The Novi Sad ETC Chronicles: Game 4

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  • Game 4 – Team Russia

    I’ve mentioned if before, but one of the great things about attending the ETC is that you get to face players that come from a different gaming culture, and whose local tournament scene is nothing like your own. In the same way that fighting against the USA gave us some insight about how things are done across the pond, the next round would give as a peek at the way the game is played in the Eastern European countries. Contrary to, say, German or French players, we rarely get to play the Russians, since travelling that far to play a game of toy soldiers is usually a once-per-year experience for all of us.

    Whenever I get the chance to look at Russian (And Belarussian, by extension) lists, I am left puzzled: some choices don’t make sense to me, some of the obvious combos are not there. And then the tournament results come in, and the armies in question end up in the top spots. That says something about the players first and foremost, but also that they train in an environment where things are done differently and where things such as a Quatl with Protean magic might be considered a competitive choice.
    To give some more context, team Russia is comprised of eight VERY competent players. Four of them travelled back in early 2019 to Poland’s team championship and became the first ever foreign team to win a Polish championship. So we knew we were in serious trouble when we found out we’d be playing them.
    One of these veteran players would be my next opponent: Kirill @SpeLLie and his Warriors of the Dark Gods. He had brought a rather compact WDG list, full of tricks and potent combos:

    SpeLLie wrote:

    Chosen Lord on War Dais, General, Envy, Idol of Spite, Trophy Rack, Dusk Forged, Burning Portent, Potion of Swiftness
    Sorcerer, Wizard Master (Alchemy), Veil Walker, Binding Scroll
    Sorcerer, Wizard Adept (Evocation)

    20 Warriors of Greed, Full Command, Zealot’s banner
    19 Barbarians, Shields, Musician

    9 Chosen of Envy, Halberds, Full Command, Banner of Speed
    5 Chosen Knights of Pride, Full Command, Flaming Standard
    2 x 5 Warhounds
    Hellmaw, Two Ominous Gateways

    So a three-block list, with considerable point denial potential and the flaming/flammable synergy from Alchemy. The Veil Walker makes Hellfire and the other Alchemy spells particularly threatening, while Evocation brings some rerolls to hit in the mix to counter the only weakness that the non-envy units might have.
    Our objective for this round would be spoils of war and the deployment type was Counterthrust.

    I had originally rated the game as a positive matchup for my Dread Elves, but upon closer inspection the ranged pressure from the Alchemy magic and the high agility attacks of all the units meant that I would have to be very careful when choosing my fights. My estimation changed when I saw how Kirill used his Gateways before deployment: he placed one near each of the flank Spoils of War tokens, and it suddenly became apparent that he was planning to use the Hellmaw to pick up tokens with his beefy units and teleport back into the fray. He won the roll for sides, and picked the one with the hill inside the deployment zone. This allowed me to claim the center with my fast cavalry and deploy pretty much on the 16” line with my monsters. After seeing where his Warrior unit would go, I dropped the entire army pretty much opposite, positioning the three scoring units in such a way that would allow me to potentially pick up all 3 of the spoils over the course of the game.

    The Warriors replied with a Refused Flank deployment that curiously saw both heavy hitters on the same flank and the Hellmaw rather exposed in the middle.
    For magic, the Alchemy Mage had Hellfire, Corruption of Tin, Quicksilver Lash and Silver Spike while the Evocation Mage took Spectral Blades and Ancestral Aid. My combo remained the same: Grave Calls/Breath of Corruption and Ice and Fire/Crippling Fatigue.

    The battle plan here was simple: Hunt the Hellmaw with my Acolytes, push my monsters right in the face of the Warrior battleline and try to get stuck in favorable combats as soon as possible. That meant that I would be taking less hits from the magic missiles, but also giving my scoring units time to claim the objective marker while the monsters and characters kept the enemy occupied.

