Like Mark, Frank had never played a miniatures game but was quite interested in the concept and eager to give it a shot. To that end, Desiree once again put her Dwarf army on loan. I was cautiously optimistic that my tweaked Orc army, coming off a two-game winning streak, would do better than it did against Mark--whose utter defeat of my army inspired me to make the changes in the first place.
Previous games have been played on a 6' x 4' layout, but Des and I had been noticing that inevitably only about 2/3 of the table (if that) would see any use, so I decided on a 4 foot square layout for this game, which worked just fine.
Using my scouting house rules (see the previous bat-rep), my Orcs outscouted (between my wizard and mounted elements, this only makes sense...hooray for house rules that are a massive improvement over the published rules!). We agreed on a river for the board and I set up a table and selected an edge such that the Dwarf deployment had a river with no crossing on the right flank, a patch of rough ground on the left, and a hill in the center. My own deployment had some woods and a bridge on my own left and was otherwise open.
Frank, at Mark's urging, chose to roll to negate the broken ground and did so. He set up the majority of his army on the hill, with the crossbows out front, the spears behind, and the Human knights in reserve; the axe-wielding Dwarves were set up on the flanks. An excellent deployment to be sure.
I went with my standard deployment--fast units as flankers (trolls on my left, wolfriders on my right), orc infantry in the center, orcs with spears in reserve, rabble archers out front (to act as a missile screen as much as anything...). My trolls began the game concealed in the woods, which was a nice bonus for a unit that always attracts a lot of crossbow bolts from the get-go.
As always I attempted to read the omens and they came up "bad". I cast Fudge the Omens and tried again...still no luck. Oh dear. Neither of us issued any boasts. I rolled for time of day and got Night, but the time dial was set at "5"--only two turns until dawn! Dang. By the time my forces would come to grips with the stunties, it would be light. Sometimes Orcs just can't catch a break, you know?
We issued identical orders: Attack for our infantry, Oppose for our missile troops. As usual, the battle opened with relentless crossbow fire, directed entirely against my Trolls and wolfriders. Lady Luck finally began to favor me as the two units emerged through the hail of arrows unscathed. My infantry also moved out, although my spear-orcs lost 1/4 of their number trying to ford the Strength 5 river. D'oh! Chastened, they turned for the bridge...
My fast moving flankers took only a couple turns to reach the bearded lines, weathering potentially murderous crossbow fire the whole while, mainly due to my hot rolling with their saves. The wolfriders slammed into a unit of axe-dwarves, the Trolls took on the spear-dwarves in the center as the crossbows fell back.
As my own center moved up, things progressed nicely on my right as the wolfriders systematically cut through their opponents despite the assistance of the Human battle leader. Meanwhile, a massive brew-up began to form in the center on top of the hill as units from both sides were sucked into a roiling melee as soon as they arrived on the scene. All considerations of tactical finesse were thrown aside in favor of generalized slaughter.
By the time the wolfriders finished off the axes on my right the melee on the hill had evolved to include every non-missile unit from both sides with the exception of the knights. In a replay of the confrontation from my game against Mark, the wolfriders charged the armored humans and were slowly annihilated.
The attritional battle in the center eventually began to swing in the Dwarves' favor, but my Orcs, emboldened by their standards and worked up into bloodlust, fought to the last. The tide finally turned when the crossbows charged in (despite being on Oppose orders...whoops)--I finally conceded the game when I was down to all of six Orcs (including my warchief and battle leader).
Victory point calculations gave the Dwarves a "major victory"--they had won the battle, but my army was not out for the count. Sounds about right.
This one definitely could have gone either way; things looked very bad for the Dwarves almost to the very end. The massive fight on the hill was unlike anything I've seen before--Frank and I were both rolling double-handfuls of dice!
A few other considerations:
- My War Trolls, downgraded from Elite to afford all the unit specials for my Orc infantry, truly showed their "Unpredictable" quality, gaining a +3 quality bonus the first round of combat, then a -3 the second round, resulting in a rout! That combat also saw the Dwarves hitting on a 2 or better but killing on a 5 or better and the trolls hitting on a 5+ and killing on a 2+...nice bit of symmetry there...
- My Rabble Archers are worthless, worthless, worthless! During Bad Light they hit on a 6 (and even then they need to get within short range) and kill on a 6, and night doesn't improve things much. Combined with their paltry range, I'm not really sure they're worth the points. Then again, at only 60 points they barely cost me anything and they DO make handy missile shields...we'll see...
- The big melee highlighted the most tiresome aspect of the rules: the Casualty Test. Going through that laundry list of modifiers every turn for every unit gets pretty time-consuming. I should work out a way to note the running modifier for each unit involved in combat.
- I'm getting better at handling my Wizard. In addition to the "Fudge the Omens" spell, I also used "Incite Frenzy" to whip my Trolls into Bloodlust (an essential ingredient for any Orc army!) and gambled a bit with a last-minute assassination attempt on the Dwarf warlord with "Finger of Death". I had a 1-in-3 chance of overdrawing power and blowing up, but made it (barely--down to 1 Power Point!), but unfortunately the two kill rolls the spell grants failed to come up in my favor.
Speaking of terrain, I'm seriously considering buying a set of Kallistra Hexon tiles. My modular boards are great and all but they don't offer quite the versatility I thought they would. Plus the Hexon system stores a lot better than my big ol' tiles. I'll post pictures of the new terrain if I end up plunking down for it...