Thursday, 2 October 2014

Wizards' Cup Final: Cup and Sorcery

The Final of the Wizards' Cup has arrived!

In the purple corner is the overwhelming tournament favourite: the Lore of Death, who have sailed through the qualifiers on the back of public acclaim and anti-character spells.

In the grey corner is the plucky underdog, who seem to have staggered into the final though remarkable luck, favourable decisions and the wisdom of an old Okinawan karate teacher.

Wax on...

And so Kraken and I took up arms to determine the Eight College Champion!


We kept mirror Empire armies, and following the pattern of increasing size through each round, played roughly 1500pts apiece.

(at this level, my Empire collection was struggling to provide both sides of the field, so some proxies were employed - rest assured that any goblins you see are, in fact, mercenaries in fancy dress)

1 x Battle Standard Bearer - Hand Weapon. Full Plate Armour
20 x Halberdiers - Halberds, Light Armour, Full Command
20 x Spearmen - Spears, Light Armour, Full Command
   10 x Free Company - Two Hand Weapons (detachment)
10 x Crossbowmen - Crossbows
10 x Knights - Lances, Shields, Full Plate Armour. Barded Warhorse. Full Command
5 x Pistoliers - Brace of Pistols, Light Armour. Musician
20 x Flagellants - Flails, Prophet of Doom

Cup Final: Death vs Shadow

Amethyst Wizard Lord (Kraken): with Talisman of Preservation and Potion of Foolhardiness
Spells: Aspect of the Dreadknight, Soulblight, Fate of Bjuna, Purple Sun of Xereus
Amethyst Wizard Apprentice: with Channelling Staff and Seed of Rebirth
Spells: Caress of Laniph, Doom and Darkness

Grey Wizard Lord (Stylus): with Obsidian Lodestone and Potion of Swiftness
Spells: Melkoth’s Mystifying Miasma, The Withering, Penumbral Pendulum, Pit of Shades
Grey Wizard Apprentice: with Dispel Scroll
Spells: Enfeebling Foe, Okkam’s Mindrazor

With two wizards in play from each side (Lv4 and Lv2 respectively), we'd agreed that both had to be dead/fled to count as a victory. Clearly survival was the main thought among the spellcasters, with aggressive trinkets being eschewed for ward saves.

We had a free choice of whether to take steeds or not. Kraken put both of his on barded horses (the better to close the gap and start the assassinations). I chose to have both Grey Wizards on foot (to cower among the infantry, and to swap around with each other, if needed).

Maybe you can hire: The Grey Team!


A battle report between two Warhammer Empire armies, led by wizards: Death and Shadow.

The field was the usual spread of hills, walls and buildings. The only item of note was the Arcane Tower in the very centre of the board.

Death went first and pushed up right to the edge of his deployment zone: Pistoliers and Crossbows in the village; Halberdiers, Spearmen and Free Company facing the Arcane Tower; Flagellants and Knights straddling a long wall. Both Death Wizards went in with the Knights.

I was a little more demure, and held most of my army back from the deployment edge (with the exception of the quick and the crazy): Knights on a hill to the left; Flagellants pushed forward; Spearmen, Free Company, Halberdiers and Crossbows about 2/3 in from the deployment zone; Pistoliers as far forward as possible.

A battle report between two Warhammer Empire armies, led by wizards: Death and Shadow.
Using a troll for a unit filler is God's way of telling you to paint more miniatures.

For Vanguard, both Pistoliers galloped forward as far as possible. I won the roll-off and got the first turn.

Turn 1 - Grey

Both wings of cavalry sweep forward: the Grey Knights declare a charge against the Purple Pistoliers, who wisely flee. The Grey Pistoliers race up the board and position themselves on the flank of the Purple Knights.

A battle report between two Warhammer Empire armies, led by wizards: Death and Shadow.

The Grey infantry holds steady, with the exception of the Flagellants, who race forward, unable to resist the prospect of all that Death waiting for them.

The Winds of Magic roll well, although most of my spells are out of range (in hindsight, I could have sent my apprentice forward and tried swapping them around). Melkoth’s Mystifying Miasma on the Purple Knights is dispelled, but I do cast a boosted Penumbral Pendulum with Irresistible Force.

