Sunday, 31 August 2014

Wizards' Cup Round 2: Whiffendor & Cravenclaw

It's All-Skype Fight Lunchtime!

It's amazing what you can do when you're on deadline.

Thwarted by poor broadband speed in the previous Quarter Finals, Kraken and I decided to try and cram the remaining two battles into a lunchtime. There was no leeway for overrunning this time, not with childcare and conference calls impending.

"Nuthin' is gonna ever keep you down..."


Same as before, two identical armies at 500pts.

20 x Spearmen - Spears, Light Armour, Full Command
10 x Crossbowmen - Crossbows
5 x Knights - Lances, Shields, Full Plate Armour. Barded Warhorse. Full Command

The wizards had a choice of a barded warhorse or not (if they chose to go on foot, they got an extra knight) and had 25pts to spend on magic items.

Shadow vs Life

Grey Wizard (Stylus): on foot with Trickster's Shard
Spells: Melkoth’s Mystifying Miasma and Pit of Shades

Jade Wizard (Kraken): on foot with Trickster's Shard
Spells: Flesh to Stone and Regrowth

(For some reason, we both picked Trickster's Shard for this battle. Damn Trickster up to his tricks...)

The blue range marker denotes the limit of the battlefield.
Let's just say it was a very small river.

Turn 1

Lore of Life gets the first turn and, like the Mighty Oak, Kraken opts to hold steady with everything. In the magic phase, he casts Regrowth on the Jade Spears, but Flesh to Stone on the Knights is dispelled. The Jade Crossbows fire a volley at the Grey Knights, but fail to get any.

In my first turn, I move the Grey Knights forward cautiously, just close enough to tempt a charge. The Grey Spears head off to defend the pass on their own, while the Shadow Wizard stays put with the Crossbows.

In my magic phase, I bring out my Pit of Shades card (I initially rolled Pit of Shades and Okkam's Mindrazor - but they were too expensive to cast to keep both, and Miasma is too useful not to trade for. I would have liked the buffs of Mindrazor, like with Beasts; but got tempted by the auto-kill of Pit of Shades, like with Death).

Either way, I was only *just* in range of the Jade Wizard, so went with the boosted version for the big template. It cast with Irresistible Force, and even scattered the right way, but went 7 inches past the unit and only clipped off a few from the back. On the miscast roll, I drop a level and forget the spell. So much for all that agonising whether or not to take it. I now have to win this battle with just Melkoth’s Mystifying Miasma.

The Grey Crossbows pick off a few more Spears, but not enough to make a difference, especially as they can regenerate.

Turn 2

Back to Kraken, and like the Mighty Geyser, he springs forth into action. The Jade Knights declare a charge against the opposite numbers and actually make the distance (they took my bait! I'm not sure I actually wanted them to...). The infantry consider that enough effort for one turn, and stay put.

Without even having to use the threat of his Trickster's Shard, Kraken managed to cast both his spells: Regrowth on the Spears and Flesh to Stone on the Knights. The Jade Crossbows pick off a few of the advancing Spearmen.

In close combat, the Knight Preceptors get all overcome with chivalry and challenge each other out. Unfortunately, the Jade Knight has stone flesh and a lance bonus, and buffets the Grey Knight into jelly. No other knights are killed in the combat, so they were clearly all watching the action. The horses don't even remember to strike. The Grey Knights lose the combat, but hold on Stubborn.

On my second turn, I march the Grey Spears forward (in the somewhat forlorn hope that they can make up for the failure of my cavalry and magic). In the magic phase, my attempt to Miasma the Jade Knights is dispelled, but my Trickster's Shard does cause a wound on the Jade Wizard.

The Grey Crossbows pick off a few more Spearmen. In close combat, I lose three Grey Knights - due to some bad armour saves and the frenzied attacks of the steeds (they missed the last turn, so we let the poor beasties hit twice). They flee and are run down by the Jade Knights.

Turn 3

On Kraken's turn, like the Mighty Avalanche, he slams his Jade Spears into my infantry block and reforms his Knights so they are nicely flanking my Grey Crossbow unit.

The Shadow Wizard wishes there was an extra character on the board to trade places with.

It's the crucial magic phase, so Kraken declares the Trickster's Shard and then rolls Snake Eyes for winds. He can't even summon up enough magic juice to cast anything for me to dispel, and that's over (clearly my Trickster's Shard was the true Trickster's Shard. His was just some shard sold to him by a trickster).

From the safety of the woods they never leave, the Jade Crossbows kill enough Grey Crossbows to force a panic test (passed, but I'm already panicking at those knights in my caboose), and then we're into combat.

Too late, Kraken remembers that spears get an extra rank when charged (which is why I left mine in a tempting spot), and also remembers that I like targeting wizards in combat. He declares a challenge with the Jade Wizard, but I'm having none of that, and retire my champion to the back rank.

In the regular combat, the Jade Spears kill three Grey Spears for one loss in return. But that was because I was saving every spearmen I could to prong the Jade Wizard. Like a cornered hind, the wizard is skewered many times over and falls back into the mud.

"Don't you worry about the combat result, lads, just do your duty."
(advice shouted from the rear echelon)

All this focussing on the wizard, however, means that the Grey Spears totally lose the combat. They break and are run down.

My last turn. My two combat units have been comprehensively destroyed. The enemy's force is largely intact and in a position to hit me from both front and flank at once. I have seven crossbowmen left to fight with. And yet, all I need to do is not die this turn and I'll win.

The Grey Wizard smiles, as if this was all planned, then fades into the shadows.

