SmithF's 9th Age Battle Reports 76

MSU battle reports, as first seen in TWF.

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  • Having played several years with my brother with bare metal/plastic figures, I have to say that it doesn't ruin the game for me. But after I started attending big events and I saw how much work and effort people put into their army's presentation, I decided to also dο my best to have a presentable army. It makes the game more immersive, and allows me to take photos from time to time and make battle reports.

    Ever since I started playing wargames, my painting routine has always been the same:
    Speed paint everything to an acceptable level, in order to make the tournament/event deadline next week (best case scenario) or tomorrow (usual scenario). I then (sometimes) go back to the models and add details, but getting these first 3 colours and bases are always the start, and sometimes this beginning lasts for a couple of years.

    So with all of this noted, I'll pass to the painting update: I have been painting overtime (mainly after midnight, so details are not really my forte) to get the army ready for the ETC. Here is the list of things that needed to be done:

    - Put together and paint 9 Briar Maidens
    - Put together and paint 4 Kestrel Knights
    - Repair my 2 Great Eagles (will stand in for Kestrels, too)

    - Shade/Highlight 28 Forest Guard (they have been in "3 colours, based" limbo for the last 4 months)
    - Put together and paint a Citadel Forest (or at least its base)
    - Base Kestrels and Briar Maidens
    - Pin all mounted models in the army

    So here's what I've got so far:

    Not my finest work, but they are at least tournament ready and with some highlights on them, even. (lots of stuff to be done, though)

    The big issue I'm having at the moment is finding a good way to base the kestrels. I haven't got any of the small clear rods that they originally came with, and I just realized that the rare earth magnets that I used are probably a bit too weak for them. (I put 2 on each, normally each one can hold up to 150g...)

    I've got a couple of ideas, but it all depends on what I'll be able to find on such short notice. Ideas?

    Stay tuned, more updates as soon as I have something ready!

    Smith [Read More]
  • ETC 2016 - Athens : Sylvan Elf list commentary (or how I realized I was bringing a knife to a gunfight)

    The fun thing about participating in a tournament as big as the ETC is that your own views of what works and what doesn’t are totally different than the ones of players from other countries. When you’ve spent as much time as an ABC member discussing units/combinations during the design process, it is always interesting to see how many things you missed in your evaluations.

    In today’s post we’ll be looking at the Sylvan Elf lists of the ETC 2016, the similarities, the differences and what surprised me from the ABC point of view.

    At first glance, there seem to be two approaches to the SE this year: Avoidance with Thicket Beast block and Close Combat MSU/Mixed arms.

    Starting with the former, playing it safe seems to be the motto here: Most of the lists went for a mobile firebase (Sentinels and Pathfinders maxed out) with long-ranged magic support by the Fire and White magic paths. A good deal of the avoidance lists have a Thicket Beast anchor unit, as well as a Shapeshifter prince with the Whirlwind blade to mop up survivors.

    However, I find that these lists have a fundamental flaw: the long-range output is not good enough to whittle down horde armies, and it is not sufficient to force the hand of an opponent going for a small win. I see Vampire Covenant being a real issue for the avoidance lists, especially now that Fire magic is almost ubiquitous and grants enough tools for dealing with the Sylvan Skirmishers.

    It all boils down to personal playstyle, team strategy and the pairings, though. The overall event rules don’t favor going for the big win, leading to the rise of Shooting-heavy lists that will not lose a lot of points easily. ( @blonde beer did an excellent video on the ETC list philosophy that I suggest you check out)

    The ABC design approach to the Sylvan Elf book was to go back to the roots of what makes Sylvan Elves special: their relationship with the forest, their maneuverability and guerilla tactics, the fact that they hit hard and fast in close combat. In this vision, avoidance was secondary and shooting was intended to be a support tool rather than the means to winning a game.

    For example, I find it much easier to invest small amounts of points in archers and have them take a wound or two off some of the more menacing enemies, allowing the combat part of the force to sweep in and kill them in one go. The battle line remains fluid and ever-moving, but it’s moving to get into position for close combat, not to avoid it.

    Which brings us to the second list paradigm, and one that I feel makes the most of the book’s potential: combined Elf/Tree lists, with shooting support (2-3 units) and a good mix of cheap small combat units and bigger anvils.

    What surprised me is the relatively low amount of Bladedancers, Wild Huntsmen and Kestrel Knights. The first two are the most iconic of all our units, and definitely part of the reason I play Sylvan Elves. Kestrels are an MSU general’s dream: fast, hard-hitting, easier to control than Wild Huntsmen, with good leadership that allows them to act independently. They die fast, but that’s part of playing the Sylvan Elves anyway. In all of the lists I wrote up, 2x3 Kestrels, 2x5 Wild Huntsmen and 2x7 bladedancers were the first things to include, but it doesn’t seem like many of the international players share my impression.

