Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Bridge over Muddy Waters: Warriors of Chaos vs Empire

It's All-Skype Fight Night!

Yes, we're back after the summer break. I, Kraken, will be in the Normal Corner with my erstwhile opponent Stylus the Bold.

Bold as brass, brazen as bronze and good as gold. After 18 months on the sidelines, the Dogs of Empire are back in business!


Time to experiment with mobility, I decided.

Blowing a huge chunk of points on a pair of disk-riding sorcerors felt hugely liberating. I've been skimping on character points in general, not going for the superhuman ubertooled warhunks that WoCs do so well. Partly because I've been stung endlessly by such temptations before and partly because I've had to save points up to try out the various specials I've got but still have a reasonably sized army.

Having done that, I thought I might as well finish the blowout with a second helping of sorceror - a Nurgle Lord, for the cataclysmic plague spells he'd bring. In an ideal world, Curse of the Leper followed by Rancid Visitations and then some random Tzeentchian zapping would surely bring anything to its knees. And then I could cut the remaining knees up with some good old fashioned melee troopers.

Just to really ram home the magical juice, the Mutalith Vortex Beast to really sit on any squashed toughness troops.

And a chariot. Because chariots. With a couple of decent-sized combat units, I was feeling small but evilly formed.

The Ooze Brothers

Eirik Crapton - 4th Level Sorceror Lord of Nurgle, Crown of Command, Feedback Scroll
Jarek Eblue - 1st Level Sorceror of Tzeentch on Disc, Charmed Shield
Helwood Eblue - 1st Level Sorceror of Tzeentch on Disc, Sword of Striking, Talisman of Protection
Chaos Chariot
20 Marauders of Nurgle, full command, marks, shields and light armour
15 Warriors of Tzeentch, full command, marks, shields, Blasted Standard
Mutalith Vortex Beast

We're so glad to see so many of you lovely people here tonight

My success with Empire hasn't been great, mostly because I have lots of basic infantry and what little cavalry I own, I can't use properly. I decided to emphasise the infantry, rely on combat buffs from the Light Wizard and the Warrior Priest Paymaster and ended up with something not dissimilar to a gunline.

The Long Tall Salient

John Lee Hacker - General of the Empire, Full Plate Armour. Ogre Blade. Enchanted Shield. Luckstone
B.S.B King - Battle Standard BearerShield. Full Plate Armour
Sunnie Holiday - Light Wizard, Lv 2, Dispel Scroll. Scroll of Shielding
Johnny Cashback - Warrior PriestShield. Heavy Armour. Obsidian Trinket
Ray 'Gun' Charles - Witch Hunter, Brace of Pistols. Ruby Ring of Ruin. Potion of Speed
40 x SpearmenSpear, Light Armour. Command Group
       10 x Halberdiers(detachment)
5 x Knights, Lances, Shields, Full Plate Armour. Barded Warhorse. Musician
16 x GreatswordsGreat Weapon, Full Plate Armour. Command Group.  Standard of Discipline.
       8 x Crossbowmen, (detachment)
5 x Pistoliers, Brace of Pistols, Light Armour. Musician
1 x Great Cannon
1 x Great Cannon

I also painted up a new miniature for the occasion: my shady-looking Witch Hunter. As he's only 50pts, and new models invariably underperform, I gave him the Ruby Ring, so he'd have a chance of making an impact.

Other magic items were mainly to boost my feeble characters' survivability, or for some magical defence.

(Keen-eyed readers may spot that my Light Wizard had illegally brought two arcane items. Rest assured, this mistake was efficiently dealt with).

"We'll put the band back together, do a few gigs, we get some bread. Bang! Five thousand bucks."

Even the background is proxied. Strawberry Fields Forever. 


When one is tired of swamp-based battlefields, one is tired of life. That said, I wanted to try something a little different this time, so my trusty quagmires got a slightly new arrangement.

You can just about see the corner markings, for an idea of scale. This was an early prototype, the hill got flipped shortly after so the map is more accurate.

This passage over the marshes featured a reasonable amount of mid-field cover in the form of a big hill that blocked line of sight from lower units and also had dangerous scree-slope short edges. On its northern edge? A massive marsh with a big bridge over it. Nice obvious focal points for attack and defence.

