Friday, 24 July 2015

Hedge of Darkness: Sylvaneth vs Chaos Mortals

Well, our first Age of Sigmar battle worked out pretty well. Now we're going to push the limits and see if it was a fluke.

Tonight, the arboreal guardians go hunting monsters in the deepwood - Forest Spirits against Chaos Monsters!

Age of Sigmar battle report between Sylvaneth Aelfs and Chaos Monsters
Picnic time for teddy bears...

Bark versus Bite!
It's All-Skype Fight Night!

Plain old Kraken here.

And I, Stylus, shall be bold. And yet also cautious - after all, Kraken is a general with a 100% win record in Age of Sigmar...

Tremendous! And yet I too am cautious. Was our first, highly entertaining, game a fluke? Were we carried away with the joy of a new system? Or is this really a new love, here to stay? Time to push the envelope!

And I'll tell you how seriously I'm taking this game: I've already printed out my warscrolls on proper cardstock:

Sylvaneth Warscrolls
Can you believe someone was going to waste this on wedding invitations?


Bright and Beautiful - Chaos Monsters

Age of Sigmar battle report between Sylvaneth Aelfs and Chaos Monsters
The proxies: 50% accurate, that's pretty good for me.
(the pink giant is playing the role of Shaggoth)

  • Shargraoth, Dragon Ogre Shaggoth - Leviathan Axe, Sweeping Tail, Taloned Forelimbs
  • Kroag, Chaos Giant - Massive Clubs, ’Eadbutt, Mighty Kick
  • The Black Beast of Ulg, Chimera – Mauling Claws, Fiend Tail, Fiery Breath
  • 4 x Chaos Trolls - Scavenged Clubs and Axes, Disgusting Vomit
- 7 models, 50 wounds

Age of Sigmar battle report between Sylvaneth Aelfs and Chaos Monsters
All Creatures Great and Small

And by 'push the envelope', I mean 'try being a bit of a dick and see if the game remains fun'. 8th Ed vets all across the blogosphere seem convinced that AoS lacks balance and is inherently skewed. I don't quite buy this whining, but I could concede that having no limits on what you can and can't take is open to abuse.

So I have two missions - one is to abuse the system to a mild extent, and take an all-monster list. It's within the 50 Wound limit we've agreed on, but Stylus doesn't know it's coming and isn't necessarily going to be building to deal with it.

Mission two is to select a fluffy sudden death mission, as my mad monster list will definitely have the lower model count. Unless I'm not the only douche in the bath house, of course, but Stylus is very much the genteleman soldier, so I'm not worried. I decide that I'm trying to Seize the Ground, getting my monsters into a new tree house within Stylus' deployment zone.

We do decide (slightly later) that this is proper sudden death, though. If I'm not in the wood by the end of turn 4, then I lose the game!

Sylvaneth Tree Surgeons

Age of Sigmar battle report between Sylvaneth Aelfs and Chaos Monsters
Lop 'em, chop 'em, and drop 'em.
  • Twiggy, Branchwraith - General, Piercing Talons
  • Silvia, Branchwraith - Piercing Talons
  • 16 x Dryads - Wracking Talons
  • 3 x Treekin - Bludgeoning Branches
  • Coniferous, Treeman - Massive Impaling Talons, Sweeping Blows, Strangleroots.
- 22 models, 50 wounds

This was an easy army to build: every arboreal model I had went on the table (almost - I had a few spare dryads for summoning). It wasn't quite enough to make the requirements for the Guardians of the Deepwood battalion (seriously - I have to have three treemen?), but as we'd already agreed to field Sylvaneth Wyldwoods, it didn't make much odds.


Age of Sigmar battle report between Sylvaneth Aelfs and Chaos Monsters

We're using a slightly smaller battlefield tonight. Partly to make sure the fight is quick and fun, partly because we're doing a double feature with a second battle on the same turf later. 

