[Mordheim] Interlude With A Vampire

This is a repost. The original article has bounced around two forums, three blogs and several content purges. Hopefully it will survive and thrive here.

The year is 2008, and for the three months before my MA course is due to start, I am home, playing games with my formative opponents. The local GW, locus of our lives back in the sixth form days, is running a campaign. Four weeks of Mordheim games. One big map showing our warbands’ progression into the ruined city (and governing what sort of terrain will appear when two warbands meet, although the scenarios themselves would be played by-the-book). ‘Victory’ is a tenuous sort of thing really, but for the sake of people who need to know who ‘won’ a wargames campaign, whoever’s warband came out with the highest rating at the end of the month would be lauded, applauded, and relieved of the sandwich run.

I decided to treat the campaign as a prequel of sorts. During the 2004 Storm of Chaos campaign I built a heavily kitbashed Army of Sylvania (which actually grew out of a Mordheim warband box) led by that Mordheim vampire with the swooshy cloak and later, after I lost him in a house move, by a swashbuckling undead Imperial Noble from the Warhammer Quest range. I didn’t do any conversion work at all on him – merely painted on an eyepatch after he caught the wrong end of a Dwarf rune axe in his first outing.

Since Mordheim is set some five hundred years prior to the Storm of Chaos, during the slow rise to power of the Von Carsteins, I thought this would be a good chance to see how my newly-turned Vampire started out his career and made himself noticeable to his antecedents.

Continue reading “[Mordheim] Interlude With A Vampire”

[WFB] Herohammer Battle Report – The Second Battle of Point LeStroud

Another Herohammer battle report! Fifth edition WFB, 1500 points, High Elves vs. Vampire Counts, Tournament Battle lists and scenario.

Lists-n-shit are in the previous post; let’s crack along!

We made a couple of changes for the second scenario.

Firstly; angling those walls. It’s an old secret from the Warmachine days. Walls running parallel to deployment zones become things behind which forces cower. Walls running diagonally to deployment zones are interesting – they defend a flank or a front but not both, and to make the most of them demands turning off the ‘march straight forwards’ route and presenting an angle to the enemy.

Secondly: this time, I took a DARK MAGIC spell. I’d found myself wanting for Power cards last time, and poor Margharita had spent most of the game lurking in my lines, from whence she could have been casting a nasty DARK MAGIC spell.

I drew Blade Wind – not the best against such a high WS army, but I’ll take it – and otherwise stuck with the same Necromancies as before (that’s Summon Skeletons, Vanhel’s Danse Macabre and Gaze of Nagash on Walravius; Summon Undead Horde on the Master). Ben drew Banishment, Fiery Convocation and something else mildly unpleasant. (I actually forgot to ask at the end, but given how cagey he was about not having Assault of Stone, I have suspicions.)

Deployment

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(Key note: several of these units are illegally deployed, according to the Tournament Battle scenario. My Wight Cavalry certainly are and I’m not sure about Ben’s Bolt Throwers either.)

(Further key note: this was before Ben double-checked his Bolt Thrower rules and discovered they’d shear through the Wight Cavalry’s 1+ saves no problem. Obviously I would never have put them there had we known, but since I’d benefitted so much from this misunderstanding in the first game, we agreed it was only fair to give the Bolt Throwers their head.)

As before, Ben finished deploying first and so got the first turn. My plan was a bit different this time – pin the Princes in the open centre and set up my Skeleton blocks behind the walls, from which defended obstacle they’d stand a chance against the White Lions. The Wights would simply swoosh around and roll up the flank, possibly Summoning some Zombies to help them out and catch fleeing Elves on the run.

High Elf Turn One

Ben also had a new plan. It was a highly aggressive GO FOR IT kind of plan in which he marched the White Lions through that gap in the walls and the Dragon Princes 8″ into my grille.

The Archers – now far more central and relevant – did a little two inch shuffle to the side to open their field of fire, and went for it, killing off a whole base of Bats while the Bolt Throwers messed up four of my Wights.

At least the Winds of Magic were a fart in a tin can.