To keep it balanced, I gave the side nearer the bridge an overlooking tower and the opposite side a couple of covering woods.

Stylus, as away player, got first pick and took the tower/bridge defence side.

I set out my tiny army pretty fast - the plan was to hit the bridge with the warriors, with the Mutalith and Chariot hoping for some optimistic right flank action once they'd rounded cape swamp. They needed the taller central mountain as cover against cannon fire, so I'd have to hope they got there in time. The Marauders would hopefully help the Warrior charge, but probably spend more time acting as cover for the Nurgle Sorceror.

On the far left flank, the two disk sorcerors would take out as many cannons as possible, then run flanky interference if they still lived.

I did, in all honesty, get a bit confused by the Skype screen inverting left and right (I was trying to keep diagram notes, and kept reversing them - I should have just stuck to what I could see on the screen). 

But I'd committed to going defensive, and the bridge/tower combo suited me fine. The Spearmen held the bridge (Halberdier detachment on their left), with the Greatswords holding their right flank (Crossbows on their right). One cannon went just behind the line, and another in the tower. The Knights and the Pistoliers were facing the most impassable terrain (told you I got confused)

The General and Witch Hunter went into the Spearmen; the BSB and Warrior Priest into the Greatswords, thus nicely dividing up the Magical Resistance and Hold the Line bonuses.

The Wizard went into the Crossbowmen, as my spellcasters usually blow themselves up, and I figured he'd do less damage there.

Naturally, I forgot to Vanguard.

However, my Witch Hunter did not forget to Denounce! the enemy general (a little ambitious, but as the least mobile character, he was the one I was most likely to face).

A Sorcerer of Nurgle practising evil magic, fancy that. 

Which left us set up a little like this!
Or more accurately, this!


I couldn't have asked for more from the Nurgle Lord - Rancid Visitations, Curse of the Leper, Plague Wind and Fleshy Abundance. Which is what he got last time I used him, and look where that got me. Ah well - I had better ideas of what to do with them this time.

The two Tzeentchians would be bringing an Infernal Gateway and Glean Magic between them, also good and hopefully worrying spells.

Just two spells for me (although I had the Warrior Priest's three prayers and the Ruby Ring to even things out): Banishment (applicable, as a magic missile would suit my gunline) and Birona’s Timewarp (excellent, as I already have the dance moves for that).

Although with that Tzeenchian spell Glean Magic, there was every chance it would be taken and used against me.

WoC Turn 1

Delightfully, I got first turn! So at least there was a reasonable chance of a bit of magic before all my expensive wizards got cannoned to bits.

Everybody surged forwards, some more than others. Chariots can't surge, of course, the rules are very clear about that. Even I knew it.

All of my aggressive spells were out of range. Not the Glean Magic spell, though, so I threw that at Mr Light. He dispelled it. Very unsporting. After that, I settled for slapping an extra two points of toughness on the Marauders and failing to cast Fleshy Abundance. Or remember to roll for the Lore Attribute of Nurgle. Bah.

Empire Turn 1

I don't think my army was quite as static as the diagram makes out (although it's not far wrong). All the footsloggers stayed put, and the cavalry edged further along to position themselves facing the Chariot and Mutalith.

I had a decent roll for magic, but I had a wary eye on that Feedback Scroll. Rather than play it safe, I cast Banishment on four dice, hoping to draw it out and then not have to worry about it for the rest of the game.

Sure enough, Kraken took the bait. The Feedback Scroll did two wounds on my Wizard, and he instantly expired. Pop. So there you have it: I now no longer have to worry about the Feedback Scroll.

Also, good luck trying to Glean any spells off me. Foiled you there, didn't I?

(To add insult to injury, the Banishment spell mustered a paltry few wounds and didn't even scratch its target, the Disc Sorcerer)

Now for shooting, and my Crossbows were the first to see if mundane weapons could achieve what magic had spectacularly failed to do so. Indeed, they put one wound on a Disc Sorcerer. It's a start.