This time out, we've got some Aelf-approved Sylvaneth Woods filling the field. They can hurt pretty much anything moving through them except forest spirits and monsters, which means my Trolls are the only potential victims for them. And then there's an Inspiring Ruin, which bolsters the bravery of nearby troops, and a Deadly Hill, which can eat the feet off interlopers. 

Stylus wins the deployment rolls, so he gets to pick how the field is split. 

Diagonally! I know, it's crazy. Everything's off the chain in Age of Sigmar!

Deployment sees me in a long line, raring to get stuck in. I've left the Chimera out on one flank, where its mobility will likely see it able to either reinforce as needed, or unstoppably sweep through to the wood I'm hoping to nest in later. 

Age of Sigmar battle report between Sylvaneth Aelfs and Chaos Monsters
I only had 3 treekin in the battle.
(but Kraken only saw it via Skype - maybe he mistook a model tree)

I bundle around the wood I need to protect, although my Treekin and second Branchwraith are pushed out a little more to the right than depicted. I was hoping to use the block of Dryads - who seem to be more grindy than before - to hold up the centre, while my heavy-hitters concentrate on removing the monsters on the right flank.

The Game

Sylvaneth - Turn 1

Age of Sigmar battle report between Sylvaneth Aelfs and Chaos Monsters

Kraken wins the initiative roll, but makes me go first. Probably because he knows I have an itchy foot and a bad habit of blundering forward when I should stay put.

My Hero Phase begins with my General Branchwraith rousing six more dryads from the Wyldwood, and the other Branchwraith putting a pip of armour on the Treekin (because I foolishly deployed her too far from the Wyldwood to summon - I'll have to learn that magic comes before movement)

In the Movement Phase, I lumber forward with the vague idea of suckering the monsters into an attritional brawl in the central Wyldwood, keeping them away from their goal.

Age of Sigmar battle report between Sylvaneth Aelfs and Chaos Monsters

The range is too great for Strangleroots, and there's no combat, so that's my first turn.

Chaos - Turn 1

Age of Sigmar battle report between Sylvaneth Aelfs and Chaos Monsters

I don't have any heroes or wizards, just a rather ersatz general in the form of my Shaggoth. You have to nominate someone as general, and he's probably the only creature on the team capable of tactical thought. 

To prove this, he moves as fast as possible in a straight line towards the largest creature on the enemy team - the Treeman - who he then successfully charges later on.

The Chimera and Trolls head towards the enemy lines, avoiding the lethal trees and hills, and the giant lopes along amicably behind everything else. 

Shooting sees the Chimera's laughably horrific fire breath, which automatically chips off d6 Mortal Wounds on a target within range, fry a lone dryad. Crispy. [Or was it the Branchwraith? I can't remember].

Dryad, I think. Though I may have forgotten to apply their Wyldwood protection.

Age of Sigmar battle report between Sylvaneth Aelfs and Chaos Monsters

Fighting the Treeman turns out to be tougher than I hoped. First I get tripped by the damn thing's roots, then the Shaggoth's Leviathan Axe, a particularly woundy attack, fluffs its way to nothing. I scrape the bark a bit, and then it belts me around for four wounds. Wounded monsters get progressively weaker in AoS, a mechanic I really like. Except when I'm on the receiving end. Then I hate it.

Sylvaneth - Turn 2

Age of Sigmar battle report between Sylvaneth Aelfs and Chaos Monsters

Like Kraken, I really like the idea of chipping away at monsters' effectiveness, and I had given it some thought prior to the battle: do I focus on one beastie at a time, of spread my wounds around and try to de-claw them all?

In the end, I reckoned I had to try and save my Treeman, the biggest hitter on my team, and in danger of getting krumped when the Shaggoth remembered how to fight.

In the Hero Phase, I think I tried to blast some Mortal Wounds off the Shaggoth, with limited effect (I don't usually blame my dice, but I haven't seen so many snake eyes since I cleared out my G.I. Joe collection). My big unit of Dryads occupy the central woods, and my non-general Branchwraith follows them (for reasons I can't explain - I guess I just saw trees and got carried away).