Vampire Counts Turn One

I moved the Bats moved up to aggressively block the Dragon Princes – but not into combat with them. They’d be charging on Ben’s turn, or going around. Emmanuelle pared herself between the units, ready to wail at whoever needed the most wails, while I pressed the surviving Wight and the Master forward, desperate to close in and not eat any more Bolts than they needed to. Finally, I sent Margharita up to point blank range of the White Lions, attempting to get them before they got me.

Cometh the Magic phase, cometh the man, and fortunately I was well off for Power cards (with only one Dispel, that I could convert into Dark Magic power). First off: the Staff of Damnation, propelling the Wight Cavalry and the Master upfield and into point blank range of the Bolt Throwers. One more round, and then they’d be gone – since they were in a battery, I could break them both in one charge.

Blade Wind went off, despite Ben’s effort to Destroy it, but only killed one White Lion. (We decided they’d get their close combat save, since the spell does go after them with, you know, blades). Ben dispelled the first Summon Skeletons, but the second added three models to Margharita’s unit, and then he didn’t Scroll Vanhel’s Danse Macabre, so I propelled the Spearmen into the White Lions on the grounds that I’d rather get to fight them than not.

(We shouldn’t have fought this combat, but we did; the White Lions passed their Fear test and though I killed three of them, they nailed five Skeletons and won the combat by one.)

Here’s the bottom of turn one. Bloody hell, this one’s moving faster!

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High Elves Turn Two

As predicted, Ben sent the Dragon Princes headlong into what remained of the Bat Swarm – he’d considered charging his general out and into the Skeletons, but thought better of it – while the Archers wheeled and unloaded into the Master and his last Wight. Fortunately, between the range and the 1+ save, nothing happened. Phew. Sadly, the Bolt Throwers finished off the last Wight, but were totally unable to put a wound on the Master. Toughness 6 is… higher than I remembered.

Unsurprisingly, the Dragon Princes wiped the Bat Swarm out and successfully prevented themselves from charging off like loonies. In the other combat, each side chopped four wounds off the other for a complete draw.

Then… then Ben cast Banishment with Total Power.

Fortunately, Margharita was just out of range, but one Skeleton from her unit and six from Walravius’ bunker were blown to kingdom come. Adding insult to injury, Ben dropped Fiery Convocation on Walravius and company and killed another two, which meant he’d be taking at least one S5 hit next turn, if not more.

Vampire Counts Turn Two

I really wanted to save Walravius. I really wanted to rules lawyer it so that he could charge out of his unit, away from the last Skeleton, and leave Fiery Convocation behind. Sadly, in fifth edition you can’t do that. Characters in units are still in units at the time charges are declared, therefore they must charge along with their friends. Leaving units happens in the Remaining Moves step. At least we took the time to get that right.

Anyway, instead of charging he advanced to get out of the Dragon Princes’ line of sight (blowed if he’d give them the satisfaction), while the Master charged the Repeater Bolt Throwers. Failing their fear test, the crew legged it off the board, and his failed charge put him behind the hill – probably the safest place for him!

Emmanuelle whiffed her wail on the White Lions. In combat, Margharita finally flexed her muscles and killed three White Lions, enough to win the combat – but since the Skeletons no longer outnumbered them, they got to take their Break Test, and the buggers held.

Unbelievably, Walravius survived the Fiery Convocation (which I could not Dispel without any Dispel cards) with one wound remaining. He cast Summon Skeletons twice, raising a total of nine Skeletons into the Spearmen unit, but Ben dispelled the Staff of Damnation and its attempt at getting another round of combat in.

 

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High Elves Turn Three

The Princes wheeled to face what remained of the Vampire Counts army, while the Archers reversed two and a half inches (turn, move and turn, at a quarter of their movement for each turn) and unloaded into the Master, who laughed it off. Toughness 6, man!

In melee, Margharita killed two White Lions and the Skeletons nailed another, finally enough to break them and run them down.

Fiery Convocation finished off Walravius, unsurprisingly, and then… another Banishment. I tried to stop it, I really did, but it was my turn to roll a 1 on a 2+ Dispel attempt. Once again, Margharita was just out of range, thanks to that overrun, but the Banshee was atomised and so were three Skeleton spearmen.