The Cannons were a bit short on targets, as both of their preferred quarries (Chariot and Mutalith) were hiding out of sight, and there was no point wasting shots against the Chaos Warriors with their blasted Blasted Standard. If I was going to have to snipe at a character, I reasoned, I may was well snipe at the best one. Both cannons fired into the Marauders, however Look Out Sir! foiled my dirty tactics and only three Marauders fell.

Hardly devastating. But then, I don't really have a lot of guns in my gunline (Wood Elves, where art thou?).

WoC Turn 2

I was a bit worried about that wounded sorcerer. He had the least useful spell on the board now, but he'd be costly to lose. So he headed round the back of the tower to line up on the second cannon early. His pal, however, threw caution to the winds and surf-charged the artillery inside the ruin.

And stopped politely outside to dismount his disk, because obviously that's a thing I forgot about. Huh. In my day, disks didn't even have big bases. Wot a swindle.

Elsewhere, everyone plodded sedately towards the crucial bridge, although the Mutalith and the chariot stuck to going the long way round.

Magic was short. The Mutalith's power went off on a low roll and then got dispelled. I tried and failed for Flesh Abundance on the Mutalith and then ran out of dice, but did manage to boost the Warriors to T7 via leprosy. So still no rain of disease-based death. Or Lore of Nurgle rolls. Dammit.

And then I whiffed the sorceror's tower assault, killing nothing and getting wounded for my pains. And thrown out of the tower. Double dammit. With dragons on top.

Empire Turn 2

The tower cannon lives to fire again! A Mighty Cannon if ever I saw one. They celebrate with a fountain of grapeshot that, in fact, achieves nothing but makes their attacker angrier.

The second cannon does better, and grapeshots the other Tzeenchian right off his Disc, thus laying claim to the title of Mighty Cannon.

Not much action elsewhere. The cavalry continue to manoeuvre slowly, with the Pistoliers plinking off a wound on the Mutalith (I remember this from last time: they make very slow monster hunters).

The Crossbows can't see much (and don't bother to face the Disc, since they'll only get the run around). I think they try an optimistic shot at the Chaos Warriors (on a roll of 1, their tricksy banner doubles the weapon's strength, rather than halves it. Never happened, but boy would it have been worth it).

WoC Turn 3

Things were starting to hot up. The main combat units were getting in range, and hadn't taken any significant damage. Neither had my right flank, although the Empire horseys were still in their way.

Disky No. 2 had a second go at the tower. I'd remembered his magical gear by now, so the extra plus 1 to hit from his sword meant he managed to kill a crewman. Dodging any retribution, he won and scared them off - I was super-pleased to discover this meant they got wiped out, just as Stylus was super-disappointed that being in a tower and having a cannon didn't seem to make them steadfast.

Not that I could take the tower, of course. Disk.

Magic was very weak. I failed to get the Mutalith's power off somehow. Fleshy Abundance for the Warriors (which I realised later was fairly pointless given their mark), then I tried hurling a Plague Wind at the Knights' flank but failed to cast it. At least I remembered to roll for the Nurgle Lore!

And didn't get it. Bah.

Empire Turn 3

The Formerly-Mighty Cannon must be avenged - time to charge something! Even if it is only my small unit of Knights. Over marshland. And up a scree slope - I'm having that Chariot. Kraken elects to hold and, a couple of dangerous terrain tests later, the surviving three knights crash into combat.

The Greatswords angled themselves around to flank the bridge, and the Crossbows set off to reoccupy the tower. The Pistoliers continued to dance around the flanks of the heavy stuff.

In the Magic Phase, the Mutalith has come into range of my Ruby Ring, so I throw a load of dice at it (needing to knock off the Regeneration, so my Cannon can go to work). Regular readers may not be surprised to learn that my recklessness led to a miscast, and the Ring promptly broke.

(To add insult to injury, the Irresistible Fireball spell failed to scratch the Mutalith)

In the shooting phase, I think the Cannon also failed to dent the Mutalith (no more 'Mighty' for you), but the Pistoliers took another wound.