My Treekin edged towards their minimum distance of the Shaggoth, ready to charge in. Only a roll of double 1 would prevent them making it.

In the Charge Phase, my Treekin roll a double 1.

As I contemplate what horror these lazy arboreals have exposed me to, the Treeman and Shaggoth continue to chip away at each other.

Age of Sigmar battle report between Sylvaneth Aelfs and Chaos Monsters
My right flank: rooted to the spot.

The Chaos response is likely to hurt. I only hope I don't lose the next initiative roll and have to ensure two turns of this...

Chaos - Turn 2

Age of Sigmar battle report between Sylvaneth Aelfs and Chaos Monsters

The Trolls circle the dryad-infested wood, their simple minds set on grabbing that wood at the back. The Giant crashes into the forwards Branchwraith and the Chimera swoops across the field, 

Age of Sigmar battle report between Sylvaneth Aelfs and Chaos Monsters

Shooting sees the Chimera vent a lot of bile on the Treeman. Flaming bile. Six wounds later, Treeface isn't looking so hot on his feet, as both he and they are black ash.

Damn you, flaming attacks! I thought I left you behind in 8th Ed!

The trolls barf into the woods a lot, but there's plenty of absorbent moss to soak it up, and they don't kill anything.

I charge both Shaggoth and Chimera into the Treekin, thinking that the Chimera can always go elsewhere later with an aerial disengage. They rough both of us up, taking the Shaggoth even further down its wound chart and then denting the Chimera a bit too. At least they crunch though one and a half junior treepeople in the process.

And the Branchwraith is pulverised by a combination of club strikes and headbutts from the Giant. Nice!

I miss Yell And Bawl. Giants used to be such pussycats.

Chaos - Turn 3

Age of Sigmar battle report between Sylvaneth Aelfs and Chaos Monsters
Errr, so both this map and the last one aren't quite right - the Treeman should have died last turn, and the Chimera and Shaggoth should be fighting the Treekin. But it's close enough.

Adding insult to all these injuries, I then get the next turn as well! I was kind of hoping for a draw on the roll-off, to be honest. It creates a lightning storm that heals the bleeding Shaggoth, who sorely needs it.

I remember reading that rule and, to be honest, I like this kind of oddball stuff in AoS.

The trolls continue to roam towards my woody goal, spewing ineffectually as they go. I forget about the Chimera's breath, so he and Shaggoy keep fighting the Treekin as the Giant charges the Dryads. 

The Treekin take a beating, but are still just about standing. In revenge, they take the Shaggoth down to a lone wound, and kick the Chimera about a bit into the bargain. The Giant takes a nick or two, but murders around half the Dryads in return. 

It's looking good for me! But all the same - I'm not looking forward to weathering more Arcane Bolts, and half the big monsters are getting pretty moth-eaten. If the Branchwraith doesn't fling out a ton more Dryads, anyway. 

Age of Sigmar battle report between Sylvaneth Aelfs and Chaos Monsters

Sylvaneth - Turn 3

Age of Sigmar battle report between Sylvaneth Aelfs and Chaos Monsters

I can probably pull this back, as long as my remaining wizard can cast five or six spells. Unfortunately, she's only allowed one. I think she tried to blast the Chimera with Mortal Wounds once again, but doesn't make much impression.

Still in 8th Ed mentality (and probably a bit caught up in the battle), I forget that no-one has to be locked in combat any more. I don't think I would have kept the Dryads slogging away at the Giant if I'd remembered. But I didn't, and so they continued their doomed battle.

The small unit of summoned Dryads left the woods to try and support the Treekin, which probably was a better move. That left the Branchwraith to hold the objective against the oncoming Trolls. What - no Stupidity Tests any more?

Age of Sigmar battle report between Sylvaneth Aelfs and Chaos Monsters

Combat against the Giant goes a poorly as expected - he's really good against regular troops, as his 'Stuff In Bag' practically guarantees a casualty before the brutal attacks even begin.