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Vampire Counts Turn Three

The Master turned his horse about and cantered gently toward the centre, while Margharita abandoned her unit. This was the wrong call. I got her out of there so she wouldn’t be poofed by the Dragon Princes, but the thing is – if she had been, she’d have exploded, killed a bunch of them, resurrected herself in the building, and been safe from any further charging because it’s a four turn game and I was going second. Instead, I… well, you’ll see. Anyway, the Spearmen turned to face the inevitable, and Ben saved me any further Staff of Damnation cheating by using Drain Magic straight out.

High Elf Turn Four

The Dragon Princes charged and, unsurprisingly, pulverised the Skeleton Spearmen, while the Archers totally failed to put any hurt on the Master again. The Winds of Magic were generous, and gave Ben enough to cast Fiery Convocation on Margharita. I wasn’t having that though – I dropped Rebound and this time got away with it. Sadly, the High Elf affinity for dispelling meant Ben easily shut down my spiteful Blade Wind on his Archers with a Mental Duel. On top of everything, he plonked a wound on Margharita for her trouble. Grr.

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Vampire Counts Turn Four

With only two models on the table my options were a bit… limited. I charged Margharita into the Dragon Princes, challenging the High Elf General – who failed his Fear test and, as Ben pointed out, actually did him a favour, since now it was much less likely he’d kill the Vampire. Margharita did two wounds to him, which made the combat… a draw. Blech.

(We counted and recounted the combat results, and this is where we spotted the other big thing Ben had bee doing wrong all day. In fifth edition, you do not get +1 combat resolution for charging; you get to strike first and that’s your lot. I don’t think it would have made a huge difference, since generally I was charging him or he was charging units which don’t care about combat resolution, but it’s still something that came up and which I didn’t catch until it became Crucial.)

But wait! It was not over! In my final desperate scrabble to retrieve some dignity from this game, I sacrificed all my dignity in doing a whole bunch of what I now know to be inadvertent cheating.

First, I tried to cast Summon Undead Horde so I could charge something into the Archers, still under the impression that a Vanhel’s charge allowed you to fight afterwards. Nope. Destroy Spell. Dispelled and then destroyed.

Then, I tried to Blade Wind the Archers. This time, Ben remembered he had a Dispel Scroll, and used it.

Finally, I used the Staff of Damnation to fight another round of combat against the Elf General. This is cheating because you can’t use Vanhel’s Danse Macabre on a lone Vampire. She killed the Elf General, but still died to combat resolution. This is cheating because you don’t count combat resolution in bonus rounds from Vanhel’s Danse Macabre – you carry it over to the next turn. Anyway, Margharita exploded, killing five Dragon Princes but, crucially, not the Mage, and everyone passed their Panic tests for the dead general, not that they should have taken them anyway.

Things would probably have turned out more or less the same way if I’d just left her in her unit and challenged Ben’s General on his fourth turn like a sensible person, but even if I include those three Victory Points, two Vampires can’t contest any table quarters, so Ben’s still sitting on the win he deserves.

Final Score: Vampire Counts 8 – High Elves 9

Debrief

Well, Ben certainly took my remarks about needing to come and fight me to heart! This time his Archers were set up to dominate the centre ground while his Bolt Throwers, who can afford to sit on hills in the corner, were sat on a hill in the corner. My Wights took the beating they actually deserved from the Bolt Throwers, and while the two Vampires closed the distance in terms of raw killing power, I was scrambling to catch up from the start.

With one win each under our belts a deciding game is called for. Ben, being a madman, suggested 2000 points and no limits (so he’d take the Executioner’s Axe, hopefully on a footslogging general in a White Lion unit this time, hint hint, and I’d take the Forbidden Rod/Amber Amulet power-combo) – but by the time I was waiting for the train, he’d messaged me to say “how about 3000?” So that’s something to look forward to. In the meantime, here are some thoughts on Fifth Edition and my list.

Talking points: Fifth Edition

It’s not sixth!

This is the big one. Everything that we got wrong – Vanhel’s Danse fiddliness, +1 combat resolution on the charge, Bolt Throwers only being regular S4 shots when they multi-fire – was a product of thinking back from later editions and underestimating the streamlining work that went on between the Herohammer and Borehammer years. In particular, Vanhel’s Danse Macabre really needs some… sigh… ‘dojoing’ so I know exactly what it can and can’t do for next time.