In combat, I was made suddenly aware that Chaos Chariots are harder and faster than the cream of Empire chivalry, and the odd bit of dangerous terrain might be the last of my worries. I lost one knight for no return, but managed to edge the draw because of my musician. The Chariot fled, but I wasn't able to exploit my jammy luck by catching it.

WoC Turn  4

Geared up for combat and ready to rock, I was immediately confounded by the Warriors arrogantly trotting forward a mere snake eyed few inches. Where was the charge I was promised? Questions would be asked.

The Mutalith leapt heroically from the peak of the hill, swan dived into the swamp and surfaced on the other side, bubbling weirdly, before laying into the terrified halberdiers. Only their General's threats kept them in place.

Elsewhere, the Marauders drummed their heels behind the Warrior's lack of advance, the fleeing chariot rallied and the Disker whipped over to the Greatswords' flank.

Now I was in range for a good old fashioned deadly plague bout, surely! Well, no. An average magic wind and the lack of combat had changed my options a lot. I threw the Spearmens' T down to 1 with the Curse, but couldn't follow it up with Visitations (no line of sight). So I threw caution to the wind and tried for a Plague Wind, but it got unstoppably dispelled.

The Mutalith was pretty decent in combat, it turned out, whomping a tasty handful of halberds in exchange for another wound. Battered it might be, but still effective. The Empire General kept his troops in line, though I didn't expect them to be there for long.

This looked bad. Souped-up Empire troops were whetting their firey blades - I expected a nasty countercharge, and lowered my expectations for the combat to come.

Empire Turn 4

Would I charge? Should I charge? There was a question about where the Greatswords would land (if an enemy unit's frontage is fully-occupied with another unit, and the flank is visible, is a flank charge permissible? Or should they go into the front and both units have to fight half each?)

It turned out to be a moot point - I was staying put. I'd gone with a defensive strategy and that's what I was sticking to.

The only concessions to movement I made was to have the Warrior Priest swap units with the Witch Hunter. I figured the Spearmen were in greater need of his buffs, and the Witch Hunter might get close enough to shoot at the Sorcerer Lord.

(The character swapping is shown erroneously on an earlier turn's map)

On the far side of the battlefield, the brave Knights dodged out of sight of the rallied-Chariot and the Pistoliers hovered around, shooting to no effect. The Crossbows occupied the tower, and would have a good view of the ensuing carnage.

In the magic phase, all my dice were spent trying to cast Warrior Priest spells, although the only one which got through were Flaming Weapons (not too bad, as it would transfer to the Halberdiers, assuming there were any left to wound the Mutalith).

The shooting phase began well, with the Cannon blasting out grapeshot and felling the second Disc rider. Not a good day to be a Sorcerer.

Over by the Greatswords, the Witch Hunter found that he was just in range of his true quarry: the Sorcerer Lord. It would be a tricky pistol shot to Snipe him out of his unit, and even then, he would be relying on Killing Blow to take him out.

Pff. The odds of pulling a shot like that off through the intervening Chaos Warriors must be a million to one.

I think we can all see where this is going...

WoC Turn 5


Well, I'd just have to do it the old-fashioned way, by taking names and dismembering linesmen. That's how I remember it being done in grandfather's time, at least. Time to take it away from the bridge.

The chariot chased the chicken knights right over the field. It was pointless and inevitable (like the final scores for many of my recent armies), but there wasn't much else I could see them doing.

The Warriors wanted to charge the Greatswords, but couldn't - they were too close to the damn spearmen. So they clomped relentlessly in there instead, and the Marauders kamikazed over the swamp to try and avenge the general. And keep the Warrior flank clear.

In this, they failed spectacularly. Mostly because some perverse imp made me resolve that combat first. I hurt nothing, lost eight Marauders and got chased back on to the bridge, and then the Greatswords cheerily traipsed into the Warrior flank anyway. Idiot.

The main event was finally underway, at least. I lost the Warrior Champion in a duel with the Empire General, although I did manage to dismay Stylus entirely when we came to comparing stat lines.

I mean seriously: a Warrior Champion is on par with a General of the Empire. And he even gets a bonus 50VPs and a roll on the Eye of the Gods table if he wins!

