The Novi Sad ETC Chronicles: Game 3

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  • GAME 3 – USA

    The second day of the ETC 2019 we woke up with high spirits, and were really looking forward to facing our round 3 opponents: the USA! What is impressive about the 9th age community is that thanks to Youtube, the T9A forum, twitter and the such we feel like we have a better idea of what the US gaming scene looks like than, say, the Austrian or the Spanish one. So it was exciting to get to play against the guys that we so often hear about in the Wargaming from the Balcony podcast and the such! To top it off, the US players have a reputation of being fun, fair and also very competent generals: reading this report you’ll find that they didn’t disappoint!

    The gaming scene over at the US is quite different than ours, with a lot less MSU elements way chunkier units. That said, there were the exceptions to the rule (for example Ryan Capps’ Ogre Khans monster mash). Nevertheless, my Dread Elves were looking at some very juicy targets in all possible games, with relatively little room for counterplay. Out of the eight possible matches the only one that I wasn’t looking forward to facing was the Vermin Swarm, due to the fact that it would be a match depending on how well my opponent rolled for his shooting more than anything else.

    So I let our pairing master do his magic, and in the end I got to play against none other than the all-time top scorer of team USA, Chris @eggsPR . Now, for the uninitiated, Chris has the reputation of being a very strong player, and the list of his T9A-related accolades is so long that it would probably require a separate blog post to enumerate them. He has been playing Vampires for a long time and has attended several (all?) of the past ETCs. So going into the game I was looking forward to a hard-fought game. What I wasn’t expecting was what a fun and jovial opponent Chris would be. If I had to describe his player demeanor I’d say that you could get massacred by his army and would still be happy to have played him anyway! In any other tournament he’d get my “best opponent” vote, but here he’ll have to share it with another 3 players; that’s how lucky I was at this year’s ETC!

    Chris had brought a Vampire list with several of the usual suspects, but also a very personal touch:

    The most important parts of the list were the character duo, and namely their magic combination: Just like the first game opponent, the combination of Evocation and Occultism with extra range meant that the VC were not hard pressed at all to get into combat. His was a very stable list that could take its time, position the units correctly, claim objectives and gain points by sniping single models, small heavily-armoured units and expensive characters. Could you guess what I had brought in abundance?

    The secondary objective for this round was Hold the Ground, which provided a challenge in itself: if I allowed the vampires to march onto the center of the board I’d have a really hard time getting them off the objective marker. The map we played on was Frontline Clash, and my adversary won the roll off for table sides and promptly picked the side with the hill right in the middle. That decision influenced my plan even further: if that swiftstride barrow unit got on top of the hill, it could easily zone a huge part of my list while sniping monsters away.

    So I deployed my entire army to claim the initiative, with the Kraken at a central position, my general with corsairs a bit off to the one flank along with the Yema Acolytes and the other acolytes guarding the right flank with some help from the Blades of Nabh. The plan was to push forward aggressively, deny space to the vampires while also trying to perform an enveloping maneuver in the flanks. Chris replied to this by deploying centrally and deep: he used his Vampire Spawn wisely to cover one flank, and anchored the other with his Barrow Guard. In between, his Ghouls, Vampire Knights and chaff were ready to pop out of their hiding spot to threaten my monsters.

    For magic, the Occultism Vampire took Hand of Glory, Breath of Corruption, Marked for Doom and the Grave Calls, while the Evocation wizard went for Touch of the Reaper, Spectral Blades, Whispers of the Veil and the Hereditary. I took my usual mix of Ice and Fire/Crippling Fatigue and Breath of Corruption/Grave Calls.
    With the first turn secured, I rushed all of my vanguarding units forward. I wasn’t surprised that Chris kept his close to his forces, in line with the defensive deployment.

    TURN 1 – Dread Elves

    The first order of business here was not to “chaff” the enemy so to speak, but to take advantage of the wolves’ placement: these are very effective redirectors, if you let them maneuver. So I used both of my Dark Raider units to limit that maneuverability, thus ridding my krakens from that headache for turn 1. To the right, blocking the redirectors also meant blocking the entire VC flank, so I was fine with that.

    The central forces, including the Kraken, moved up as much as they could, eager to close the distance. On my right Chris had wisely chosen to have the Vampire Spawn look north, meaning there was no way that I could force a frenzy check. So I had to contend myself with just leaving them no place to land on that flank, using the Dark Acolytes, Blades and the Manticore.
    In magic I was able to cast an Ice and Fire on the Vampire Spawn, dealing 3 wounds.

    TURN 1 – Vampire Covenant

    The vampire sent the ghouls after my right dark raiders and the Bat Swarms after my left. The rest of the army shuffled backwards a bit, confirming my suspicion that the Vamps wouldn’t commit if I didn’t force them to. The Vampire Spawn moved behind the impassable terrain: from there they could threaten both sides of the board while staying safe from any long charges.