    TURN 1 – Dread Elves

    Both Dark Raider units rushed forward, blocking the entire Warrior line, with the krakens positioned to assault the Chosen Knights as soon as possible. I went to great lengths to block the enemy chaff and also ensure that the Chosen Lord wouldn’t be able to charge my redirectors: if he wanted them gone, the chosen knights would have to charge them. In the middle the Acolytes approached the Hellmaw, trying to stay out of Terror range. The middle Blades moved on top of the Spoils of War token, ready to pick it up on turn 2.
    In the magic phase the Grave Calls was dispelled, allowing me to throw a Breath of Corruption on the Chosen Knights, dealing a single wound. I also got an Ice and Fire through on the Hellmaw, but it failed to do any damage.

    TURN 1 – Warriors of the Dark Gods

    Here my inexperience fighting against the Hellmaw showed: The Dark Raiders were not on top of the Gateway marker, meaning that the chosen Knights could reform and step on it. They teleported over to the weak side, where thankfully I had placed a Medusa for that eventuality. The Warhounds on the left charged into the Dark Raiders, using their Release the Hounds rule. The rest of the army maneuvered slightly, and the Hellmaw moved all the way back to the table edge to avoid its assailants. It then opened up a Gateway right underneath the Barbarians.

    Magic saw me dispel the Hellfire on one of my krakens, and then the sorcerer cast Corruption of Tin on my Prince, lowering his Armour by 1. In combat the charging dogs were met with an unusual fury by the Dark Raiders: two dogs died before getting to strike, and the remaining three failed to wound the elves. This meant that I actually won combat by 1, forcing the dogs to flee!

    TURN 2 – Dread Elves
    The Warriors’ first turn had opened up a lot of opportunities: the Chosen Knights were safe but out of the game for at least 2 turns, even more if I could kill the Hellmaw in the following two turns. Both my redirectors were still alive, and I had the Envy Chosen and the Warrior block within striking range. However, Kirill’s maneuvering had made sure that I wouldn’t be able to combine charges on the envy chosen as I had hoped, and failing one of the crucial charges there would see the unit rampage on my forces in a series of reforms and subsequent charges. The Warriors were not as close to my Krakens as I would have liked, and I knew that they could tank one Kraken if the other failed to engage.

    So I formed an alternate plan: the Yema Acolytes and the 3-strong Raiders combo-charged into the Barbarians’ front: that brought 3 acolytes in base contact with the Alchemy Master, giving me a good chance to assassinate him. The second raider unit redirected the Chosen Lord’s retinue, and the medusas stepped in front of the Chosen Knights and Warriors respectively. That left my kraken and characters free to maneuver around, preparing for turn 3 charges. The middle blades took the spoils token and moved slightly back. Finally, the second acolyte unit continued its hunt against the Hellmaw.

    In magic I had a lot of options, but the one that interested my opponent was the Crippling Fatigue on the Barbarian unit. He wisely used all of his dice to stop it, letting through Breath of Corruption on the Yema champion and an Ice and Fire on the Hellmaw. This time I rolled better and managed to get two wounds through on the big beast.
    The only combat of the game so far went my way: the attacks from the Acolytes managed to kill the Alchemy Master, and the rest of my attacks killed another 5 Barbarians, for just two wounds back. The barbarians held their ground on steadfast thanks to the Chosen Lord’s proximity, but killing the mage had given me the upper hand!

    TURN 2 – Warriors of the Dark Gods

    Both the Warriors and the Chosen Knights charged into the Medusas in front of them, and then my opponent surprised me by jumping his Chosen Lord through the Gateway and over to my weak side. That seemed to me as a risky move, since all I had to do to neutralize one third of the WDG army now was kill the Hellmaw.
    Magic put rerolls to wound on the Warriors, and the combats went generally in the Warriors’ favor: my Halberd medusa failed to assassinate the second Sorcerer and died to the Warriors’ attacks, while the chosen knights predictably squashed her sister. To my dismay, the Yema Acolytes completely fluffed this time and got a wound for their trouble: I also lost the Dark raiders in the same fight, but at least the Acolytes passed their Break test and fought on.

