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Thursday, 15 January 2009

Dark Elves vs Tomb Kings 2000 points

Warhammer Fantasy Battle Report summary:-

"Then they saw him--an undead lord atop a flaming chariot !"
(good battle report interspersed with some great narrative)

source : druchii.netcredit : The Griefbringer15-Jan-2009

Thasia yawned as the fat human screamed, his flesh a webwork of razor thin cuts and rivulets of blood. Her torturers had been working over the self-styled 'Pasha of the Golden Coast' for almost an hour now in the hopes that the bloated toad's blubbering would cheer her, but the torture had become a wholly pedestrian affair. She directed them to a bowl of briny water standing in the corner. "Try the sea salt--see if that wakes him up any. I swear by Khaine if this wretch faints one more time..."

"He will not, mistress, we promise!" The lead torturer assured her, bowing. Thasia took at least some comfort in the fact that the druchii was trembling before her disinterest. It pleased her to know she was frightening to those feared most by her victims.

The expedition Thasia had led from the Spire of Splendid Agony to the so-called 'Golden Coast' had turned out to be an almost total waste of resources. The wretched huts and pathetic settlements along this stretch of coast were anything but golden, and their raids had brought the Lord Griefbringer nothing but slaves. Even here, in the so-called 'Shining City', they had found little but adobe and yellow paint, even after sacking it and raiding every home in the place. Here, at the center of it all, Thasia found herself sitting in a palace no more finely appointed with riches than her cabin aboard ship. She sighed--that was what one got raiding humans. Their idea of 'finery' was wearing hides and having a roof over their heads. Still, Duskwalker's Shades had *insisted* this city had been awash in gold bars no more than a month before their arrival, and more recent scouting reports from her own Riders (whom she trusted much more than any feral scout in the employ of some semi-mad sorceress) had confirmed several active gold mines no more than a few leagues from where she stood. There had to be gold *somewhere.*

Thasia was jolted from her musings by the blood-curdling screams of the Pasha. Thasia turned to him and looked in his piggish, beady eyes. "Have you never wondered, Pasha, where the old saying 'to rub salt in the wound' comes from?"

"A...a thousand curses on you, hell-witch!" The Pasha moaned.

Thasia nodded to the torturers. "Give him a more vigorous rubbing, please. The Pasha seems sleepy again."

The Pasha's screams doubled in volume.

When the torturer's stopped, Thasia squeezed the Pasha's fleshy cheeks in one gloved hand. "Tell me where the gold is, and this will all end. I know it was here--you are causing yourself nothing but pain by denying it to me."

"The cannot have it..."

"There is nothing the druchii cannot have, you sow. I have taken everything from you--your family, your subjects, your weapons, your land, your city. All that remains to you is your wretched life."

The Pasha's eyes were dull with terror. Suddenly, Thasia realized, it was not terror of *her* at all. He feared something else. "Then kill me." He hissed.

Thasia smiled. "Kill you? My darling, no! I never said I'd kill you--if you refuse me, I will keep you alive. You will live for a very, very long time. Whoever you fear can do nothing worse to you than my friends here can, I promise you. Before the end, you will beg for your death."

More salt was massaged into the thousand little cuts that crisscrossed the Pasha's body, and his screams contorted his body into unnatural positions. "It is beyond my power! The gold is given to the Great Prince Ahtshep, He Who Dwells In the Valley of Skulls!"

Thasia leaned forward. "Another human prince? You are a fool to have held out this long."

"He is no mere Prince. He is the Lord of Death, Scion of Immortal Settra. If you travel the south road, you will find only dust and death, and no gold."

Thasia raised one eyebrow. "Thank you for your concern for our safety, darling."

The Pasha began to laugh in a rattling, hoarse voice. "Not for you. We are His vassals, whom He, in His wisdom, has seen fit to spare, so long as we pay Him tribute and guard the approaches to His realm. If you pass the Gates of Raman-Ata, he will visit a plague upon us that will blacken the sun for a thousand days. So it was in the time of my forefathers, and so it will be again."

Silence fell over the room for a moment, and then spontaneous laughter began to spread among the druchii present. Thasia joined in, shaking her head in disbelief. "Poor, poor ignorant wretch! Plague? Fool! The plague is here; the plague is us, and we will never let you see the sun again."

Thasia rose and strode out of the room. Her lieutenants fell in at her side. "We march down the south road, send our scouts ahead. We will strip this land bare, or the Lord Griefbringer will have our hides."