    What lacks from all of the lists are Treefathers, but that is a direct consequence of the cannon-heavy environment that is the ETC, as well as the option to get a 30-wound Steadfast block in the form of the Thicket Beasts. (In my humble opinion, too many points get sunk into that unit, I’ve found that 5-6 are more than enough) The second big loser was Sylvan line infantry (be it Forest Guard or Forest Rangers), which I also feel doesn’t do the units much justice: 15 Forest Rangers with command clock at 195 points, and they can definitely pull their weight when used correctly. As for Forest Guard, they keep surprising me in a positive manner every time I field them, and I’ve been doing so ever since I put the first layer of paint on those beautiful 6th edition metal models.

    TOP 3 Sylvan Elf lists:

    These are the lists that drew my attention for their originality, versatility and overall feel, in descending order.

    1)French team Sylvan Elves by @vvalor

    [Read More]
  • ETC 2016 – Athens: Prelude and Belgian Team introduction.

    Greetings, T9A enthusiasts! As some of you may already know, I’ll be playing Sylvan Elves in this year’s ETC on the side of the Belgian team. So I decided to document the process, what with the ETC being the biggest T9A event to date, and what’s more happening in the city I grew up in!

    Over the next few days, I’ll be posting painting updates (I need to get the army to a presentable level before the actual tournament!), general Belgian team updates and –finally- daily updates from the event itself, leading to fully-fledged battle reports (with pictures!) sometime after the event.

    So, a few words about our team this year: just like in other countries, the Belgian fantasy wargaming scene took a hit after the summer 2015 incident. Several players changed game systems, and things looked bleak for a while before the 9th Age slowly but steadily won the attention of a good chunk of the wargaming crowd. I had met Alex (@K-OS) a couple of years back at a tournament, where we discussed about the ETC, team tournaments and warhammer in general, but I never really found the time or the energy to go practice with the guys and eventually gain a spot on the team. But this year, with part of the old ETC team going AWOL, I thought I’d try going on a gaming trip with the guys (see the german TGH tournament reports on this blog). It was more fun than I’d anticipated, and so I decided to join the rest of the team for the ETC.

    But who is in the team, you ask?

    Alex (@K-Os ) is the team’s captain, a veteran of many ETCs and our Dwarven Holds player. Happy that for the first time in years his dwarves can move more than just the pivoting warmachines, he is bringing a gunline, albeit a move-and-shoot one. A pity, because his Hold Guardian conversions were a joy to behold. He is also an extraordinary painter, so if you’re coming to the tournament don’t miss his dwarven army.

    Nico (@princeCharming ) is…well, here’s the deal: We all thought he’d be playing Saurian Ancients, or his 8th edition favorite, Vampires. The joke’s on us, because he decided at the last minute to play Kingdom of Equitaine, even when the entire Internet was insisting that the book is crap. He keeps winning with them, which is very odd. Deep down he wanted to play the Sylvan Elves, which is why he brought a KoE MSU list instead. He is also our contingency plan in case of a fight, can hold his own in a drinking contest and definitely gets the «most tattooed player on the planet» award.

    Kaj (@ChosenofSigmar) is the paymaster of the troupe (although it kind of works the other way around, he keeps asking us for money, something about having to pay travel expenses but it gets all too technical for me) and –fittingly- our Empire of Sonnstahl player. He is also a veteran ETC player, and an unforgiving opponent! His list looks exactly the same as the other 18+ EoS lists to the untrained eye, but –as they say- it’s the driver, not the car.

    Thomas (@Arthur) brings Saurian Ancient cold-bloodedness to the mix, he’s been there, done that and will also be participating in the ESC, just because playing 6 games of T9A in 3 days is not enough, playing 11 in 5 days is even better! Over the course of the ETC he’ll try to prove that Taurosaurs are better than cannons and that his 280-point Saurian Warlord on Raptor may look exactly the same as the others, but he was there first.

    Geoffrey (@Gregor) is our Daemonic Legion player, a fact that makes him an endangered species in this year’s ETC! He gets extra cool points for bringing the Scourge of Wrath, and no less than 5(!) Blazing Chariots. He was our consistent high-scorer at the TGH, and his list wasn’t even optimized. As any self-respecting daemonic legion player, rolling 5+ for ward saves comes to him naturally. He’s out to prove that DL are better than what the team compositions make them out to be, and I believe he will succeed.

    Peter (@Borgio) is our secret weapon: stolen from the Germans at the TGH, trained by none other than @Frederick and given a single task: bring the Beast Herds, and do what they do best. A testament to his generalship is that he almost tabled our captain at the last game of the TGH. Other dwarf players would have held a grudge, Alex just decided to recruit him. :)

    Timon, the Highborn Prince: it isn’t fantasy if you don’t have any dragons, so that was the role of Timon. With two dragons, and enough arrows to blot the sun, Timon is the second brave soul to try and tackle 11 games in a (very) long weekend. He also can be our legal counselor in case we need one and helps push the team’s coolness factor off the roof.

    Kwinten (@Kiwii) is our non-playing coach: I like to think that he’s got a contingency plan ready in case of a Zombie apocalypse or any other disaster, and he’s the one trying to make any sense of our matchup ratings. I do not envy his role, but then again he’ll have more time to get drunk than any of us.