    TURN 3 – Dread Elves

    Yet again the Warriors were using my chaff against me, making my charges trickier against the Envy chosen. Thus, I decided to focus on the Warriors of Greed and the Hellmaw: the Acolytes charged into the Hellmaw, hoping to deal the remaining 3 wounds against it and leave the Chosen Knights and lord stranded to the right. The Pegasus Prince charged into the Barbarians to help out the Yema Acolytes and gain the much needed +2 strength from Transcendence in the process. Finally, the two Kraken and my Manticore charged into the Warriors of Greed, and all three made it in.
    The Dark Raiders continued redirecting the Chosen, pulling their attention away from the Corsairsthat were stepping on the Spoils of War token, ready to steal it away on the following turn. Meanwhile,the Blades of Nabh started their long trek back to my deployment zone, carrying their token with them.

    The only thing that mattered in magic this turn was the Crippling Fatigue on the Hellmaw, and my adversary managed to dispel it. In the ensuing fight, disaster struck: the Acolytes failed their Fear test, then the Hellmaw saved all wounds but 1. In return, it dealt four wounds and I only saved one of them, losing combat. I managed to pass my Break test, but couldn’t reform, making things easy for the Chosen Lord who was staring at my unit’s flank.
    The Kraken against the Warriors of Greed fared better: The warriors dealt three wounds on the right one, but its attacks killed the Sorcerer, and the rest of the attacks and stomps brought the warriors down to thirteen strong: they passed their Break Test, but things were looking good in that fight . The Prince and Acolytes fared better this time against the Barbarians, killing 8 of them but falling one short from denying steadfast. The Barbarians killed two more Acolytes, leaving just the unit Champion alive.

    TURN 3 – Warriors of the Dark Gods
    This time the Chosen took my Dark Raider bait, but my joy was short-lived, as Kirill then teleported his Chosen Knights back into the fight and positioned them perfectly to deny my kraken any charges on the following turn (I was in his front arc, but we couldn’t close the door due to the unit placement). The Chosen Lord also charged into the Acolytes fighting the Hellmaw, with an overrun that would bring him closer to the fight once more.

    The fights went the Warriors’ way: The Chosen Lord dealt with the Acolytes and reformed to menace my three Monsters on the hill as well as my Blades. The Barbarians broke from combat, and the Yema Acolyte failed to restrain, chasing them down. Finally, the Krakens and Manticore underperformed and the Warriors managed to hold on a low Discipline roll! Things were looking bleak…

    TURN 4 – Dread Elves

    So my hard hitters were pinned in a fight - with a Burning Portent lord staring at them - and my other Kraken was neutralized for a turn. After some thought, I sent the Prince in: he charged the rear of the Chosen Knights, fully aware that he would get a Champion to munch through. The Yema acolyte champion stepped in front of the Chosen to block their countercharge, and the Corsairs took advantage of all that commotion to grab the spoils token and run!

    With two thirds of my magic gone nothing of importance happened in the magic phase. In combat the Prince killed the Champion but the Chosen Knights of Pride predictably passed their Minimsed Break test, and reformed to face my general. In the Warrior fight the Kraken finally managed to rout their adversaries, and pursued them to get out of the Chosen Lord’s charge arc: both the BSB and a Kraken succeeded while the second (wounded) kraken fell short.

    TURN 4 – Warriors of the Dark Gods

    The Chosen lord charged the wounded kraken, but it fled to safety. He redirected into the nearest Blades of Nabh and made it in. The Chosen of Envy fell upon the Yema acolyte and killed him without breaking a sweat.
    In the main event, my Dread Prince fluffed his rolls: only two wounds were dealt to the knights, and the Knights repied causing two back. The general lost combat by 1 and failed his rerollable Break Test! He fled, but thankfully ran far enough to get away. Finally, the Chosen Lord killed the Blades’ champion in a challenge but the Blades held their ground.

    TURN 5 – Dread Elves

    The bottom kraken spotted the Rear of the Chosen Knights and charged in. The fleeing kraken continued fleeing, but the General regrouped, albeit not far from some very angry chosen of Envy. So my third Kraken stepped in as a last-ditch chaff piece, redirecting the Chosen away from the prince. The Manticore BSB maneuvered to provide rerolls where needed. Finally, the scoring units continued their long slog towards my lines, bringing with them two very valuable Spoils tokens.
    The Blades fighting the Chosen Lord lost their resolve and fled after he killed six of them with his attacks, but stayed on the field. The Kraken dodged most of the Chosen Knights’ attacks, and then -with the help of the beastmaster- dealt a massive 8 wounds in return! The remaining chosen knight fled but was cut down in pursuit!