Card fencing

I both enjoyed and did not enjoy the fifth edition Magic phase. The ‘card fencing’ aspect, where a key Dispel attempt can be reinforced with power cards and then the spell itself can also be reinforced, led to some fun back-n-forth over crucial Banishments or Danses. That was fun.

It was… less fun… not knowing what casting power I could count on turn for turn. Back when I played Chaos in the actual mid-Nineties it didn’t stress me so much, but I learned my Vampire Counts trade in sixth edition when my Tower of Power and Pile of Denial dice were a constant, affected only by careless Necromancer immolations. We’ll get into that more when we hit the list review.

Tournament Battle lists at 1500

Both of us had two units which really did the business, and I think at 1500 points we can expect to see similar compositions from others. Both of us took the level 3 wizard we were allowed to, and both of us had empty magic item slots in favour of getting some support units in.

List Review

I gave Ben’s a once-over last time – now it’s my turn. Having direct access to my own thoughts, I can actually go through mine almost blow by blow.

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Margharita

She did… all right. Although neither of my Heart of Woe explosions were entirely legitimate, the basic principle holds up. Buried as she is among the infantry it took Ben three turns to get near her, just enough time for her to blow up and reincarnate safe and sound on turn four. It’d be nice if she hit a bit harder, and I rather miss Summon Wolves as a means of deterring Bolt Throwers and the like without putting more strain on the magic phase.

The Master

I really like the “two Vampire Counts” approach, and even when the Master ended up on his own, his high Toughness and tendency to have carved up war machine crews personally meant he could weather the storm of lesser firepower. The problem is that Counts still only have three attacks. They’re very good attacks, but only rolling three dice means they whiff a bit too easily, and they don’t have an additional hand weapon option in this edition.

I’m also in doubts about their spellcasting prowess. Three Wizards gave me good card storage capabilities but I was still often hurting for power cards, and it might be wiser to have some tech to help me get more spells off with the cards I have. Dark Magic helped with that but it’s unpredictable, and if I’m dropping one wizard then there’s no way I’m coming in without two Summons (on different casters) and ideally two Danses (again, the Staff of Damnation on a Vampire and the spell itself on a Necromancer).

Walravius

An absolute must. In order to force through a Vanhel’s Danse I generally had to cast it two or three times (including the Staff of Damnation), and to do that I needed the reliability of the Master Necromancer. Gaze of Nagash was also my most effective attack spell by a long shot. The one thing I’d say he needs is a nice cheeky Wand of Jet to help him get those first cheap-as-chips spells out. To find points for it, though, I’d have to drop a Count down to Thrall status…

Van Ian

… possibly by replacing this guy. He’s only there in case Margharita needs someone to eat a challenge, or to provide theoretical leadership in the event of her destruction, but in both cases her unit was wiped out before she died. Perhaps a footslogging Thrall and Walravius could do a good enough job of commanding the Skeleton infantry? Especially if that Thrall had something fun like that ring that stores a Battle Magic spell?

Wight Cavalry

Ben thinks a bigger unit of these is in order. I agree, but I’m unsure where the points should come from in a game of this size. Seven or so plus a Vampire Count or Wight Champion would do the business but goodness knows how I’d afford that. I do like the 1+ save on them – even accounting for the bolt thrower snafu they laughed off a lot of arrow fire and it made them tough as balls against the White Lions in the first game.

Skeleton Warriors

OK, so there are a few problems with these, only two of which I can fix.

Firstly: two units. I’m in the habit of taking a small ‘bunker’ for my Necromancers thanks to sixth edition, but it’s a luxury I can ill afford here.

Secondly: small units. It was an experiment, and it failed; I couldn’t get Summon Undead Horde off to boost them. In other editions I’ve found it’s best to buy the undead you need and raise the ones you’d like; this one, it turns out, is no different.

Thirdly: equipment. Spears and armour are suboptimal. I know it. Keep ’em cheap, stack ’em deep. BUT: I built this army to be an Army of Sylvania where spears or crossbows and light armour were the only kit options going. BUT: What You See Is What You Get. BUT: I’m not replacing them, all right?