    Finally,… [Read More]
  • GAME 3 – Undying Dynasties

    The last game of the tourney was against Serge, a veteran gamer who brought a small yet very efficient list:

    Serge wrote:


    Pharaoh, Commander of Terracotta army, Vanquisher Eternal, Mask of Teput

    Death Cult Hierarch, Level 3 Path of Sands, Book of the Dead, Soul Conduit

    Death Cult Acolyte, Level 1 Path of Sands, Dispel Scroll

    Tomb Harbinger, BSB, War Banner

    Tomb Architect


    6 Chariots, Full Command, Flaming Banner

    4 Chariots, Full Command


    Battle Sphinx, Breath Weapon

    Battle Sphinx, Breath Weapon

    27 Necropolis Guard, Halberds, Full Command, Stalker’s Standard

    I had never faced a Terracotta Necropolis Guard Deathstar (TNGD for short), but I’d heard enough stories to know that this unit cannot be underestimated. It didn’t help that the last game of the day would be played without a secondary objective, meaning that I’d have to actually kill some undead to get points!

    The good news were that the TNGD is slow, and that there were only 20 bow shots in the army. So the battle plan was simple: outdeploy, outmaneuver, kill everything around the deathstar and then (eventually) move in for the kill. That last part is where I expected my plan to blow up in my face, as has happened countless times before. An important detail of the plan was to isolate units, and pull them out of formation. The only way I’d be able to commit would be by making sure that the NG wouldn’t be able to countercharge me in return.

    Magic: Dryad Matriarch got 0,3 (Wilderness), Druid got 0,1 (White), Hierarch got 4,5,6 (Sands) and Acolyte got 1 (Sands)

    So the good news was that there were no movement spells for the UD: redirecting the deathstar becomes a lot more difficult when you’ve got two movement spells to dispel per turn.

    Deployment resulted in me outdeploying the UD, which pitted two units of Kestrels and the Forest Guard against the small chariot unit, the Briar Maidens, Heath Riders and Wild Huntsmen against the two sphinx and the NG, while in the centre the Thicket Beasts squared off against the chariots, with all the small and squishy units more than 32” away from the chariot shooting. My opponent decided to take the first turn, and battle was joined!

    TURN 1 – Undying Dynasties

    The undead battle line moved up in unison, no surprises there. Magic started with a particularly high casting roll of boosted divine judgment on the Briar Maidens. I used up all my dice to dispel that, letting everything else through, including Shifting Sands on the Briar Maidens. Shooting put a wound on the leftmost Kestrels.

    TURN 1 – Sylvan Elves

    The left flank redeployed a bit, with the Briar Maidens staying more than 18” away from the sphinx (for fear of the Breath Weapon), and the Wild Huntsmen relocating more centrally. The Kestrels moved up towards the small chariot unit, as did the Forest Guard. The Thicket Beasts entered the charge zone of the big chariots, tempting them to charge.

    Magic opened with the phoenix rises healing the wound off the kestrels and putting a White token on the Thicket Beasts, then all my attempts to hurt the big chariots from afar were ineffective (Redwood shaft failed to cast and the Curse of the wildwood was dispelled). Shooting proved to be equally ineffective, not a single wound was scored by the Sylvan Archers.

    TURN 2 – Undying Dynasties

    The chariots took the bait and fell into the Thicket Beasts, while the sphinx and NG continued their slog towards my lines. The small chariots tried to swift reform, but failed its Ld and reformed instead, keeping the kestrels in their front arc. Magic saw me use my scroll to stop yet another Divine Judgment, then I used my dice to stop the Ancient Glory, letting through the Cursed Blades on the chariots.

    The impact hits of the chariots proved to be quite ineffective: 9 of them were dealt, but between rolls to wound, armour and ward saves, all of them were ignored. In retaliation, the thicket beasts dealt 11 wounds on the chariots and received a single wound back. The chariots were disintegrated, allowing my Thicket Beasts to pivot to face the sphinx’s flank.

    TURN 2 – Sylvan Elves

    Seizing the opportunity, thicket beasts and a unit of Wild Huntsmen tag-teamed on the rightmost sphinx. The Kestrels and the second unit of Wild Huntsmen moved into position to flank the smaller chariot unit on the following turn, with the Forest Guard offering themselves as bait. The Briar Maidens spotted a blind corner in the sphinx’s charge arc, so moved in for some poisoned shots. Finally, the skirmishing part of the army moved about to create threatening situations, while the Heath Riders were shoved right in front of the Sphinx and NG to stall them a bit.

    Magic was yet again ineffective, but shooting succeeded in putting two wounds on the unengaged sphinx!

    In combat the combined efforts of the Wild Huntsmen and the Thicket beasts made… [Read More]
  • GAME 2 – Kingdom of Equitaine

    Loik is the resident KoE general of the Tour d’Ebene club, and a veteran of many tournaments. We talked a bit about the new KoE rules (long story short: he isn’t too happy about them, and will be writing a long letter to Tulmir explaining why :D ) and then he went on to explain his army:

    Loïk wrote:


    Duke on Warhorse, Grail Oath, Virtue of Renown, Crusader’s Helm, Shield, Blade of Strife, Token of the King

    Paladin BSB on Warhorse, Questing Oath, Great Weapon, stuff (possibly the Orriflame?)