Against the other two monsters, I cannot make much headway - I wouldn't say the Treekin are rubbish, it's just their attacks were slipping at precisely the wrong times. I'm not sure if I was using the re-rolls they get for being in range of the Branchwraith - I was missing a lot of synergies here.

The Summoned Dryads don't do much better, although their 'Enrapture' ability helps keep them alive.

Age of Sigmar battle report between Sylvaneth Aelfs and Chaos Monsters

Despite most of my Dryads getting stomped to kindling by the Giant, I roll very well for Battleshock and preserve a few sap-soaked survivors.

Sylvaneth - Turn 4

Age of Sigmar battle report between Sylvaneth Aelfs and Chaos Monsters

Kraken actually wins the initiative roll and, for the second time in the game, makes me go first. It's a shrewd move - victory is practically in the bag for him, but by giving himself the final say, it prevents me from trying any last-ditch attempts.

Age of Sigmar battle report between Sylvaneth Aelfs and Chaos Monsters

In the Hero Phase, I make a last-ditch attempt to magic the final wounds off the Shaggoth - and fail to remove his very last wound.

My surviving Dryads remember they can disengage from combat and form a semi-screen between the two halves of the Chaos forces that won't really screen anything.

My Branchwraith sits tight in the forest - if the Trolls want her, they'll have to risk being killed outright on a 1 (and maybe Battleshock removing the rest - all right, I admit it's a thin straw).

In combat, I split attacks between Chimera - who is the biggest threat to my objective - and the Shaggoth - who I just have to kill. And get one wound through on the Shaggoth, but the bugger saves it!

The Chimera has already had Mortal Wounds inflicted on it by magic, but I would have had to roll exceptionally well to kill it. In the end, it has about three wounds left, none of which impairs its flight move, sadly.

Age of Sigmar battle report between Sylvaneth Aelfs and Chaos Monsters

Chaos - Turn 4

Age of Sigmar battle report between Sylvaneth Aelfs and Chaos Monsters

The Chimera flies over the remaining Dryads [if there were any at this point - did I kill them off in the last turn? Yep, all gone], then scorches a wound off the Branchwraith with his much-reduced fire breath. He's wounded enough that it now only does a single Mortal Wound, rather than the d6 of sainted yore.

The Giant lumbers on, the Shaggoth prepares to die for the cause and the Trolls rumble towards the smaller summon Dryad troop. Who they finally get a good round of shooting on, and dissolve the lot of them.

Combat sees the Shaggoth get (at last!) a pair of good Leviathan Axe swings, which kill all the remaining dryads. He's been fluffing them all game so far, so it's nice to see them in action at last, even if it's more or less a dictionary definition of Overkill.

Speaking of which, the Chimera charges the Branchwraith (who puts him down to his last wound), and pecks, bites and roars it to death. This leaves him in sole possession of my target wood. Which is precisely where I wanted him. 

Age of Sigmar battle report between Sylvaneth Aelfs and Chaos Monsters

The Result

Sudden Death Victory to Chaos - Seize Ground!
(and also a zero casualty tabling. But I don't want to brag.)

Locker Room Chat

Well, monsters work quite well, then.

It came out nice for me, but actually I was lucky. The Treeman died to a lucky fire strike when it could quite easily have beaten me around for another few turns. And if the Treekin had arrived when they should have, I would have been much harder pressed to get to my goal. I'd probably have relied on the Chimera's flying to swoop off out of range - all I needed to do was get within 3" of the wood, which really wasn't the toughest objective.

So a double victory for my rather offensive list. This leaves me feeling a bit sour, though - being a dick clearly pays dividends, and I'm not sure where that leaves me, morally.

On the one hand, part of me has always wanted to field an army like this. The models are some of my favourites, and there's a real pleasure in being able to slap them down instead of having to dither about over army balance and points values. The whitewash that resulted doesn't really feel like a particularly enjoyable one, though, so I won't be doing it again.