"Mistress," Lekith the Reaver asked, "What of this Pasha?"

Thasia smiled. "See to it he is tortured. Make certain he lasts for one-thousand and one days."

So, in the quest to find Fraley a fantasy army that he'll want to pursue, we set up a 2000 point match against the Tomb Kings. I let him borrow the book and meditate on the list for a while, and do a little research. He came up with a list he had gotten online and a better grasp of the game than before.

The Heralds of Grief

Thasia Helltamer: DE Master (Mistress, in this case) w/Heavy Armor, Sea Dragon Cloak, Whip of Agony, Enchanted Shield, General with Serpent Corsairs (Dark Purple)

Guarael Blackwing: DE Master on Dark Pegasus w/Heavy Armor, Sea Dragon Cloak, Lance, Shield, Seal of Ghrond (Dark Blue)

Ithis Duskwalker: Lv 2 Sorceress, Dispel Scroll, Focus Familiar, Dark Lore w/Chillwind, Bladewind (Black lone model)

Helio Deathsong: Lv 2 Sorceress, Power Stone, Darkstar Cloak, Lore of Fire w/Fireball and The Burning Head (in Light Purple Corsairs)

The Black Orchid: Assassin w/Extra Hand Weapon, Rune of Khaine, Manbane (with Light Purple Corsairs)

14 Corsairs w/Full Command, Sea Serpent Standard (Dark Purple)
14 Corsairs w/Full Command, Warbanner (Light Purple)
6 Harpies (Purple-Red Skirmishers)
5 Dark Riders, RxBs + Musician (Black Cavalry)
5 Dark Riders, RxBs + Musician (Black Cavalry)
6 Cold One Knights w/Dread Knight, Banner w/Standard of Slaughter (Purple Cavalry)
6 Shades w/Xtra Hand Weapons (Black Skirmishers)
Hydra (Blue-green monster)

The Vanguard of Prince Ahtshep

Prince Ahtshep: Tomb Prince, General in Chariot w/Great Weapon, Chariot of Fire (w/Chariots)
High Liche Priest: Heirophant w/Cloak of Dunes, Staff of Ravening (Light Blue lone model)
Liche Priest: Dispel Scroll (w/Green Skeletons)

25 Skeletons w/sword and shield, Standard (Cream)
25 Skeletons w/Sword and Shield, Standard (Green)
16 Skeleton Archers (Light Blue Infantry)
3 Skeleton Chariots w/Standard (Turquoise)
5 Heavy Skeleton Cavalry (Blue Green)
3 Ushabti (Maroon)
3 Carrion (Orange)
2 Screaming Skull Catapults (Yellow)

Terrain and Deployment

The board featured an oasis in the NE quarter of the board, a mountain (big, multi-level hill) along the southern side, a small forest along the west edge, and a small hill in the NW corner. Finally, a pair of statues (gray blocks in the map) represented the border into the Tomb Prince's realm (just for fun).

I deployed Thasia's corsairs in position to pass defiantly through the statues, and Helio's corsairs flanked him to the east. East of that, at board center, went the Knights, and the Dark Riders got a good view of the battlefield atop thier steeds on the mountainside. In the west, the shades scouted up to the small forest, the harpies behind them, along with Ithis and Guarael. The Hydra squeezed between Thasia's unit and the harpies/Ithis, ready to zoom through the forest and chomp stuff up.

The TK castled in the NW corner around the hill on their side. The two catapults went on the hill, obviously, with the archers in front of them, who were meant to act as a screen for the Ushabti, who stood behind them. The two skeleton blocks formed the TK center, with the horsemen and then chariots forming their east flank. The Heirophant hid behind the cream-colored skeleton unit, with the Carrion behind him, ready to zoom out to cause trouble where needed or chase down fleeing units.

The Board after Deployment:

Turn 1

Despite my bonus for having fewer units, Fraley still won the roll to go first. He began by wheeling his line to face a southeasterly direction, expecting to recieve charges, no doubt, from the Knights and corsairs amassing on that flank. Curiously, he backed his Chariots up, taking a very defensive posture with what I think is a very offensive unit, but no matter. His magic/shooting phase made me feel the pain, anyway. As this was my first game actually playing against the Tomb Kings, I suddenly realized just how devastating their magic could be when Fraley was able to take a ranging shot with one catapult, missing the Knights but giving him a good idea of what to do in the shooting phase that followed. Then, the next two shots in the shooting phase felled a pair of Cold One Knights and they, gesturing wildly at their contracts that stated they were in no way obligated to tolerate bombardment by flaming skulls, ran for the hills. Elsewhere, the skeleton archers took shots at Thasia's unit, killing a corsair (a casualty I neglected to reflect in the map; I beg the reader's forebearance).