    Grail Damsel on warhorse, level 4 path of Heavens, Dispel Scroll, Ring of Ruin

    Damsel on foot, level 1 wilderness


    10 Knights of the Realm, Full Command

    11 Knights of the Realm, Full Command

    10 Peasant Bowmen, Skirmish

    10 Peasant Bowmen, Skirmish


    10 Knights Forlorn, Hedge Knights, Skirmish

    10 Knights Forlorn, Hedge Knights, Skirmish

    3 Pegasus Knights, Devastating Charge, Skirmish


    8 Knights of the Grail, Full Command

    8 Knights of the Grail, Full Command

    This time the scenario was Secure Target, with regular deployment. I picked side, opting for the one with the buildings (always a good thing against knights). We exchanged deployments, with me outdeploying Loik by a fair amount: in the end he went with a central deployment, with forlorn knights on either flank and peasant bowmen deployed as a screen in front of the knights.

    Magic: Grail Damsel got 0,1,4,5 from Heavens, the Wilderness Damsel got the signature, Dryad Matriarch got 0,6 from Wilderness and the Druid 2,5 from White Magic.

    I won the roll for the first turn, and went first. Letting KoE play first is never a good idea, all the more time for them to put you in a tough place.

    TURN 1 – Sylvan Elves

    The Archers entered the house on the left, the wild huntsmen stayed relatively wide and out of range of the peasant bowmen. By placing his bowmen as a screen, my opponent had involuntarily given me a turn of protection against charges, so I tried to make the most out of it: the centre of my force inched forward, with the forest guard pushing more aggressively towards the two Realm Knight blocks. The Briar maidens moved full speed ahead, entering the forest occupied by the Forlorn, and tempting them to charge. The rest of the fast contingent stayed relatively back, but in close support.

    Magic opened with a successful guiding hand raising the Forest Guards’ movement to an impressive 8. The rest was easily dispelled. Shooting was directed at the two forlorn units: the left one suffered 3 casualties by the archers’ volley, failed its panic test and fled. On the right, the Briar Maidens dropped another 3 Forlorn, but these stood their ground.

    TURN 1 – Kingdom of Equitaine

    Not being ones to shy from a challenge, the Forlorn Knights charged into the Briar Maidens, aided by the Pegasus Knights. The Maidens took potshots at the KoE skirmishers while they moved in, killing two. In remaining moves, the Knights of the grail approached my lines, one scaling the hill and edging slightly to threaten my wild huntsmens’ advance. The fleeing forlorn rallied, while the two Realm Knight units were kept at bay by the threat of the movement 8 Forest Guard.

    In the magic phase Loik spotted my plan’s weakness: I needed the kestrels to live to be able to countercharge once the maidens were dealt with. So he directed first a Lightning Bolt, then a Fireball and finally a Lightning Storm at the rightmost unit, which forced me to use my dispel scroll to be able to weather it all. I was reluctant to use the scroll so fast, but losing a unit (or potentially two) would mean that the Pegasus knights would crush that flank with ease. Shooting cost me a Bladedancer from the rightmost unit.

    In combat the Briar Maidens hit first, killing three forlorn knights. The return attacks (2 forlorn, one Pegasus knight) all missed or failed to wound. This meant that, unexpectedly, the Briar Maidens won combat! Both units passed their Steadfast Ld test, but interestingly the Pegasus Knights failed their test to combat reform!

    TURN 2 – Sylvan Elves

    Last turn’s good luck gave me an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up: the Kestrels fell into the Pegasus knights, while the Forest Guard flanked the two remaining Forlorn. To pull this off, I had to declare long charges on the screening bowmen, to cause them to contract and create some space. The Thicket Beasts and Dryads both failed their respective charges. In remaining moves I moved the second Kestrel unit in a sacrificial position, to prevent the Realm Knights from charging the Forest Guard on the following turn. This would also force the Grail Damsel to forego any magic missile spell for the following turn, since she’d be engaged in combat.

    Magic proved to be uneventful this turn, starting with a failed casting of the Curse of the Wildwood on the Damsel’s Knights. Shooting was aimed at the Knights[Read More]
  • Introduction:

    For people who are not familiar with the Belgian tournament scene, here’s some information: Back in 7th edition warhammer, I’m told that tournaments with 100+ participants were organized and that players from France and the Netherlands would often participate. The first tournaments I saw in 8th edition were small, 20-30 player tourneys with the occasional bigger event (40-ish or so people). The last few months of Warhammer took a particularly heavy toll on our small community, and many people stopped attending events altogether.

    With the coming of the 9th age, a lot of casual players were reluctant to join the bandwagon, but nevertheless the first T9A tournament gathered around 30 people and was deemed a success, based on the waning number of players of the late 8th edition period. So imagine my surprise when I learned that the semi-annual tournament of the Ebon Tower (Tour d’Ebène, Ath), their first in T9A format, sold out so fast that the organizers had to find a way to up the places available to 40 from the original 30 and still had to refuse 12 players from participating!