    Magic started with a Marked for Doom on my middle Kraken. I let that through, keeping my dice for the upcoming Grave Calls: the Kraken took a wound, but at least I stopped the next spell. Then with his last 2 dice the Vampire summoned another unit of Great Bats!
    The Ghouls made dealt with the Dark Raiders, and held their ground: they’d now get rerolls to hit, which made any charges from my units riskier. The Bat Swarms couldn’t replicate their performance, though: the Raiders struck first and dealt 3 wounds for none back, crumbling the swarms a bit more.

    TURN 2 – Dread Elves

    With the left flank chaff occupied and the Vampire Spawn forced to back away, I only had the three redirectors in the middle to worry about! So after thinking about it for a bit, I saw an opening: all three Krakens could see the dog conga trying to hide behind the hill, and they had medium-range charges (2 x 9+ on swift and a longer 10+ for the furthest). If one of them made it in, I would get to choose between getting an overrun into the barrow guard flank, the ghoul flank, or going straight ahead to attack the Bats right behind. If two made it in, I’d be able to combine both missions.

    So I declared the charges, as well as an 18" charge from the Yema Acolytes into the rightmost Dire Wolves. Disappointingly, all of the charges failed! As is often the case in such situations, I had to send my medusas in to save the day by keeping the monsters from harm’s way: one blocked the charge of the Vampire Knights (S7 can do bad things to the Kraken!) and the other blocked the Barrow Guard: I couldn’t afford fleeing with two Kraken on the following turn, as it would weaken my position in the center.
    On the right flank I used the Blades of Nabh to set up a trap for the Vampire Spawn: They’d have to take a Ld8 frenzy check with no reroll, and failing meant having to charge either the rightmost kraken (not ideal, but it still has decent chances of holding on Steadfast) or directly into the Blades defending a wall. Both scenarios would see me countercharge and kill that unit, claiming valuable points.
    Finally, the Prince relocated towards the Kraken, leaving the corsairs guarding the central objective on their own.

    The magic phase started with the medusa putting a deceptive glamour on the Vampire Spawn, allowing me to lower the movement of the Ghouls by 1: this was enough to force a roll for their impending charge into the nearby kraken, as opposed to an automatic success thanks to the champion. Then the Acolytes powered through another Ice and Fire, killing another Vampire Spawn!
    In combat the Dark Raiders won once more against the Bat Swarms, but this time they only crumbled by 1.

    TURN 2 – Vampire Covenant

    Both the Barrow Guard and the Vampire Knights fell upon their respective medusas. The Dire Wolves countercharged the Dark Raiders fighting the Bat Swarms, and the Ghouls charged into the Kraken across from them. Thanks to that Witchcraft movement hex the Ghouls failed their charge! To my dismay, the Vampire Spawn passed their frenzy check.

    The closest unit of Giant Bats passed their march test and flew forward to redirect both the central Kraken and the leftmost Blades of Nabh.
    In the magic phase I had to let through a high cast Grave Calls on the wounded kraken, resulting in its immediate demise. I then stopped the Marked for Doom and the Touch of the Reaper on the other central Kraken.
    Combat was a mixed bag: the Barrow Guard predictably slaughtered the medusa and pivoted a bit, but the Vampire Knights didn’t fare that well ! A combination of bad rolls to hit and a couple of timely Aegis saves meant that the medusa not only took just a wound, but also held her ground, pinning the Knights. The dark Raiders struck at the charging Dire Wolves first, and managed to kill four of them. Unfortunately, the last remaining dog caused a wound back before crumbling, meaning that the Bat Swarms were left alive on a single wound!

    TURN 3 – Dread Elves

    By now I was getting worried about how the game would unfold: so far I had managed to avoid the worst part of the magic damage, but I was running out of redirectors and once the second kraken was dead then the Vampires would be free to move up more aggressively.
    So my solution to the problem was a radical one: assassinate the Vampires while I still had the resources to do so! The combo charge went as follows: the Yema Acolytes with a 7+ charge into the flank of the Barrow Guard to bring a champion into the fight, the nearby Kraken with a 6+ charge to deal with the heavily armoured Vampire and, finally, my Prince at an 8+ swift to tackle the Occultism Master. Unfortunately, the Prince decided to fail his charge at the worst possible moment, leaving the two other units to fend for themselves!
    In the middle my last kraken charged into the Vampire Knights, while the second acolyte unit piled into their flank for added combat resolution: the Kraken had a clear overrun into the Ghoul unit’s flank, which would pin the big block long enough for my blades to arrive and finish them off. Finally, the middle blades charged into the blocking Giant Bats.