Top of Turn 1:

Master Guarael Blackwing, tasked as commander of the flanking force meant to surprise the enemy through the small copse of palms and rough undergrowth, steadied his mount, Omen, as Ithis Duskwalker came nearby. "What do you want, witch?"

"I have an offer for you, Blackwing." She said, her voice echoing as much inside his skull as through the arid desert air.

"Speak. I've no time for posturing."

Ithis nodded. "The Lord Griefbringer misplaces his trust in Thasia Helltamer. This I have known for some time, and I know you agree. Our noble lord grows impatient--he needs more troops to finally sieze the prize he has sought these many decades. Helltamer has promised him great prizes from this adventure. If she were to fail...

Guarael nodded, pensive. "I understand. You wish to...retire from the field early? There would be reports, would their not?"

"With only my Shades and the Beastmasters to observe? The Beastmasters will be too busy with the Hydra to notice, and the Shades, well," Ithis grinned, "I find it unlikely they shall live to tell anyone anything."

Guarael snorted. "See to it, or I will report your treachery myself."

"We will meet here later in the battle to solidify our alibis. None will be the wiser."

"We have an accord, witch. Now, begone--Helltamer is ordering the advance." Guarael said and, digging his spurs into Omen's black flanks, he surged into the air.

In the bottom of the first turn, I order the advance. Fraley is at once taken aback by the speed my army has at its disposal, and its ability to neatly bypass the barrier represented by the small forest on his west flank. Guarael leaps over the forest, screened by the harpies, while the shades and Hydra surge to the front of the woods. Ithis follows, but lacks sufficient movement to make it to the safety of the forest. Elsewhere, the Cold Ones complete their disgrace by failing to rally and running straight off the board, the bums. The Dark Riders gallop down the hill and pour crossbow bolts into the skeletal cavalry, killing several. This is coupled with a fireball from Helio's corsairs, knocking them down to one or two horses (I think it was one, actually--again the map is less than accurate). Thasia confindently marches her corsairs through the gates of Raman-Ata, while Helio's corsairs cover her flank, hanging back a bit. Finally, Ithis manages to get off a bladewind that kills off the crew of the closest skull catapult.

Bottom of Turn 1:

Turn 2

Fraley starts turn 2 with a problem on his west flank. Though the map doesn't *quite* show it, the skeletal archers were blocking the Ushabti's ability to charge anything, and the archers would be unable to successfully charge the harpies if they fled, which would leave them useless. He had intended them as a screen, but with Guarael able to fly over this screen and start destroying catapults, the screen wasn't so much helping him and helping myself. He decided to reform the skeletons to face and shoot the harpies, which they did in both the magic and shooting phases, killing only 2, but it was enough to make them run away. Nothing was going to charge or stop Guarael, though, so he took the time to heal the crew on one chariot and used the Carrion to block a charge to the other, keeping his precious catapults from being as easily destroyed. Then, in my backfield, the tomb scorpion dug itself up between the cursed gates and, seeing a lonely and vulnerable Ithis nearby, charged her. I failed my fear check and the sorceress ran straight off the board. Awesome.[sarcasm]

The rest of Fraley's line continued to reform and re-organize itself, getting ready to recieve my attack from the east.

Top of Turn 2 (Harpies are not shown as running off, but they did):

Sammaria and Khesthel rode like the wind from the mountain ridge where they had witnessed the dusty army of bone-soldiers emerge from the sands to challenge the druchii raid. They laughed in delight as their crossbow bolts crumbled undead horseman after undead horseman, and called to each other to greater feats of accuracy.

Then they saw him--an undead lord atop a flaming chariot, a mighty bronze sword held high over his head, his body armored in gold and emeralds. He, with a host of other undead chariots, rode towards the dark elf riders with ghostly steadiness, their pennants and banners barely flowing in the harsh desert wind. Sammaria pointed him out to Khesthel, "Hark! That must be prince something-or-other!"

"Ahtshep!" Khesthel offered, loading his crossbow as he guided his steed with his knees alone.

"Khesthel, I'm alarmed you remembered the name of a long-dead human!" Sammaria chided, putting a crossbow bolt through another skeletal horseman.