The surviving crossbowmen look around, and wonder what the hell they are supposed to do

"Radagast the Bird-tamer! Radagast the Simple! Radagast the Fool!"
(Saruman's review of Hobbit I & II)

Metal vs Light

Gold Wizard (Kraken): on barded steed with Channelling Staff and Seed of Rebirth
Spells: Searing Doom and Enchanted Blades of Aiban

White Wizard (Stylus): on foot with Earthing Rod
Spells: Shem’s Burning Gaze and Birona’s Timewarp

(To save time, we just switched ends. Our set-ups were the same as before, but I don't mirror the Gold Knights (who now have the Wizard) and keep my White Knights on the opposite side of the field.

Turn 1

This time, I get to start proceedings. The White Knights canter forward to occupy the left hill and everything else stays put. From the safety of the infantry block, I cast a boosted Shem’s Burning Gaze at the Gold Knights, killing only one. The White Crossbows begin the duel with the Gold Crossbows, picking off a couple.

Kraken also advances his Knights forward, the Gold Wizard accompanying them, and keeps everything else back (brave lot, aren't we?). As I feared, in the magic phase he targets all that lovely armour on my knights: an Irresistible Searing Doom wipes out four White Knights, but the two remaining hold steady (and their reduced size now takes them out of the Crossbow's line of sight, so yippee).

The resulting Calamitous Detonation takes out one of the Gold Knights.

It's not a good day for Knights.

Turn 2

What remains of my White Knights move around the flank (mostly to get away from the Gold Wizard, rather than any grand manoeuvre). My Spearmen nudge forward, but by not much.

I get a whopping winds of magic roll, more than I can practically use, but even that doesn't stop my six-dice Burning Gaze from getting dispelled. As a consolation, I do cast Birona’s Timewarp on the White Spears (although I'm pretty sure it will have worn off by the time they get into combat).

My Crossbows plink a few more bolts into the opposing archers, but still fall short of a panic test.

On his turn, Kraken declares a charge with the Gold Knights on my White Spears, but fails abysmally and stumbles forward a few inches. He then reforms the Gold Spears to face the threat (!) of my two Knights.

Another awful winds of magic roll (Snake Eyes again) leaves him with few options - Searing Doom is successfully cast on the White Spears, although their crappy armour protects them from any harm.

In the shooting phase, the Gold Crossbows take out a few White Spears, their crappy armour failing to protect them from harm.

Turn 3

I begin my turn by declaring a charge on the Gold Knights with the Spears (not as crazy as it sounds - I was still Timewarped - but in retrospect, what was I thinking?). Fortunately, even with boosted speed, I fail the charge.

Speaking of failing, the White Knights fail their swift reform, so can only face the Gold Spears head-on.

In better news, I get another huge winds of magic roll, enough to lob another six dice at a boosted Burning Gaze on the Gold Knights. The spell drops two more knights, although the Gold Wizard escapes the randomised hits (a shame, as the flaming bolts would have negated his regeneration roll).

However, I still have the White Crossbows and the Gold Knights have just trotted into short range. After spending the entirely of two battles in this forest, the crossbowmen have finally begun to shoot like Wood Elves: nine of the bolts strike, five of which randomise on the Gold Wizard. His Seed of Rebirth helps him not at all, and he topples from the saddle, riddled with arrows.

Say, you guys burn pretty good ... you're not deamons, are you?

But all is not lost! Kraken still has to take his turn. If his remaining Gold Knights can charge into my unit, focus their attacks on the Light Wizard then just maybe...

Actually, they fail their panic test from the shooting and run for it. With no way of hurting my wizard in his turn, Kraken concedes.

Light Entertainment > Heavy Metal

Let's review over lunch

Phew! That's about a close as we're going to get to Warhammer Speed Chess - and damn, it was fun. I didn't even realise until we totted up that I'd won both matches, which just goes to show: winning/losing is just the outcome. The purpose is to play.

I've mentioned this before, but the low-level, vanilla* armies work really well. It really emphasises what the wizards bring the table, and picks out the smaller details too. Fighting with an extra rank of spears actually matters (and when does it ever matter against Savage Orcs or Chaos Warriors?); hiding out in the cover of woods actually helps (no-one wanted to shoot the forest crossbows, and there were no chaff units to flush them out).

*a scandalous euphemism for bland, in my opinion. I love vanilla. Vanilla's the best.

I know 8th Edition is meant to lean towards big battles (horde infantry, steadfast buses, supreme lord of the undead for £65), but I think there's real mileage in this skirmish-level battle. And now we know they can be played over a lunch hour ... well, perhaps a long-running campaign beckons...

As for the battles themselves: great fun. The Shadows-Life battle was a bit rough on Kraken since, under normal circumstances, he would have tabled me. It's the only battle so far where the loser was far ahead on Victory Points, but it's all about those wizards.

Kraken was also unlucky with winds of magic rolls (getting double-1 twice, whereas my pockets were spilling over with power dice) - but I guess it meant fewer dispel dice for me too. We've had quite a few miscasts, but none have ruined the game, as I feared they might (we've got something special planned for Dimensional Cascade - keep watching to see if it should occur).

And so we have our contestants for the next semi-final: Shadow vs Light!

Who will win from the Final Four?


  1. Ah, dammit! That Jade wizard was robbed. If I'd just had my buffing spells in place, that enormous porcupine of spears I leapt onto wouldn't have been nearly as game-losing.

    Looking forward to the next rounds. Tune in for incoming fluff...

  2. PS - don't suppose you fancy taking some snaps of your terrain for an EXT post, do you?

    1. I take it you're referring to the fantastic ruined buildings (not painted by me), rather than the grey plastic citadel wood base (also not painted by me).