    Now that the forces had been committed, I needed to follow through with the plan; the Manticore moved within 12” of the Kraken fighting the vampire, hoping to make good use of the rerolls to hit ability. In the magic phase my opponent spent all of his dice to stop the Crippling Fatigue, allowing me to get off the Breath of Corruption on the Acolytes’ champion.

    In combat the medusa and kraken managed to crumble the Vampire Knights; the subsequent overrun brought the Kraken into the ghoul flank, as planned. The Blades predictably dealt with the Giant bats, as did the Dark Raiders vs the Bat Swarm, leaving the important combat:the charging Kraken took 2 wounds from the Vampire Count and the Barrow Guard, and then retaliated: despite rerolls to hit only one wound was dealt and that was saved by the Aegis of the Vampire… The second Count killed a single Acolyte while I managed to deal enough wounds back with stomps/breath weapon and the acolyte attacks to only lose combat by 1. The Acolytes fled after failing their Discipline 9 rerollable check, but at least the Kraken held.

    TURN 3 – Vampire Covenant

    Chris sounded the counterattack: the Vampire Spawn, having failed their frenzy check (one turn too late!), flanked the Kraken in combat with the Barrow Guard. The final unit of Great Bats flew right in front of my Blades of Nabh, blocking their charge to the ghouls.
    With both remaining Krakens now in combat the magic was focused on my BSB: I tried to dispel a medium-cast version of Grave Calls on him, but failed miserably. Thankfully, Chris matched my performance and rolled extremely low for his number of hits, allowing the BSB to go unscathed. Having gotten back 3 dice from fizzle, I managed to dispel his subsequent spell as well.

    In combat the Vampire Spawn killed the Kraken before it could get to strike the Vampire again: they then overran around 10”, enough to fall into my fleeing Yema Acolyte unit and kill them instantly. That gave them the opportunity to pivot, and they positioned themselves to threaten my advance towards the big blocks. Finally, the Ghouls failed to cause a wound to my charging kraken; the beast stomped 7 ghouls to the ground and won combat, but the undead managed to reform to bring more attacks into the fight (the picture is wrong, the Ghouls reformed into a Line formation).

    TURN 4 – Dread Elves

    I was quickly running out of tricks to pull off, but I still had a couple up my sleeve: the corsairs (who had been scoring scenario points from turn 2 onwards) charged into the rear of the Vampire Spawn: unit placement meant that only 2 spawn would fight against 4 of my corsairs. The Blades of Nabh in the center charged into the Great Bats blocking them: the unit footprint and the fact that they had to fly the max distance to redirect me meant that I’d still get a chance at a 5” overrun to hit the ghouls’ flank. Finally, my Dark Raiders interposed themselves between the Barrow Guards and the central marker, making sure that I’d claim the secondary objective. The Pegasus Prince flew out of line of sight, and the Manticore BSB stayed close to the Kraken in order to boost the fight.

    Magic saw me 5-dice the Crippling Fatigue onto the Vampire Spawn, and I managed to get it off despite my adversary’s attempt at dispelling it. This was enough to tip the fight to my favor: with the extra magical help the Corsairs managed to deal 6 wounds to the Spawn! My joy was short-lived though: the Spawn went back and killed 5 corsairs in retaliation, meaning that they “only” lost 5 more wounds to combat resolution. At least they failed their reform check and so the 3 remaining spawn continued the fight against the 5 remaining Corsairs.

    The Blades were up next: their attacks made short work of the Bats, and all they now had to do was roll a 5+ on 2d6 to hit the ghoul flank!

    They got a 4.

    The kraken was thus left to its fate: this time the Ghouls managed a single unsaved wound, and the Kraken killed a good chunk of ghouls: around 24 were still alive by this point.

    TURN 4 – Vampire Covenant

    With my assault troops bouncing off right and left the Barrow guard continued to munch through my chaff: they fell into the Dark Raiders, and made – predictably- mincemeat out of them. In the magic phase my opponent had to pick between saving his Vampire Spawn, buffing his Ghouls or targeting my characters with snipes. With two blade units staring at the Ghouls he opted for some buffs into them, getting off an Arise spell as well as the Spectral Blades on them.

    In the ensuing combat the Ghouls managed to kill the Kraken thanks to rerolling to hit and to wound rolls, and reformed to face the Blades of Nabh. The Vampire Spawn took another beating: one more spawn died but the remaining 2 killed 4 more corsairs and reformed to face the last survivor.

    TURN 5 – Dread Elves

    So last turn’s failure to connect with yet another crucial charge had taken its toll on my morale. We knew by now that this was going to be the last turn (fighting from turn 1 leads to LOTS of combats to go through), so I had a final choice to make: my rightmost Blades were 12 “ away from the ghouls’ flank, but said ghouls were boosted with the Spectral Blades and to get into the flank I also needed to commit my Acolytes to the front to clear the way.