Some more AoS observations:
  • I really like the 'wounded monster' rules, they feel flavourful as well as working well
  • Losing the random behaviour of Stupid Trolls or erratic Giant attacks is a mixed bag - I slightly miss the humour it could lend a game, but I really don't miss the way it often rendered them ineffectual. Both units feel a lot more dangerous and effective, which is, bluntly, more fun.
  • Shooting rules could use a tweak, I think. I don't mind being able to shoot in the same turn as charging, but I don't think you should be allowed to fire once you're in melee. At the very least it should limit your target to the guys you're already beating up, or only work for breath weapon equivalents, or something.
Was the game still fun? Yes, it was. Gleefully silly, and not as good as our last match from my point of view, but still very enjoyable.

Two of the monsters left on one wound apiece - where were my Glade Guard! And Trolls are capable of independent movement? And Giants are actually useful in combat? Suddendly all my models are effective - shame I'd lent them to Kraken.

To be honest, I don't think Kraken's monster list was an obnoxious one. I had magic, the synergy of the 'Sylvaneth' keyword, and even the terrain was on my side. I'd seen the monster mash in advance and agreed to play it: it looked like fun and I've no complaints about that.

I have a lot more complaints about my own generalship, to whit:

  • I lost focus on my objective from the get-go - I had no business running forward when I could have held fast on the back line, spamming out Dryads and shooting Mortal Wounds before getting to grips.
  • The Sylvaneth army is one of many synergies, and I managed to avoid using any of them. They can do a lot better than demonstrated here.
  • I have no idea why I left my Branchwraith so exposed - I'm putting it down to a residual 8th Ed idea about keeping out of arcs of sight.
    (it seems that one of the Wood Elves' most irritating features - aside from Orlando Bloom - has been negated)
The Treekin failing to make the easiest of all charges as a really, really bad time, however, was not my fault. They're going straight into the wood-chipper.

(although it has impressed upon me the need to protect yourself against losing the initiative roll - having the opponent get two turns in a row is brutal if you've left your army exposed)

So the game wasn't as close as the last one, but I still enjoyed myself. There is still a lot to learn about the game, and I'll have to re-acquaint myself with all the monsters I thought I knew. I'd even play both those army lists again, happily so.

Here's the final kicker: it may not have been a nail-biter, but at least the game played fast enough to fit in another battle during the evening. Speed is very much in favour of Age of Sigmar.

A Pointless Comparison

If this was still 8th Ed, would the result have changed? Or been easier to predict?

Well, here's how the points work out, assuming no upgrades:
  • Sylvaneth List Cost - Around 725 by my reckoning
  • Chaos List Cost - Around 785 by my reckoning

So using the wounds as a ready reckoner isn't all that bad, from a WFB points point-of-view. I'd guess that the Chaos Army would have been a lot less effective on the field in the old system - the Trolls would have mostly been stupid, the Giant would have been a lot less reliable. But a firebreathing Chimera using a breath weapon on a Treeman would spell trouble, and the Elf lineup would struggle without missiles or heavy-hitting troops against so many fast, high T gribblies. So I'm not sure the end result would have changed, and in that case I prefer the faster, simpler rules of AoS! I may have to hang up my beard in confused shame.

And that may be the Warriors of Chaos' first victory against the Elves! (albeit without any warriors, or elves, actually present)


  1. Good to read.

    I too delved into forays of Age of Sigmar as Leofa was visiting.

    Two lists built (using the wound reckoner).

    I'd joked about using 5 greater daemons only against some ogors... (if they are ogors why do they have an ogre club?) but went with dark elves/druchii/exiles or whatever they are now. In to which a dragon was placed. Only one, but we thought the monster would have its way. And it did, in every fight, until it was ganged up on by three units - then it was toast.

    Enjoyable game though

    1. "...if they are ogors why do they have an ogre club?"

      Maybe they've paid their membership fees in advance?

  2. Yeah, Monsters seem pretty badass. Like everything else, though, they aren't particularly indestructible! Just takes a spot longer.