I roll well for the 6D6 range of the Pendulum (and given that boosted version is doubled, it actually shot through the field, off the board and landed somewhere in the toy corner, where my son's Scooty-Puff, Jr is parked. I believe Scooty failed the roll and was banished). But my only target was the Death Lord. She failed her initiative roll and was wounded, but just as I was picking up the dice to do Multiple Wounds, she went ahead and passed the ward save.

So with the spell coming to nothing, I then had to cop the Miscast result: Magical Feedback. The Shadow Lord got through unscathed using his ward save, but the Shadow Apprentice wasn't so lucky and suffered the first wound of the game.

I had better luck in the shooting phase, with the Pistoliers and Crossbows combining to fell a couple of Purple Knights, thanks to some unfortunate armour save rolls.

Turn 1 - Amethyst

The Purple Pistoliers show no inclination to rally and continue towards the table edge. Everything else, however, is considerably more aggressive.

A battle report between two Warhammer Empire armies, led by wizards: Death and Shadow.

The Crossbows occupy the ruined building. The Halberdiers, Spearmen and Free Company march towards the Arcane Tower. The Flagellants reform to face the Grey Pistoliers and the Knights trot off and veer towards the tower.

This last manoeuvre proves a particularly bloody affair, as two of the Knights fail their Dangerous Terrain when crossing the fence (clearly not steeplechasers then).

Another healthy roll for Winds of Magic is foiled by most of Death's spells being out of range of my characters. In the end, he manages Doom and Darkness on my Spearmen block, and everything else is dispelled.

Turn 2 - Grey

I was quite enjoying being out of range of these Death spells, so had no inclination to close the gap and continued to hide under the duvet of Doom 'n Darkness.

A battle report between two Warhammer Empire armies, led by wizards: Death and Shadow.

The Grey Knights angle around to face the Purple Halberdier's flank, while the Grey Flagellants advance to get within range of their front.

The Grey Pistoliers scoot around to the flank of the Purple Knights, to continue their harassing fire.

In the magic phase, most of my spells are checked by Kraken rolling higher to dispel, and all I manage to do is hit the Purple Knights with a boosted Miasma (for a measly -1).

In the shooting phase, another Purple Knight drops to pistol fire, though the Crossbows fail to penetrate.

Turn 2 - Amethyst

At the edge of the board, the Purple Pistoliers finally rally. No charges are declared, as the Death army continues to advance.

A battle report between two Warhammer Empire armies, led by wizards: Death and Shadow.

The Free Company occupies the Arcane Tower; the Flagellants wheel around to face the Grey Pistoliers again, the Spearmen advance towards the fence and the Halberdiers reposition to keep both Grey Knights and Grey Flagellants in their front arc.

The depleted Purple Knights continue to move away from their tormenting Pistoliers, and ride up directly behind the Arcane Tower.

In the magic phase, the task of rolling the extra channelling dice (because of the tower, with the risk of a miscast) is delegated to the Death Apprentice, but even with the Channelling Staff, he can't muster any bonus dice.

However, the Apprentice is now in range to cast Caress of Laniph on the Shadow Lord - I take no chances with this, and immediately Dispel Scroll it. This leaves me with enough dice to shut down the remainder of the phase.

The shooting phase does little more, as crossbow bolts rattle off the Grey Knights' armour.

Turn 3 - Grey

I declare charges with both Grey Knights and Flagellants against the Halberdiers, who elect to hold. Both charges are completed and the combat is on.

I then notice that the Purple Knights are still in the charge arc of my Pistoliers, and the Death Lord is on the end of the line. I declare a charge, which the Knights elect to flee to safety (although this means moving the wizards further out of spell range).

A battle report between two Warhammer Empire armies, led by wizards: Death and Shadow.

In the magic phase, I do my best to help the combat, although not much gets through ( I lost concentration on one spell, and the rest are dispelled, having channelled some extra dice). I think I cast Miasma on the Halberdiers to drop their Initiative (very handy spell that one, and an impressive range - I should have taken one each on my Shadow wizards).

A battle report between two Warhammer Empire armies, led by wizards: Death and Shadow.
The Grey Wizard likes to keep half the board between himself and the pointy end of the battle.

In shooting, the Grey Pistoliers add insult to injury and shoot off another of the fleeing Purple Knights. For want of a better target, the Crossbows take off a couple of Purple Flagellants.