SO: I think one deeper block of eighteen Skeletons with spears, and I avoid the all-eggs-in-one-basket problem that creates by moving my Undead general out of the infantry.

Banshee

Didn’t do much but she’s more of a deflector piece that can do damage. She can engage units like Ben’s Dragon Princes without getting into actual contact with them, and whittle down those heavily armoured highly protected dudes over time. I think I have to pick a target unit for her and stick to it like glue, though; against high-Ld targets she’s often pinging off one or two guys per turn if she’s lucky and those have to add up over time.

Bat Swarms

Gold. They’re fast, they’re Unbreakable, but they’re not Undead, and that makes all the difference in an edition where specific Undead-killing tech is so abundant. Being able to pin down units without fear of the crumble nor the Banishment nor the Banner of Undead Incineration was crucial to my tactical approach in both these games. These are definitely staying and I’m definitely keeping two Vampires so that the whole Swarm is only worth 1 VP.

Closing thoughts

First of all – big thanks to Ben for coming out, tolerating my occasional foray into complete Rimmerdom, and providing a couple of stand-up games.

Second of all – big ups to Stroud’s Atlantic Games (HI SEB!) for providing such convenient gaming space within sneezing distance of the station.

Third of all – no thanks at all to the cocksack CrossCountry conductor who pulled away from the platform at Gloucester right as I was high-tailing it towards him, and then gave me the most aggro “sucks to be you” face on the way out.

Finally – thanks to you, dear reader. These have been a long-ass couple of posts, but I hope you’ve enjoyed them despite that. There’ll doubtless be more of these to come, what with Ben and I fighting our decider and every possibility of a tournament happening next year.

[WFB] Herohammer Battle Report – The First Battle of Point LeStroud

A Herohammer battle report! Fifth edition WFB, 1500 points, High Elves vs. Vampire Counts, Tournament Battle lists and scenario.

So it came to pass that on a sopping wet Saturday afternoon, in a small town at the top end of the West Country, two armies were dragged from their cases and shoved around a large table in pursuit of that holy grail – the kind of fun we used to have in the Nineties.

Ben and I put together a bunch of lists, including some no-holds-barred ones with some heavily revised or banned items (Ben had the Executioner’s Axe, I had the Forbidden Rod…) but in the end we decided to test the format we had in mind for the Wales and South West Middlehammer Meetup or whatever it ends up being called.

We’d be playing more or less by-the-book Tournament Battles (no allies, named characters, unridden monsters, war machines without an attendant regiment, magic items costing more than 50 points or level 4 wizards, games end after four rounds or two hours, whichever comes first), with only three changes.

Firstly: 1500 point lists, rather than 2000, to keep a tin lid on some of the most extreme Middlehammer shenanigans and ensure rusty players could check rules and still finish on time.

Secondly: we’d be working through the Winds of Magic deck with a discard pile rather than reshuffling our hands back in every turn, because we didn’t want to see three Total Powers or Drain Magics on the trot.

Thirdly: technically you’re supposed to have one hill and one wood or two buildings each for the Tournament Battle, but we play not Borehammer in these parts.

A Warning

The thing about playing a game you’ve not really thought about since before the millennium turned is… you get things wrong. I count at least four things we stuffed up on the day and another three or four which I didn’t spot until I assessed the evidence this morning. These will be pointed out in lengthy italicised parentheses throughout the report, as cautions to fellow travellers.

Alarming Lists To Starboard

Ben was courteous enough to furnish me with a) a copy of his army list and b) some semi-authentic Middlehammer Roster Sheets. If the wonders of technology are as wondrous as they’re cracked up to be, those should be lurking right about… here.

The list walkthrough revealed a few things. One: Ben had made the dubious-in-my-opinion choice to not put his general in the White Lions unit, mostly because he was after that sweet 1+ save and getting his best statline into combat where it belonged. Two: I was vindicated in my decision to fit a Master Necromancer into the army somewhere; “no level four wizards” just means everyone’ll take a level three. Three: those Dragon Princes would chew through anything in my army if I got near them, so the order of business would be delaying, diverting and derailing that pain train so I could go after the units I could actually fight.