    What is even better in my opinion is that a certain number of these gamers are returning after a long break during the 8th edition, because they find T9A –and I quote- “more fun”. A second interesting part is that T9A has managed to bring together the Walloon and the Flemish players, with gamers travelling more than an hour (that’s like, going to the edge of the known world for Belgians) to participate!

    As for me, I was looking forward to this 3-game event as it would be the first time in 2 months that I’d get my Sylvans out of their army case!

    Here is the list that I took:

    SmithF wrote:

    HEROES:- Dryad Matriarch, Oaken Crown, Level 2 Wilderness
    - Thicket Shepherd BSB, Entwined Roots, Flaming Standard
    - Druid, Level 2 White Magic, Dispel Scroll

    - 28 Forest Guardians, Full Command, Gleaming Icon
    - 18 Sylvan Archers, Black Arrows, Standard, Musician
    - 8 Dryads, Skirmishers
    - 5 Heath Riders, Elven Cloaks, Standard

    - 5 Thicket Beasts, Entwined Roots, Full Command
    - 5 Wild Huntsmen
    - 5 Wild Huntsmen
    - 3 Kestrel Knights, Light Armour, Shield, Skirmishers
    - 3 Kestrel Knights, Light Armour, Shield, Skirmishers
    - 7 Bladedancers
    - 7 Bladedancers


    - 10 Briar Maidens, Champion

    For this list, I wanted to minimize the character cost so that I’d be able to get as many combat units as possible. In the end, I opted for the 415 point configuration that gave me access to a sturdy BSB, 6 levels of magic and a dispel scroll.

    As for the rest of the list, it was built with secondary objectives in mind: most of the combat units are expendable, hopefully helping keep the scoring units alive while killing the opponent’s scorers. I ended up with a hybrid MSU fighting force aided by 2 anvils (Forest Guard and Thicket Beasts).

    Having 13 drops means that I can outdeploy my opponents even if they do not opt for a full army drop, and this is essential when it comes to playing MSU. The combination of White and Wilderness magic has worked well for me before, offering a mix of decent offensive spells and spells to help out in combat.

    Concerning the field, all of the armies except for Infernal Dwarves were represented, while the most popular ones were the Orcs and Goblins, the Warriors of the Dark Gods and the Undying Dynasties.

    GAME 1 – Dread Elves

    For my first game I was paired against Jerome and his Dread Elves. He was a returning 7th edition/early 8th player, and this was his first tournament in a long time. The list he brought was well thought-out, with a balance of shooting, magic and close combat potential (from memory)

    Jerome wrote:

    LORDS/HEROES:Exalted Oracle on Pegasus, Level 4 Black Magic, Dispel Scroll, Talisman of Supreme Shielding
    Captain BSB, Halberd, stuff

    2 x 11 Repeater Auxiliaries, Standard, Musician
    3 x 5 Dark Riders, Shields


    29 Dancers of Yema, Full Command, Stalker’s Standard
    30 Tower Guard, Full Command, Bloody Banner
    Altar of Yema


    3x Dread Reapers, Repeating Shot

    The deployment we got was diagonal, with the secondary objective of holding the centre. We exchanged deployments for a while, up until my opponent placed his Dancers of Yema, giving away his battle plan: shoot at me while I advanced, mop up with the big blocks.

    With that in mind, I opted for a full drop and got a +4 to the roll to start, securing the first turn.

    *Magic: Black 0,1,5,6 for Exalted oracle, Wilderness 0,1 for Matriarch, White 0,5 for Druid

    TURN 1 – Sylvan Elves

    Securing the hill near the middle was vital for my battleplan to work: it would be a natural speedbump for the initiative 6 big blocks, provide with cover against half the enemy shooting and force the Dread Elves to be exposed to missile fire and potential charges if they wanted to… [Read More]
  • Hello again dear readers!

    This week we've been exploring the issue of magic in the SE subforum (friendliest place on the 9th age boards, visit us!) so I thought I'd share my thoughts on the subject with you. Unlike the previous article, this one is more heavily focused on Sylvans but, again, some of the principles apply to all armies and may help you use and defend against magic more effectively.

    [b][/b]Magic Defense:

    The sylvan elves have a particular vulnerability to magic, for several reasons:

    • Many of their units are comprised of expensive, unarmoured units that rely on targetting penalties (skirmish/cover) and superior mobility to survive ranged damage and get into position. It comes as no surprise that a 2d6 s4 fireball that can potentially wreck a unit of Pathfinders has many generals searching for their dispel scroll.
    • Nothing can destroy your dreams as quickly as a couple of combat buffs that turn your combined multi-charge on the enemy’s main combat unit into a fiasco.
    • Treefathers: as much as I love them, the way some spells counter them is pretty sad. If you field them, you’d better shell out the cash to protect them, too.
    And the list goes on.

    Knowing your vulnerability is one thing, but taking it into account when building your list and when maneuvering on the battlefield can save you some precious dispel dice, which will in turn save you points from magic defense to spend on other stuff.