A fair handful of Spearmen dropped, I dented the BSB and then lost the combat by a single point with resolution despite the sheer number of ranks. Mostly because my opponent hurt only a single warrior (three if you counted overkill from the challenge. Which sadly the rules oblige you to do). But I wasn't going anywhere yet.

This would be a meatgrinder of the first water. But I actually felt there might still be hope. The Mutalith continued to flail halberdiers into weeping paste, leaving none standing. If it could clear the decks next turn, I might be able to get into the flanks myself.

Empire Turn 5

Well, things are going a hell of a lot better for me now, but damn those Chaos Warriors are tough to break.

The chicken Knights fail to rally, and continue their circumnavigation of the board, the Pistoliers continued to safely harass the Chariot to no good effect.

Thinking of repainting their shields a la Sir Robin yet?

Nothing much happened in the Magic phase (even with all the wizards dead, I couldn't manage a prayer) but shooting worked out better. The Crossbows popped another wound off the now-disengaged Mutalith and the Cannon grapeshotted the last one off the beastie.

The combat continued to grind away, with Kraken switching tactics and going for character assassination. Sadly, his Warriors lacked the deadeye skill of a Witch Hunter and he only put a wound on the Warrior Priest, losing the combat (mostly by combat resolution) but clinging on.

WoC Turn 6

Ah, it was a familiar scene by now. Most of the models back in the box, a nice clean battlfield. A lone and invincible chariot chasing foes it couldn't catch. Some marauders doing nothing to earn their points. Yes, I knew this situation from a thousand simulation runs, I felt very much in my safety zone.

The Marauders had rallied, ready to take their medicine like men. That was it for movement, magic and shooting phases. Nice army for game speed, WoC, got to love it.

The Warriors finished off the Warrior Priest and the BSB, but that was it. The Empire General's Ogre Blade did for a couple of them, the Greatswords finally got mowing, and I lost the combat convincingly. True to form, the Warriors barely bothered fleeing and got run down pretty much where they stood. I guess if you keep cursing them with leprosy, it eventually reduces their speed. Fewer feet, something like that.

Empire Turn 6

Charge decisions already made, no wizard to miscast ... even I couldn't mess things up from here.

The Knights rally, the Pistoliers put a wound on the Chariot and the Cannon misfires (but not disastrously). So the Chariot's going to survive at least.

In the main combat, Kraken continued his revenge/assassination tactic of going for my remaining characters. But the General's armour save was too good, and the Witch Hunter was having the battle of his life, and wasn't going to get taken down now.

The remaining Mauraders were no match for the Greatswords attacks, or the Spearmen ranks (they may have only killed one model in the whole game, but they did pile in a lot of combat res when needed). What remained of them broke, fled and was run down.

Final Score: 1,640 (Stylus) : 598 (Kraken)


A win for the Mercenaries! They had a bit a poor run of battles just before they retired, so it was good to get something positive on the balance sheet.

More importantly, I had a blast. I haven't enjoyed playing Empire so much since... well, since last time I thrashed Kraken with them (coincidentally, another defensive battle where I enjoyed more luck than I was entitled to).

In fairness, the terrain played very much in my favour. I've never used such a large Spearmen bus before (seven ranks deep - so not going anywhere in a hurry) and it made an effective stopper for the bridge. They were reliant on characters to do the killing, and combat resolution to do the winning (what are they, Skaven?), but they're good for defence.

I was quite impressed with the detachments - Thunderstomps or no, the fact that they were able to use the parent unit's Stubborn/Hold The Line leadership meant that I had a flank guard that was effectively unbreakable (no damn good at fighting, but at least they die to a man).

The Greatswords did a good job too, although they proved a little less elite than I remember. Maybe they do need the bonuses that come with a Warrior Priest - Warrior Priests for all!

The General and Captain performed well (for puny humans), and I think I struck the right combination of endurance and hitting power for the General. They're a fairly cheap way of adding some badly-needed muscle to my units.

And, of course, history was on my side: the classical scholars among you will no doubt recall Titus Herminius Aquilinus' last stand at the Sublician Bridge - where a single Roman held a narrow wooden bridge against the brutal allies of the Tarquin dynasty. The look of my General was well-chosen.