My signature weapons here would be the Banshee, who doesn’t use spells to trash things, and the Bat Swarm, who are of course Not Dead. They would go after the horrible, horrible Dragon Princes and try to get them facing the wrong way. If we were only playing a four turn game, I should be able to keep them under control for three, maybe all four if the terrain was favourable. I was confident that the rest of my army could take the rest of his.

For his part, Ben expressed mild concern about two Vampire Counts, mild indifference for smallish Skeleton units, and genuine surprise that I didn’t have any sort of Dispel Scroll. The thing with me and Scrolls is… I either forget them, and don’t use them, or I remember them and spend the whole game fretting over when to use them. I’d rather spend points on aggressive casting kit that supplements my ability to Get Shit Done than on defensive items that only stress me out anyway. We’ll see all these observations made manifest as we proceed.

Preamble

First up: drawing spells! From card decks! The good old days are here again! Ben’s Master Mage drew Fiery Convocation (blech), Drain Magic (uh-oh) and Apotheosis (phew! no Banishment!).

I picked my Necromancy spells, because I could. Summon Undead Horde on Margharita, Drain Life on the Master, and Summon Skeletons, Vanhel’s Danse Macabre and Gaze of Nagash on Walravius.

Ben had set the terrain up, I picked a board edge, and we set to with the orders of march. My mountains of chaff had an upside in the Tournament Battle scenario (you can set up at least 6″ from the centre line, but at least 18″ away from enemy troops and 12″ from the side, so grabbing the centre with the chaff gave me a chance to burrow in behind those walls and embed properly). They also had a distinct downside; Ben was guaranteed to finish deploying first and thus grab himself the first turn.

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High Elves Turn One

An elegant saunter forwards for the citizens of Ulthuan, with the Princes and Lions moving up to survey the centre while the Archers stood and waited. The Wights laughed off one Repeater Bolt Thrower thanks to being in hard cover; the other pinged a wound off a Bat Swarm. The Winds of Magic didn’t so much blow as splutter – three cards each, and look what we drew!

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I don’t know what I’m doing with my face. Possibly expressing my befuddlement.

Vampire Counts Turn One

Emannuelle and the Bat Swarm advanced at full tilt, with the Bats taking up position behind the wall, but everyone else sort of… waited. This might seem like an unusual choice, but I’ve learned from many years of fighting Dwarfs, Empire and Wood Elves that there’s no point trudging into superior firepower unless you have to. I wasn’t about to close the distance and make Ben’s tactical choices easier, not when I could hold off, soften him up with some authentic grade one Doom Spells (TM), and not get shot at so hard.

Emmanuelle’s wailing failed to impress the White Lions, and while the Winds of Magic decided to grace us with a puff of Power this turn, all it did was get my Summon Skeletons Dispelled and then Destroyed by that Destroy Spell card Ben had been hanging onto.

At the top of turn two, therefore, things looked a bit like this…

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High Elves Turn Two

Realising that I was never going to come out and fight like a man, Ben took the initiative and charged his Dragon Princes into the Bat Swarms, while the White Lions wheeled and advanced into the Undead infantry and the Archers marched down off their hill.

The Repeater Bolt Throwers did their thing to the Skeletons, who amazingly managed to save both the inflicted wounds, and to the Wight Cavalry, who – whether by virtue of their cover or their 1+ armour save – laughed it off.

(Trained observers will of course know that fifth edition Repeater Bolt Thrower volleys do not, in point of fact, allow armour saves – in this edition they drop a point of strength and their multiple wounds but still go through armour like vindaloo through my grandma. We spotted this at the start of the second game, but this one was played out under the impression that they were S4 with a standard -1 saving throw modifier.)

On to kumquat! Glorious kumquat! Fighting over a wall gave the Dragon Princes pause for thought, as they couldn’t actually hit the Bats, while the Bats couldn’t actually hurt the heavily armoured Elven cavalry, so it was a big old whiff all round. Just as planned!

Finally, despite a lacklustre five cards from the Winds, Ben had enough Power to cast Fiery Convocation and my unsupplemented Rebound glanced off High Magic Superiority (non-High-Mages need a basic 5+ to dispel High Magic, because it’s so privileged). That’s three wounds off the Bat Swarm then. I could have played Drain Magic and arguably should, but I was holding onto Escape and really wanted to pull a triple-dip with my Vampire Count at some stage.