The first combat of the game! I begin my Flagellant début with two self-inflicted wounds, with gives them re-rolls to hit and wound. My Prophet of Doom then steps up and challenges the Halberdier champion, quickly puréeing him with three wounds. The rest of the warband follow suit, hacking down swathes of Halberdiers for only a few losses. The Knights do the same, for no losses, and even the horses get in on the act.

A battle report between two Warhammer Empire armies, led by wizards: Death and Shadow.

I do enough to remove their Steadfast, and even with the BSB nearby, they fail to roll the Insane Courage they need to stay put. The Halberdiers break, but do manage to outrun the pursing Flagellants, who have to content themselves with smashing into the flank of the Spearmen.

The Knights are unable to pursue, due to the building in their path, and so reform into a three-wide formation that can squeeze through the traffic jam of bodies.

Turn 3 - Amethyst

The Purple Flagellants lead the Lore of Death's counterpunch. They declare a charge against the Grey Pistoliers, who flee out of reach. The Purple Pistoliers, once again on the move, place themselves on the flank of the Grey Knights, ready to start shooting.

In the centre of the field, the Halberdiers rally. As do the Purple Knights, which means the two Amethyst Wizards are back in action, if not range.

A battle report between two Warhammer Empire armies, led by wizards: Death and Shadow.

In the magic phase, the Death Lord casts Aspect of the Dreadknight on the Halberdiers, which I dispel. No other spells get through (I think Purple Sun of Xereus may have failed).

For shooting, the combined efforts of the Pistoliers and Crossbows remove one of the Grey Knights.

In close combat, the Grey Flagellants slap themselves into a fury (only re-rolls to hit this time) and the Prophet of Doom once again declares a challenge. His reputation is sufficiently fearsome that the Battle Standard Bearer allows the Spearmen Champion to take up the task (and he also gets thoroughly squashed).

A battle report between two Warhammer Empire armies, led by wizards: Death and Shadow.
The Knights reform to pass through the gap. The Crossbowman can only shake his fist at them.

The other Flagellants lay about the Spearmen who, being caught on the flank and unable to bring their weapons to bear, get massacred. Not even the cries of Hold The Line! can keep them in order - they Purple Spears break.

They are immediately run down by the Grey Flagellants, who roll so well that they cross the field and slam into the flank of their opposite numbers, the Purple Flagellants. No-one seemed panicked by this, and all the Purple units hold steady.

A battle report between two Warhammer Empire armies, led by wizards: Death and Shadow.

Turn 4 - Grey

When the Death Lord's unit rallied, they had been very careful to position themselves out of the Grey Knights' sight. This was a good plan - except it depended on the Spearmen and Flagellants still being where they were placed.

With that obstacle now gone, the Grey Knights didn't hesitate to declare a charge against the Purple Knights - who once again take to flight. As both Amethyst Wizards return to their deployment zone, the Grey Knights successfully redirect to charge against the Halberdiers.

A battle report between two Warhammer Empire armies, led by wizards: Death and Shadow.

Elsewhere, I was feeling bold enough to sound a general advance, since I was lacking any spell targets in range. My Pistoliers rallied, and all the infantry marched forward.

In the magic phase, I cast Miasma on the Purple Flagellants. I thought dropping their Initiative even by a point could give my loonies an edge - clearly Kraken saw the same threat and dispelled it. What I then tried was a Pit of Shades at its most extreme range - just short of the Death Apprentice, but I was hoping for a useful scatter. Even with six dice, however, I roll abysmally and fall short of the total.

With all my shooting units moved or rallied, we go straight to combat.

The Grey Knights underperform in their charge, felling only a few Halberdiers and even losing one of their own. But they carry enough combat bonuses (with a helping hoof from a steed) to break the infantry a second time. And for a second time, the surviving Halberdiers outrun the Knights.

A battle report between two Warhammer Empire armies, led by wizards: Death and Shadow.
The game of 'Catch the Halberdier' continues.

The Flagellant-on-Flagellant action looked like fun. In terms of self-inflicted bonuses, the Grey Flagellants have the advantage (rerolls to hit and wound) over the Purple ones (rerolls to hit), and combined with their flank attack, they do considerably greater damage, taking off almost half the unit. My Prophet of Doom encountered the one character mad enough to accept his challenge - the other Prophet of Doom - and they predictably massacre each other with plenty of overkill.