    Here are some principles I have found useful:

    • Your units are not as vulnerable to magic missiles as you think they are: One of the main threats that panics SE generals into spending a ton of dice to dispel is magic missiles. It is a common concept that our units will melt away if a stiff breeze blows their way. I have found this to be untrue with most units.D6/2D6 S4 magic missiles may hurt, but most of the time they don’t: Bladedancers get a 5+ ward against them, Thicket Beasts are usually not hurt at all (even when you factor in the flammable reroll, you get 1-2w on average from a medium fireball) and the T4 and 4+ save of Kestrels will help them survive. So if faced with a dilemma between saving a small unit or having dice to stop more destructive spells, my advice is to let the magic missile through. Exceptions to this rule: Banishment on high value targets, Big Burning Brightness on otherworldly monsters.

    • Find the minimum effective unit size for each of your elements, then add some models to that: Even if you’re playing MSU, adding a couple of models to your Bladedancers means that they can take that magic missile and still have 4-5 models left to cause your opponent a headache. An added bonus to that is that you have a bit more leeway before you need to give your opponent the VPs for being below 25%.
    • Spell Ranges: you can limit the amount of magic coming your way by taking into account the spell range and type limitations. For example, a mage inside a unit that’s fighting in combat won’t be able to cast magic missiles, and even direct damage spells will be limited by the front arc. It may buy you a turn of respite, enough for your more dedicated mage hunters to get into place. A key to not being overwhelmed by the opponent magic phase is to never give a good target for multiple spells. For example, on the turn when you wish to dispel that all-important Mindrazor, make sure that your Pathfinders are outof range/arc for a 2d6 s4 fireball.
    • Don’t waste your scroll: my approach is to play as if I didn’t have the scroll, until the point where stopping a spell will win me the game (or prevent me from losing). More often than not, it is used to stop the desperate Beast Within that may make my charges bounce, or a Summer Regrowth on a monster I’ve been painstakingly taking down to its last wound for the entire game. There are games when I end up not using my scroll, but this also means that I’ve managed to contain the magic threat in another manner.
    • Risk assessment: at the start of the magic phase, think of which spell you absolutely need to dispel and keep your dice to do so. I am usually very conservative when it comes to dispelling, making sure to roll enough dice to make dispelling almost a certainty. It may so happen that there are multiple must-stop spells and the opponent has enough dice to cast them: in that case, your opponent probably played a better game, and your best bet is to try and even out the dice advantage by burning the scroll. Failed casting rolls also happen, so that is certainly another option to hope
    • Use miscasts: when your opponent miscasts, think if the spell cast will hurt you a lot or not. If you can weather it, it’s worth letting it through to deny him some more dice and limit his magic phase subsequently. The miscast damage is a bonus, but the desired effect here is that the casting pool goes down by at least 4 dice.
    So to sum up, reaching for the scroll every time someone hurls a 2d6 s4 magic missile at you is a bad habit. Learn to weather the magic, deny your opponent juicy… [Read More]
  • Greetings!

    In the past few weeks I've spent some of my hobby time writing tactics articles in the elven subforums, each discussing a different aspect of the game. (mainly from a Sylvan Elf perspective). Even though the tactics are focused on elves, a good deal of them can be "ported" to other races with a little bit of work. So I thought I'd share these with you, since I'm fairly certain that most of you do not venture into the sylvan elf subforum:

    Getting the Secondary Objectives: Sylvan Elves in the brave new world.

    If there is one thing that 9th brought into the game, it is objectives. In tourrnament play, these count for 3 points, while denying your opponent another 3. This is a 6 point differential that can make the difference between a loss and a win (or at least a draw).

    A frequently discussed issue on the forums is how the SE are not well equipped to play the objective game, due to their hit-and-run, guerilla warfare style. The more I play 9th Age games, the more I believe that this is not true: we have all the tools necessary to grab the objectives, but there are some things to take into consideration:

    1. Patience!

    The goal of the game is to hold the secondary objectives with more scoring units than your opponent by the end of turn 6. Getting there early (in the take-and-hold scenarios) will not accomplish anything. This is where most of the critics about the relationship of SE with secondary objectives stem from: there are only a couple of units in our book capable of grinding the opposition one-on-one, so it is in your best interest to take your time and plan ahead to get the objective during late game.

    2. Non-scoring units are VERY important:

    You can also consider these as the heavy lifters in your army: these are the units that you can risk to kill the enemy scorers and to do most of your fighting. Losing them will "only" lose you victory points, but it won't give away any banner points and it won't hamper your chances of winning the objective. This becomes a lot more important in the "breakthrough" and the "capture the flags" scenarios.

    Putting a banner on every unit with scoring potential may seem like a good idea, but it will probably come back to haunt you whenever you roll the "capture the flag" scenario. It is your opponent who decides which ones of your units are the targets, and it is easier to keep safe a unit that is kitted out for close combat (big unit of Rangers/Forest Guardians or Thicket Beasts comes to mind), or units that will probably be out of combat and as far away from action as possible (Sylvan Archers and/or small Heath Riders are in this category).

    So while MSU Forest Rangers are awesome, they are perhaps not the most efficient of scoring units for the reasons outlined above. Or they may be, depending on your battle plan.
    But the bottom line is: pick your scoring units wisely, and do bring a number of non-scoring units that can have an impact on the battle; there will be times when your scorers will have to just bide their time while the Treefathers and Bladedancers do their thing.