    TURN 5 – Warriors of the Dark Gods

    The Chosen Lord, away from any other meaningful targets, charged into the second Blades unit. The Chosen of Envy fell upon the Kraken and killed it, then reformed to deny any flank charges to my units. On an important note, the Hellmaw failed its march test and was left stranded in front of my Kraken.

    TURN 6 – Dread Elves
    With the objective secured, it was all about maximizing the points and making sure I wouldn’t lose any more: the kraken charged the Hellmaw, and both flying characters flew away from danger. The fleeing wounded kraken rallied, as did the Blades of Nabh. In combat the Kraken managed to kill the Hellmaw at last!

    TURN 6 – Warriors of the Dark Gods

    The only thing left was to resolve the final fight: the Chosen Lord swung at the Blades, forced them to flee but failed to catch them. The objective was still in Dread Elf hands, giving me a 16-4 victory!


    I cannot even start explaining how touch-and-go that game was! It started off pretty well, with deployment going my way and the original push forcing my opponent to expose his wizard bunker or lose his Chosen Knights in the process. By turn 3 I had dealt with the offensive magic. was in striking range of the weakest of the three WDG blocks and was about to kill the Hellmaw. Then all hell broke loose: The Warriors held 3 rounds against 2 krakens and the Manticore, the Acolytes completely fluffed their rolls and died instead of killing the maw, and my opponent’s maneuvering countered any solutions I had to the Chosen problem.

    By turn 4 I had to risk my Prince in that rear charge against the Chosen Knights or risk losing the objective (the knights held one and they could have charged into my corsairs by turn 5 and made them drop theirs). And just as I was thinking it was again going ok (sacrificing my Prince to get an equal value unit PLUS win the objective was at that point a good exchange), the Prince flees and risks getting cut down for nothing.

    With this game under my belt, I’ve now some rules of thumb concerning Hellmaws:
    - You need to keep pressuring the Hellmaw to keep it from advancing and opening Gateways behind your lines
    - Whenever you don’t want a unit ENTERING a gateway, you need to have one of yours stepping on the gateway counter. Trying to limit the exit gateway is a lot harder since the redeploymentis quite big.
    - Kill the Hellmaw early = Win the game.

    With that in mind, I think that my early redirection strategy was lacking: the Dark Raiders should have been stepping on the counter, even if it meant that the Lord would get a T1 charge. Part of me was very reluctant to engage in combat against the lord, Flaming aegis save or not: all it takes is a single failed save and I’d be looking at a dead BSB (the best candidate for challenging him out).

    While I cannot say that my opponent was the most fun I’ve had at the ETC, he is certainly a very good general. His use of the Gateways was ingenious, and he kept me second-guessing my movement every step of the way. The game you just read was his only loss at the ETC, despite playing against top players, including veterans from Denmark, Germany and Sweden. Our game got a bit heated towards the end as we were rushing to finish and the result was ambivalent until the end. But it was a hard fought game and I was glad to have played it!

    The rest of the team rose up to the occasion and fought 7 hard games. Thanks to a great performance by our Ogre player, who secured a big win, we ended up winning the round 85-75! Needless to say, we were quite happy with that result!

    With three wins and a small loss, we found ourselves still near the top of the ranking. That meant that we would have to face the Germans, who had been steamrolling almost all opposition and had just battled the Polish to almost a draw...

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Comments 2

  • AxelVicious -

    Good job on the win! Hellmaws can be a real struggle to fight against, you just can't let them dictate the game and you handled it like a boss! You were unlucky not to finish it off with the acolytes too.

  • jimmygrill -

    Just fyi: a unit passing through a portal loses scoring, so the Chosen Knights would have had to give up their spoils marker.

    Well played, the WDG were constantly on the back foot.