I win the combat, beating the Frenzy out of the Purple Flagellants, who then reform to bring their superior numbers against the enemy. This combat looks as if it will grind down to the bones, assuming the combatant don't all kill themselves first.

A battle report between two Warhammer Empire armies, led by wizards: Death and Shadow.
Such is their derangement, the Flagellants have come dressed as Night Goblins.
(Flagellants be cray cray)

Turn 4 - Amethyst

Kraken sets to work pulling together what remains of his army. The Purple Halberdiers halt and about-face to brace themselves for Round 3 with the Knights.

However, the Purple Knights massively fail to rally, and continue to flee, I inform Kraken that they are 4 inches from the edge of the board. He obligingly rolls a 5.

A battle report between two Warhammer Empire armies, led by wizards: Death and Shadow.

The magic phase is clearly not going to happen. We play out the shooting phase, where the Grey Knights lose a couple of their number to Crossbow and Pistolier fire. But with both his wizards gone, and no realistic way of getting to mine, Kraken concedes defeat.

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

The Lore of Shadows is the Wizards' Cup Champion!

Me And My Shadow 

Well, what happened there? At the end of the battle, both Kraken and I were a little dumbstuck at how a battle with four wizards and twelve levels could prove such a damp squib for magic.

Only a handful of spells were cast in the game, most of which were non-crucial augments or hexes. The only wound caused by magic was the miscast result on the Grey Apprentice.

After a day of contemplation, it's perhaps less surprising:

  • We were both going at this with more caution than before - not risking Irresistible casts and saving dispel dice/scrolls for countering.
  • My entire gameplan depended on keeping my wizard out of spell range, while putting pressure on Kraken with my combat elements (essentially spoiling my opponent's fun - sorry about that).
  • Despite a few optimistic tries with Pit and Pendulum, the best chance Shadow magic had was by affecting the mundane combats. In the end, I didn't actually swing many fights with it (Mindrazor isn't really necessary when you have lances and flails), but I was never going to get the dramatic kills of the Death spells.
  • And sometimes the dice are just like that.
That said, while it may have disappointed for magic, it was a great battle to play. The Flagellants were thrown in at the last minute (hence the abysmal proxies) to bump up the points and add a bit of lunacy.

I'm certainly glad they were: they may be dubious value for points, but they're characterful, effective (in the right circumstances) and a lot of fun - basically just what I'm looking for in a Warhammer unit. A big unit of Flagellants just got bumped to the top of my Empire painting list.

... wax off.

So the Lore of Shadows wins the inaugural Wizards' Cup. I don't think this proves anything, other than I have a lot to learn about using the magic lores, but it was a lot of fun to play and an eye-opener in terms of using spells and the magic phase itself.

Thanks to Kraken for being such a sporting competitor, and for the compelling narration around these seven games (we're also planning an eighth, extra-special game, to round this off).

Thanks also to everyone who voted (even though most of you - myself included - were wrong to back Death). Hope you enjoyed the Cup Final!

I'm off to saw a bacon butty in half, and then make it disappear.


  1. Shadow magic has always been about improving the effectiveness of your units, rather than direct damage (except against certain targets, none of which were in this game). It was on this basis that I chose Shadow in the Wizard Cup. If I had known you'd be trying to kill the world with Penumbral Pendulum, maybe I would have chosen differently...

    Having said that, huzzah! Take that, all you nay-saying death-snipers!

    1. Thanks - I'm not sure how I got there, and I'm not sure how I won, but I'm taking home the Cup!

      When we worked out the point-escalation through the rounds, I did think that Shadow would stand a better chance in the bigger game, with more units to buff (it just had to get that far).

      Conversely Death would sail through the first round (as it did), but encounter problems in the later stages, with a bigger board and more options to stop the sniping.

    2. I told you not to encourage him.

      Well, I thought I would probably screw up in the last round as the tension and pressure mounted, and I was quite accurate in that too. Some questionable first round movement choices cost me dearly later, and after something of a magical fizzle, that was that. My game to lose, I felt, and I'm always reliable as far as that's concerned!

      Expect fluff and further action next week...