    3. Getting the first turn is a TRAP!

    Yes, you heard me. It may seem counter-intuitive, but it is my firm belief that in most cases, playing second is a boon:
    First off, the moment you forget about going first, you start outdeploying your opponent. If anything, Sylvan Elves can bring more units than most armies out there, and also have the mobility to rapidly redeploy if need be. So getting your matchups right is more critical than getting that first volley off. (as a plus, you WILL get the first volley anyway; more on that later)

    Vanguarding units play a huge role in that pre-game sequence. You can drop the kestrels to confuse your opponent, then vanguard them 12" behind cover and closer to another part of the battlefield. On a side note: NEVER vanguard to a place where it will give your opponent a chance to jump your fast units. It is rarely worth it, unless you are 100% sure you'll get the first turn.

    A weakness of the elves is that they're not very resilient and die in droves to enemy fire. Going second means that the first turn volley of a dedicated shooting army will probably do nothing to your troops: you get a free forest to hide in, you've got brilliantly resilient skirmishers to screen your T3 elves, you've got Thicket Beasts to hide your shapeshifters behind. And more importantly, you've got Sylvan Archers, Sentinels and Pathfinders who can move between 5 and 10" and shoot without incurring any penalties.

    Use this to your advantage, grab some cover and weather the initial volley. Then you get to do your thing!

    What does that get you, objective-wise? It gives you the opportunity to move your fragile scoring units in position at the bottom of turn 6, without risking anything. 5 Heath rIders with banner will die to a stiff breeze, but with their 18" march move they can contest or claim the central objective from half across the battlefield. The… [Read More]
  • Aftermath:

    So after all was said and done, Team Belgium ended up with 3 big victories and 3 big losses: the last round didn’t have the «cap» mechanic, meaning we toppled down to the 13th place. (is it a sign? Should we turn to the Vermin Swarm for help?)

    The veteran players in our team confirmed my thoughts that this also happens in the ETC: it takes a bad last round to erase all the good performance of the weekend! Nevertheless, I was happy with the experience: I got 6 good games in, got to meet and chat with fun and interesting people, and I got a first-hand experience of what a team tournament looks like!

    The event was won by team Moldova, who steamrollered all opposition using quite unusual lists. Kudos to them for thinking out of the box, I think this year’s ETC will surprise us all with the combinations of lists. It is a brave new gaming world, and the path to victory seems to be on the opposite direction from our 8th edition hangovers.

    Regarding the tournament overall, I cannot stress enough how well organized it was: Frederick and his mates took care of every little detail, they even offered to find me a Forest terrain piece in case I forgot/couldn’t find mine. The tournament ran smoothly, we got results immediately on the video wall and every round was played on time.

    The 3-day wargaming experience is something I’d recommend to everyone with the time to do it, especially when it is combined with good local beer, excellent infrastructure and friendly people all around. It’s like an all-inclusive hotel stay, but for wargamers! A big thank you to all the organizers for the time and effort they put into this!

    Back to the gaming aspect:

    I ended up with 69 points, tied for the 37th spot of the tourney (out of 112). That puts my Sylvan Elves just in the top third of the field. Given the opposition, the pairing system and luck, I am pretty happy with the performance of my treehuggers!

    I felt that most of my games were balanced, I never felt that my list couldn’t handle the opposition (except perhaps the last game against the Empire). Given that my list has a good mix of shooting, combat and magic without being skewed in one or the other direction, this is an indicator of the decent balancing that 9th age has brought.

    Following a trend of other, more experienced tournament players, I’ll go over my units/choices one by one and grade them, giving my thoughts on how they performed:

    Shapeshifter: B

    This is probably the most dice-dependent model in the entire list, all it takes is a series of bad rolls and you say goodbye to 300 points. In my games he fled to his death twice, was killed by a cannon ball once, and only really mattered in combat once, against the Steam Tank. However, I find that he performed well in his primary role: limit enemy deployment and movement with the hard hitters, and generally be a menace. I think that his presence and his threat range helped a lot in getting my troops where they needed to be. I didn’t get to face many monsters, but he would have been a lot more useful against a HBE Ancient Dragon or an Elder Dragon Centaur.

    His main weakness seems to be massed small arms fire, a 3+ save and a 4++ ward save can only get you this far before the shapeshifter bites the dust.

    Dryad Matriarch: B+

    Did what she was supposed to, staying out of trouble and helping out with the magic phase and leadership. Her spells helped take down the Father of Pestilence, and the menace of the Beast Within meant that other spells would go through the enemy defenses.

    Thicket Shepherd BSB + Thicket Beasts: A+

    A very good alternative to the Treefathers, these are more resilient, care a lot less for warmachines and spells, and can grind enemy units very fast. I only lost them to the Daemon Seeker’s antics, but that was mostly bad play on my part (they should have sticked to their 3x2 formation). Against the Dread Elves and the Empire of Sonnstahl they practically won me the game.

