible: it turns out Mournfangs can do this, but what else could?
Other ideas: pin them with an equally unkillable tarpit, perhaps, but only Vampires and possibly Skaven can offer tarpits of sufficient endurance, and they’ll still take ages to close with the Goblins. We Dwarfs certainly seem stuffed: we’re too slow, and even Ironbreakers can’t take protracted punishment like that. Even if they got into combat, it's doubtful they'd do enough damage to break the goblins, and they're far more expensive. Beating a Deathstar like this by fighting or shooting it would take an unjustifiable investment in both attention and points. Our best option is distraction: I didn’t plan for it – since I didn’t know Martin would take Greenskins – but in the event, my gyrocopters distracted the Doom Diver and the Deathstar long enough for Jason to obligingly sweep the problem away. At eighty points each, they’re pretty expensive chaff, but I call that job done.
Indeed, Jason killed Martin’s biggest threats for me, leaving my artillery crews enough time to "get their eye in". I’ll ask Martin if it was a deliberate anti-Dwarven choice to take two huge regiments of infantry – the kind that’s hard to panic or neuter through shooting – but Jason’s army of smaller units was much easier to handle. I expected a Thundertusk, so I brought a cannon, although that turned out to be useless and the Grudge Thrower had to step up and kill it. In fact, the Grudge Thrower killed everything: it neutralised the Ironguts and the Firebelly too, completely by itself. In the new rules, Stone Throwers’ accuracy is offset by the fact that the template is only S3, but with the Rune of Penetration, we can fix that. I’d gotten so excited by the power of Organ Guns in the new Dwarf book that I haven’t taken a Grudge Thrower for a while, but now, I’ll take a Penetration Thrower and an Organ Gun in every list I make.
My friends complain about the gunline, and I do see their point, but GW has made it even better in the new book, so I’m only playing to our strengths. That said, we had a quick, mess-about game after this one in which we made 500 point lists with one another’s armies, and Jason won almost entirely because of Hammerers. After years of playing the old book, in which our infantry was overpriced and toothless, I sometimes forget that now we do more than one thing well.
My Warriors did well to chop up the Leadbelchers, but they were spent afterwards. Warriors are still tricky to use: they’re too squishy if you give them Great Weapons and too feeble if you give them shields – Resolute helps in the latter regard, but requires that you get the charge, which is tough at M3. Two units of ten Hammerers would be a more efficient way to deal damage for a comparable cost, but they drain your all-important Special allowance.
Jason didn’t make a single huge mistake, but perhaps a couple of small ones. Martin is right to say I won the game because my shooting got its chance. He insisted that Jason should’ve put more pressure on me, but we had no idea how impactful his Mournfangs would turn out to be, and with D6 shots each at S4, Leadbelchers are no joke. Had they shot my Warriors and charged my guns rather than the other way around, Jason might’ve broken my flank. He probably thought his commitment was just fine when he sent eight of them my way, and to be fair there wasn’t enough room between the terrain – of which Martin and Jason both, ironically, wanted more – for a bigger attack.
The Mournfangs. We knew their stats and knew they were deadly in the abstract, but I doubt anyone would’ve claimed they were the single deadliest thing on the field until we saw the proof. If they’d come at me from the start, I’d have suffered, but then Martin would’ve enjoyed the same breathing room I’d had, and being a good general, he’d have capitalised on it to kill things with his Deathstar (the Thundertusk would've been no trouble for them) and position his Orcs correctly. In a three-way fight, any player benefits when their opponents fight each other. Did I benefit more than most would’ve? Probably, but I think it’s overstating things to suggest I was handed the win from the deployment phase onward, and I certainly don’t think Jason intentionally went easy on me.
Jason and Martin's game was chaotic and filled with bloodshed, whereas mine went on a consistent upward trajectory from a mediocre start. A fitting proof of the erraticism of Orcs and Ogres, and the constancy and resolution of the Dwarfs!
Edited by RSJ87, 05 January 2015 - 03:40 AM.