"I try to remember the names of those I intend to humiliate. Why do you think I learned yours, Sammaria?" Khesthel shot back, grinning.

"I claim his helmet." Sammaria said, spurring her horse faster.

"Not if I get there first!" Khesthel called, and rode right after her.

In my half of the turn, my plan became (or rather, continued to be) to keep the chariots busy with my dark riders, who would ride circles around them, peppering them liberally with barbed, black-fletched quarrells. Therefore, I moved one group of riders in position to flank the chariots while the other stayed put. I then used their shooting to both finish off the remainder of the heavy skeletal horsemen and to gun down a whole chariot's worth of wounds in Prince Ahtshep's unit (let's hear it for armor piercing!). In the center, both corsair units moved up, but the magic phase was a bust, thanks to Ithis's early departure. Guarael, meanwhile, failed his leadership test to charge the Skull Catapults, leading me to question his loyalty and leading *him* to sit there on his butt and watch the battle go by without him. The Hyrda and the shades, however, had a much better turn, charging into the skeleton archers and ravaging them horribly with a LOAD of wounds (I killed something like 12-13 of the 16 present) and overrunning. The Shades wound up hitting the Ushabti and the Hydra hit the flank of a skeleton block, and the Hydra rampage had begun.

Bottom of Turn 2:

Turn 3

Fraley began the Tomb King turn by charging the Carrion at Guarael who failed his fear test *again* and fled like the unbelievable wuss he is. His angle of flight, however, was just long enough to keep him from fleeing the board entirely, though he was seriously hugging the edge. The screaming skull catapults tried to lob shots at the Dark Riders, but they were too nimble for the ponderous warmachines, and very little damage was done. The Chariots backed off *again*, while the Heirophant flew away from being behind the skeleton block about to have not only a Hydra in the side but a unit of corsairs in the front. The Ushabti recieved the Incantation of Urgency from the Hierophant in question, allowing them to chop down 3 shades in the magic phase (should have saved my dispel dice to stop that one, but I didn't see it coming). Then, in the ensuing close combat phase, they killed the remaining shades for only one wound done in return. The Hydra, however, continued its rampage, killing a load of skeletons and wiping out a bunch more in combat resolution, for a grand total of 16 skeletons dead (!).

Top of Turn 3:

Thasia laughed as she slammed into the ranked pack of animated bones that stood between her and victory. They were slow, slower even than humans, and they were no match for her. She knew mere mortals and Asur would quake in terror in the face of the living dead, but she was druchii, and there was nothing that could stop her. She heard the roars of the war hydra as it tore through the skeletal ranks from the flank and soon, before she had even worked up a sweat, the whole block had melted before her. She ran on, seeking new foes. "Who dares stand before us! Who will challenge me!"

She did not see the ghostly chariots wheeling to her right, nor the baleful glare of the ancient prince who rode at their center.

In my half of the turn, Thasia's frenzied corsairs smacked into the front of the skeletons, but the Hydra still did most of the heavy lifting. The whole block crumbled in short order and Thasia's unit overran into the Tomb King backfield. Expecting a counter-charge on the Hydra from Ushabti and possibly Carrion, I wheeled Helio's unit to be in a position to charge the overrunning Ushabti, should they win, and also so I could get LOS to the tomb scorpion and the Liche Priest hiding in the other unit of skeletons. My fireball at the scorpion was ineffectual, but the burning head I tossed at the liche priest and unit actually went off. However, though he failed his 'Look Out Sir' roll, I rolled a 2 to wound him, so he survived. This is only fair, I suppose, since in my last game against Fraley (who was using Dwarves), a failed 'Look Out Sir' for Thasia led to her being unwounded by a grudge thrower stone. I killed another couple skeletons in the unit, but the casualties were largely inconsequential. Also inconsequential was the shooting of the Dark Riders, who only manage to do one wound to the chariots. Finally, Guarael rallied and turned to face the tomb scorpion, who was no doubt coming to visit next turn.

Bottom of Turn 3:

Turn 4

Several charges go off at the start of turn 4. First off, the Tomb Scorpion rams into Guarael, trying to pin him to the ground with a killing blow. They do one wound to each other and remain locked in combat. The other charge featured an ushabti charge to the rear of the Hydra (the map doesn't quite show the right angles, but it was a rear) and a flank charge by the Carrion. In a horrifying display of destructive fortitude, the Hydra shrugs off all the incoming hits and, with the help of the beastmasters, wipes out all the Ushabti and does enough combat res to crumble the remaining carrion. When the dust cleared from that one, both Fraley and I exchanged 'Wows'.