The toughest guy ever to be frightened of a man named Tarquin.

The Pistoliers did what they always do: nibble at the edges (effective, but they're not cheap), and I clearly have a lot to learn about using heavy cavalry: it was only by sheer luck that the Knights were able to hold up the Chariot for the entire game. There were perhaps too mobile for my static plans, but I had a notion I would need a sweeper and they probably would have done better adding weight to my combo-charges.

My Cannon performed better than I usually manage, and I'm glad I remembered they had grapeshot. Kraken's army composition made things a bit easier for me to pick targets, since it was pointless to target the Chaos Warriors. I felt a little bad about trying to cannon blast the Sorcerer Lord on the first turn - not least because it would have denied my Witch Hunter his moment of glory.

And as for the Witch Hunter - outstanding! Clearly my misgivings about newly-painted models were unfounded, this one did exactly what he was put on the battlefield to do. I'm going to enjoy the moment, since he'll never again repeat such a feat, but it does make him a useful addition to a defensive line.


As inevitable as it might look in hindsight, seeing as I basically did my usual trick of trotting obediently into a well-covered killzone, the game was a really good one. Luck let me down once or twice, true, or possibly just kept up its long support of my opponents. But the game felt pretty tense right up to the fifth turn, when I could feel the inevitable taking hold.

That failed charge in close up. Grrr. 

Two disk riding sorcerers - not worth it. One with an extra level and some better gear would probably have performed just as well, freeing up points elsewhere for marauder weapons or boss wards. Or even just a fighty hero, tbh. Or something dedicated to killing Witch Hunters.

Towards the Tower of Death Rode the Two.
I was totally expecting cannon fire against them early on. 

The Mutalith does surprisingly well in combat, like a spawn on utterly unecessary steroids. But a lot better if you remember it has effing thunderstomps every turn, as I did at two-thirty the following afternoon.

The Marauders - hmm. Poor manouvering meant I wasted my bigger spells. I often couldn't cast offensively and was reduced to defence again, at least avoiding the problem I'd had last time round. Certainly if I hadn't totally screwed the pooch on combat resolution orders, I'd have done a lot better! But with my costly magic all gone, it was a pretty toothless army.

I still love chariots, though.

Mighty cannon sighting on the chariot

We're kings of the castle. You're all dirty rascals dead. 

Eye of the Gods

I'm not sure that Kraken did anything particularly wrong (although I agree that one souped-up Disc is better than two mediocre ones). Given that my gunline wasn't actually that shooty, and his Sorcerer Lord had some devastating short-range spells, I wonder if he shouldn't have planted himself on the other side of the bog and lobbed spells at me, rather than march across resolutely. On paper, I was totally outclassed in magic (as usual), but I never really felt it.

That was actually my plan! It's just that the relevant fellow died just as he arrived.

From my perspective, there were three critical moments in the battle:

1. That abysmal failed charge by the Warriors of Chaos.
They were tough to break, and a couple more rounds of combat (with the support of the Mutalith+Marauders and without my Witch Hunter's little stunt) might have swung it.

I do wonder if I should have counter-charged in Turn 4 (as the subsequent combination did break them), but that would have exposed the Greatswords' flank to the Marauders, and I was happy to stay put (at that point, I was losing, so it was in my interests to delay the inevitable and hope the game ended before I was broken)

2. The favourable order of combats.
Kraken's decision to fight the Marauders first, leading to the Greatswords overrunning into the Chaos Warriors and getting a bonus round of combat. It happens so seldom, it's easily forgotten (I only realised it once the Marauders broke), but the ability for the active player to choose the order of combats can be crucial.

3. The Witch Hunter's moment of glory.
It was rare stroke of luck, just when I needed it, but not actually that improbable. The Witch Hunter was there to do exactly that - a 50pt gamble that may never pay off, but can really unnerve your opponent (not unlike a Feedback Scroll).

That said, it was an act that probably saved the army, so it's a extra ration of ale for him in The Mercenary's Arms tonight!

"I'm your Huckleberry."


  1. "The night is dark and full of terrors..."

    "...and we're wearing sunglasses."

  2. We're on a mission from the Dark Gods.