    Essentially, I had the option of committing 1000 points (2x Blades and the Acolytes) to get potentially 600. If I failed that 7+ roll I'd lose another 2 tournament points. So I decided against it: the blades passed their frenzy check, and my only charge was the Prince into the flank of the Vampire Spawn, and the Medusa into the 10-ish Zombies (they’d been getting sacrificed all game long for Occultism spells). In remaining moves I swift reformed my Blades and moved them back towards the center of the board, allowing enough space for the Acolytes to pass through and redirect both the Barrow Guard and the Ghouls.
    In combat the Prince got challenged out and killed the unit champ, while the last remaining Vampire Spawn killed my corsair before combat resolution forced it to crumble. The Medusa killed some zombies but there’s still 6 of them left.

    TURN 5 – Vampire Covenant

    The Ghouls charge into the Acolytes: I hold, since their 4+ aegis will give me a chance to conserve half points if they flee and don’t get caught. In the magic phase I stop the Grave Calls into my BSB and have to let the Marked for Doom through: the spell wounds, my BSB fails his aegis save and Chris rolls a “3” for the number of wounds, dropping the Manticore to a last wound remaining and claiming half points for him!

    The medusa this turn failed miserably, fluffing her rolls. To add insult to injury the zombies then managed to finish her off! In the final combat of the game the ghouls rolled well and manage to rout the Acolytes, whose flee roll was too low to outrun the undead. Their death signaled the end of one of the most intense games of T9A I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing!

    Counting points, the Vampires ended up being ahead by around 1600 points. Thankfully, my perseverance when it came to safeguarding the Hold the Ground objective mitigated that result, leading to a small 9-11 loss for the Dread Elves.


    What a game! I was really impressed with how Chris kept his cool and how perfectly he “read” the match:On paper I had the advantage, but by playing a defensive game he evened out the odds! Looking back at key moments of the game, I think that he got the best result that he could have, not making any mistakes at crucial moments. He played a safe game, and let me come to him and take risks to open the game. If I didn’t, it would be a drawish game where he’d win thanks to his ranged magic and he knew that.
    Naturally, the player who tries to create openings is the one taking the bigger risks. Against such an army, a half-hearted push (or in my case the inability to complete the combo-charges) means that the enemy can focus on one unit at a time and slowly grind you down.

    Would I play this game any differently? Probably not: any of the failed charges (most of them average) would have created more opportunities for me and that’s the way that the list is designed to be played. As noted above, that does not detract from the way that Chris played: he was the toughest opponent I got to face the entire weekend, always in control and with a good ability to predict and project the game two turns forward when making decisions.

    So how did the team do overall? I’d say that the two games that decided the round were the one you just read about and an Ogre mirror match between our @PrinceCharming and the USA captain @thedoctor : in the end, the American Ogres prevailed 15-5 in a very tough game. The end result for the round was a 73-87 loss for us, the first one in this year’s ETC.

    All of the team USA members were very fun guys, (including the coaches – hey Hugo!) and it was a treat getting to meet them in person and to play such an intense round with them. They went on to have a very successful trajectory, fighting top teams until the end (Spain, Ukraine and Italy) and ending up just shy of the top 10.

    So after the small loss we were hoping we’d dodge the really big fish and end up playing a mid-tier team for round 4. But it was not meant to be! Next up in our path we would find the Russians!

    884 times read

Comments 5

  • Hersius -

    We had an amazing time playing you guys! Class Acts!

  • eggsPR -

    Was a great chess match Pascal! It was was indeed my best game played this ETC and you were hands-down my toughest opponent, also proven by your insane strength of schedule! Well done and thanks so much for such a lovely game! <3 :)

  • Cultivator -

    Brutal dice.

    • SmithF -

      Yes and no.
      It's how the list plays, really: you maneuver correctly, and then you start looking for little flaws in the opponent's battleplan. I always declare the long charges if the opponent lets me, especially when there's little to no drawback. Failing these is part of the process, especially if the outcome of succeeding with one is game-winning.

      You'll rarely hear me complain about combat dice (because with movement you can make sure to stack the odds in your favor), but what can cripple this list is bad charging dice. This is built-in into the list, and it's why I considered it "unstable" to begin with: it can do awesome things (And most opponents fear it for what it *could* do), but if you lose momentum you'll find yourself scrambling to save some points.

      Over a 6-game tournament I had two instances of very bad charging dice, and both times it cost me the game. But you'll read all about it soon! :D

  • Martins9thAge -

    Arghh.. I´m going to kill you!! With me you get all long charges you try, and now failing at 5+.. camon man xD.
    The game was as I expected, played VC defensive at the expense of what the opponent do, trying to kill something with magic.. sadly with more armys that i like happend this.. When the best result is 11 with that many failed charges... problems for VC this days..