Now, for a bit of map-correcting: There was a third charge this turn, but I forgot it happened this turn when making the maps, so you guys will need to pretend. Spinning around in the movement phase, magic from the Liche Priest catapulted the Chariots into the flank of Thasia's corsairs (I tried dispelling, but rolled double ones). The ensuing combat killed 4-ish corsairs and won the chariots the combat by 5. They didn't outnumber, though, so I got a test on a 4. I rolled and, for the first time that game, a leadership test went my way--4 on the nose. The corsairs stuck, and the game suddenly changed. To make things even worse for fraley, he flew his heirophant out from cover to pelt the dark riders closing on him with the staff of ravening and two invocations of vengeance, but when the smoke cleared only 2 DRs had dropped, and they held, as well. Bad news for the Tomb Kings all around.

An erroneous map of the top of turn 4:

Guarael landed Omen in the clearing where he was to meet Ithis, but the place was deserted. Smelling treachery, he dismounted, drawing his sword. Then, skitting over the sandy earth with unnatural speed, a horrid amalgam of bone, bronze, and stone assaulted him, seeking to crush him with its massive claws or spear him with its spiked tail. He was knocked down by the force of its charge but, with its bulk above him, he thrust his blade deep into its body until rivers of silt began to pour from its enchanted innards. The thing hissed with phantasmal rage and dropped its bulk, attempting to crush him, but Guarael rolled away too quickly.

Standing now, his blade and shield ready, Guarael circled the scorpion-creature, his eyes blazing with defiance. "Well then, beast, let us dance..."

With the Chariots pinned in place, the Hydra discovered it had enough space to charge in support of the corsairs. Again, it proved its worth, crushing the ancient warmachines beneath its taloned feet. Though the tomb prince did slay another two corsairs, the rest of his minions failed him, and combat resolution caused him to crumble away. His curse, however, was sufficient to do one wound to the Hydra--the only wound it would take all game. Elsewhere, with the Heirophant exposed, the Dark Riders charged him, cutting him down easily and trampling his sun-dried bones beneath the hooves of their black-hearted steeds. Finally, Guarael was speared by the Tomb Scorpion's tail, killing him, and his steed broke and ran, escaping the board.

Bottom of Turn 4:

Turn 5

With their general and Heirophant gone, the two catapults crumbled immediately, though the other TK units remained. However, with only one block of skeletons left, and they with a Hydra which had overrun into their rear (again, the angles resulted in this last turn--the map doesn't quite do it), Fraley surrendered.

Sammaria and Khesthel let their mounts rest on the hill where, until a few minutes before, the undead warmachines had been raining skulls upon them. They cheered as the mighty Hydra tore the remaining skeletons apart with gleeful ferocity and, when it was over, there was scarely a sign that any army of the dead had ever existed.

"A grand victory today, eh, Khesthel?"

"My only regret is that the wretched prince's golden effects are now the property of our Mistress."

"You know perfectly well it couldn't have ended any other way."

"Cannot a druchii dream, Sammaria?"

"Not when they dream like that, they can't."

Khesthel didn't answer, but spurred his horse down to meet Mistress Thasia and her corsairs, and see if there would be any good pickings left among the dust and bones

Post Mortem

Well, I really have one thing I want to say first, before all others: HYDRA RAMPAGE CANNOT BE STOPPED!

Holy moley, that thing tore a giant hole through the undead and there was absolutely nothing Fraley had that could stop it. His only chance would have been to pelt it with catapult shots on turn 2--the one turn it was exposed before it hit combat--but even that wouldn't have been a guarantee. Beyond that, however, my victory was secured in two places: One, my opponent underestimated the efficacy of druchii fast cavalry and two, that leadership test on a 4 in turn 4. If Fraley takes down the Hydra with catapults, I do not win this game anywhere near as easily. If he deploys in order to shoot down the DR, I am stuck with nothing to stop the chariots. If my general's unit breaks, bad things follow. Woulda-shoulda-coulda, I know, but still, this game was closer than it looked.

I had a lot of fun and have a newly earned respect for the TK magic phase. Even though he was relatively inexperienced with its use, Fraley kept my dispel dice stretched, especially after Ithis ran away (the traitorous wench!). Had he made better deployment decision and had we remembered that Chariots have bows (we forgot), things likely would have been ugly for me.

In any case, the game was great fun and I look forward to the next one. Thanks for reading, and thanks, as always, to my opponent!

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