Vampire Counts Turn Two

Well, the High Elves weren’t hanging about and I wanted to get out of those Dragon Princes’ way, so the First and Second of Foot did a slight shuffle about, the one aligning itself towards the White Lions and making space for the other to wheel, move and wheel out of place.

Emmanuelle had now warmed up her vocal cords a bit and managed to scream two White Lions into the next world, while the combat between Princes and Bats was another inconclusive dust-up.

Less so the Magic phase. I wasn’t about to use Drain Magic when I had just been dealt Total Power and four Power cards, so I let Fiery Convocation sizzle the Bat Swarms away. Predictably, they were toasted, but they’d done their job; it would be turn four before the Dragon Princes got to charge anything again.

My Gaze of Nagash attempt was subject to a steward’s inquiry – do I have to declare where the line is going before a Dispel is attempted or afterwards? This was important for Ben since his Dragon Princes have a 4+ Dispel attempt on any hostile enchantments bunged toward them and I wasn’t about to give him two goes. In the end we agreed that yes, I did have to declare a target and yes, it was going into the White Lions. Ben triple-reinforced his Dispel attempt and managed to drop a one, so off it went and six White Lions were annihilated.

(They really should have taken a panic test, but I was thinking of later editions in which the Panic tests are taken at the end of the phase. Fifth, of course, has you take the test when the triggering event occurs, and if you pass you’re fine for the rest of the phase. We didn’t realise until two other spells had been cast and we had cause to look at the psychology rules, by which time it was too late and we agreed the White Lions had retroactively decided to stick around.)

My next effort was a Total Powered Summon Undead Horde, which I’d been waiting to do for years. It raised a grand total of six Zombies and they formed an oblique line in front of the Dragon Princes, angled to take them further out of the fight if charged.

My first attempt at Vanhel’s Danse Macabre was dispelled, with that thing High Elves do where they use Power cards as Dispels, but the second one went off (thank goodness for Necromantic recasting, that’s what I say) and the Wight Cavalry got stuck into those White Lions.

(Now, the combat round we fought was a draw, which is fine and led to the proper outcome of the two units just standing there, but in the cold light of dawn I know realise it shouldn’t actually have been fought at all. Vanhel’s Danse Macabre can either propel a unit into combat or make it fight another round once it’s in there, but not both, and of course each unit can only be compelled to tango like it’s 1111 IC once per turn.

While I’m on the subject, it only allows characters to move with their units, not do anything else with them, and it can only be cast on units of Skeletons, Zombies, Wights and Wraiths – not on Banshees, nor independent Vampires! There is a whole column-and-a-bit of text in the Vampire Counts army book devoted to clarifying how this overcrowded spell works, and I really should have boned up on its fiddly ins and outs instead of assuming it was as sleek and streamlined as the sixth edition incarnation.)

Finally, I used the Staff of Damnation to make the Banshee scream for White Lion meat again, but a) Ben dispelled it and b) it ran out and c) it can’t actually do that in the first place. Good work all round.

Here’s a bottom-of-the-round reliable image.

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High Elves Turn Three

The Dragon Princes, predictably, charged over the wall, and I don’t mind telling you that all those Zombies were dead before the Banner of Undead Incineration was even a factor. The Repeater Bolt Throwers pointed themselves at Skeletons and this time killed three from the big unit and two from the little one, while the Wight Cavalry and attendant Vampire chopped up all but one White Lion for two losses in return. Outnumbered by a fear-causing enemy, he legged it, outrunning the plated-up undead horsemen.

(I may have been a tiny bit smug about this – too smug. I occasionally forget that not everyone I play against is an old mate of years’ standing, inured to my self-important battle banter and in on the tone. I bring all this up to remind myself and you, dear reader: read the room. If your opponent is making the frowny face, you are probably being a helmet. Query it; own it; stop it.)

Anxious to prevent any further Fiery Convocation incidents, I dropped Drain Magic and ended the turn.

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Vampire Counts Turn Three

My Wight cavalry charged the last White Lion, running him down and capturing the unit standard. This was fine, but it left them in a bit of a dubious position for next turn…

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Meanwhile, the Banshee advanced toward the Dragon Princes, being the only thing in my army that had a real shot at hurting them (I had no faith in getting a Gaze of Nagash past that banner of theirs.) As a bonus, her wailing and howling killed one!