    Druid: A

    White magic synergizes quite well with the Shapeshifter, but also with the MSU elements of my army. Having an extra wound on a unit of 5 wild huntsmen is crucial, and the same applies to giving the T5 4+/5++ save Thicket Beasts an extra wound. Having access to two luminous bolts was very helpful in most of my games, helping win the chaff war and put pressure from afar. The Dispel Scroll is still necessary for this kind of list: even magic missiles can become must-dispel spells when they’re targeting your small hard-hitters.

    Sylvan Archers: A+

    I cannot stress enough how great these are. In most of my games, they did exactly what I wanted them to do: weaken enemy hard-hitters enough for the combat part of the army to punch through. They only died against the dwarves (but arguably they shouldn’t have charged in the first place – desperate measures and all that) and the Daemons (but dice happened). On the flipside, they played a pivotal role in weakening the Father of Pestilence, killing the [Read More]
  • For the last game of the TGH tournament we were to face none other than the defenders of last year’s ETC title: Team Germany. They did have a couple of absences, and Frederick was busy running the event (and literally running from table to table to give rulings – this was the last round and bragging rights were up for grabs! Things get serious around that point... :) ) but they were still among the most dangerous opponents one can face.

    At this point we looked at the score table, and we saw that Team Belgium was now up to 6th place, within shooting range of a good placing. But more importantly, we had scored more victory points than any other team in our previous 5 games: we were winning, we were losing, but we were doing it with style!

    I was really happy about this milestone, and then the last round pairings happened. We arrived with our A4 print-out of the pairings, were we had hastily scribbled whether x or z army was a favorable matchup (there were not so many of these), and our opponents arrived with their Laptop, a dedicated program with the matchups all calculated, and looking far more confident than we were.

    (talk about bringing a knife to a gunfight!)

    When all was said and done,I was paired against yet another Empire army:

    Yannic wrote:

    Empire of Sonnstahl

    Prelate, General, Altar of Battle, Shield, Dragonfire Gem – 258

    Captain, BSB, Plate Armour, Hardened Shield, Icon of the Relentless Company - 115
    2x1 Artificer – 55
    Wizard, Magic lvl 2, Dispel Scroll, Path of Light – 125
    Wizard, Magic lvl 2, Sceptre of Power, Path of Light – 105
    Wizard, Magic lvl 1, Path of Light – 65


    41x Heavy Infantry, Swap Shield for Halberd, FCG, Banner of Speed – 281
    40x Heavy Infantry, Swap Shield for Halberd, FCG – 250
    10x State Militia, Skirmisher – 50
    11x State Militia – 44


    2x5 Reiters, Brace of Pistols – 85
    2x1 Artillery, Cannon – 100
    Artillery, Volley Gun – 125


    4x Knights of the Sun Griffon, Lance and Shield, M,S, Gleaming Icon – 232
    Arcane Engine, Foresight – 140
    Steam Tank – 230

    So lets see: Light Council, check. Double Banishment, check. Cannons and Steam tank, check. This guy has all of his bases covered, it was going to be an uphill struggle.

    To make things worse, we got Hold the Ground as our objective. No problem, I thought; I’ll just go for the second turn, outdeploy him and grab the objective on turn 6. Cue my opponent deploying his entire army first, then declaring that he would play second!

    This guy knew what he was doing...

    Magic: I got Curse of the Wildwood and Beast within for my Dryad Matriarch (no magic missiles! Drat..) while my Druid got Cataclysm and the Hidden Path. The light council got three times the Signature Magic missile, Banishment and the Timewarp.

    Units are self-explanatory, I forgot to place a unit of militia on the right flank; they didn't actively participate in the battle.

    At this point I looked at the board, I looked at the enemy army and decided that I would have to play this safe and grab a small win at best: take the warmachine points, get the fast cav and keep my units safely out of banishment/burning brightness range.

    This means that the game was not as exciting as I had wanted it to be, but to play more aggressively I would have needed one of the following things to happen:

    • My opponent to make a mistake
    • Get the chance to play second
    • Get Insect Swarm to be able to put some pressure from afar on the warmachines.
    Without any of these happening, the battle plan was the following: Keep the Thicket Beasts safe, don’t hand out any easy points, and wait for a cannon or two to misfire before going all-out attack and grabbing the objective.

    The game was a very quick and delicate dance, where I was fighting against my own boredom; I hate playing defensively, and my opponent saw no reason to rush me either. So no turn by turn here, just pictures and some highlights:
    • Turn 1 my archers shot at the Hellblaster and only dealt one wound. My opponent would move it behind the hill on his following turn, keeping the points safe.

    • The Briar Maidens played a cat and mouse game with the Griffon Knights, Reiters and Arcane engine on the left flank: I panicked the reiters off the table on turn 1, fled the griffon charge after that and rallied close to the board edge. My opponent masterfuly closed off any paths to the warmachines by threatening my advance with his chariot. In the end, all of their magic missiles were dispelled or bounced off the arcane engine, and a last turn Lightning Bolt took out 5 of them (0 ward saves!), enough to get half points when a cannon killed another 3 with a couple of shots.

    • Trying to open up the left flank, I gave my forest guardians’ flank to the griffon knights: being on full strength, I counted on them holding their ground due to steadfast and counter-charging with my bladedancers in the griffon flank. Cue a miscast, a big blast and 10
    [Read More]