The Winds of Magic were not generous. I cast Vanhel’s Danse Macabre on the Knights with the only Power card I had, and Ben dispelled it. Bad Times could be on the horizon.

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High Elves Turn Four

The Dragon Princes wheeled around to point themselves back at the fight, but too late, too late.

The first Bolt Thrower killed another couple of Skeletons from the ‘big’ spearmen unit, and then the Archers unloaded their first, last and only volley. It was all they needed; everyone but the Vampire and Champion was pincushioned, and the second Bolt Thrower finished off the unit and put a wound on Margharita herself.

Ben tried to cast Fiery Convocation on Margharita, but I was having none of it and Destroyed the spell with two power cards thrown in to reinforce. In retrospect, she could have taken it – Carstein Ring and all – and those Power cards could have been stashed for the final, crucial turn. You live and learn.

Vampire Counts Turn Four

First order of business; the Wight Cavalry, unexpectedly spared a good skewering, charged the Bolt Thrower, which fled off the table, and their failed charge left them cantering uselessly around the flank. The Skeleton swordsmen wheeled around to face the Dragon Princes – one shot at a Gaze on the last turn couldn’t hurt, right? – and my Vampire…

… well, I was going to have her cower in the graveyard, but then I realised I’d not gotten to use the Carstein Ring and Heart of Woe power combo, and it was the last turn, and there was nothing to lose by it, so she moved inside the Archers’ stand-and-shoot range.

Come the magic phase, Vanhel’s Danse Macabre went off, so Margharita charged the Archers, killed one, took a wound from another, died to combat resolution, and promptly exploded in a S9 death-bomb that killed thirteen of the meddling Elves and popped her back to life in the graveyard.

(Of course, this was a blatantly illegal move, since Vanhel’s Danse Macabre cannot be cast on Vampires. See above. It’s a good job those Archers weren’t worth any Victory Points, really.)

Final Score: Vampire Counts 6, High Elves 3

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(We did go on to play a fifth, off-the-record, let’s-see-what-happens turn, in which the Dragon Princes predictably chewed up the Banshee, but the High Elf shooting was appallingly inaccurate, and Drain Magic was cast with Total Power. Honestly, if I’d been Ben I’d have been cranking that spell out every turn I could to gut the all-important Necromantic base, but maybe he only had two power cards most of the time. My bonus turn was uneventful as everyone either ran away or wheeled and Ben just did Drain Magic – the card, not the spell.)

Debrief

Well – that went to plan, and even though I tried to do a few things that were blatantly illegal, they mostly failed to come off. I’m annoyed about the Bolt Thrower thing (which we spotted when setting up our second game, of which more later) and that last turn Vanhel’s charge. It shouldn’t have been allowed, the Vampire shouldn’t have fought a round of combat – but I only did it to be spicy and blow up the Heart of Woe, and that happened and it amused us both greatly, so I’m not super peeved.

Ben figured his greatest mistake was leaving the Archers on the hill, expecting me to advance. The thing is, a lot of Vampire Counts players, including my younger self, would have pushed on into the teeth of Ben’s firepower, rather than holding back and breaking up the oncoming assault, so nine times out of ten this wouldn’t have been a dealbreaker.

A far greater error, from my point of view, was failing to embed his General in the White Lions unit. I can see the logic in putting the General on the horse, but as it is, Ben’s army is all hammer and no anvil. The general, in that White Lion unit, would provide a four-square block of Immune to Psychology Victory Points denying full static combat resolution fun. Slap the Amulet of Fire on him and that’s two units with a built in 4+ Dispel, one of which is Immune to Psychology and both of which swing hard enough to give even my Vampires pause. As it was, I was able to break the White Lions with psychology and clean up Ben’s back field.

The game rattled along at a fair clip – we were done inside ninety minutes, and so we had time to squeeze another one in, after lunch. That said, this post has passed the 3000 word mark, so I’ll let you do as we did, have a breather and a brew and a bite to eat, and then get stuck in to the second. I’ll do a full teardown on my list after that game, in which – spoiler warning – things did not go so well.