Monday, May 23, 2011

3500 Warriors of Chaos versus 3500 Lizardmen, Watchtower Scenario

After the experiment with the wizard on the dragon, I wanted to try an actually Chaos fighter lord on dragon. With the Ogre Blade, mark of tzeentch, Enchanted Shield and Talisman of Preservation he ends up having a 1+ armor save, 3+ ward, 7 S5 attacks, 6 strength 6 attacks, dragon breath and thunderstomp. He should do a number on infantry blocks and is quite capable of going after war machines, tough monsters, etc.

I actually like this build so much I am going to name him. Mithridates will make a come-back, and the dragon will be called Phangoria. Look it up. It is funny.

So when we decided to play an all-night game prior to me flying out to Nebraska, I was hoping it would be big enough to try him out.

We ended up rolling for size and 3500 came up. Score! Of course, fitting him him meant I would be susceptible to strong magic. I would have at best a level 2 wizard....

With over 700 points tied up in one character, I put in my normal BSB, a couple of level 2s marked with tzeentch, one with dispel scroll and the other with infernal puppet.

After fiddling around with points I ended up with a block of 20 chaos warriors with shield and tzeentch, a 14 warrior with khorne and great weapons and 2 marauder horsemen with throwing axes. I also had an h-cannon, warshrine, dragon ogre shaggoth, and 5 man and 10 man knight units. Whoops...due to points I had to drop the  10 man down to 5.

I like this build. If it is a straight up fight I just need to push forward and get into the right combats...hold them up with my 3+ save, 5+ ward Warrior block and blast the flanks with my hard hitting units while the Shaggoth and Dragon go after hard targets.

If blood and glory I have 4 units with banners, the BSB and my general. And if the Watchtower, if I get to set up in it, 20 Chaos Warriors with 3+/5+ re-rolling on an 8 are going to be hard to shift. I can use my other units to keep them from getting attacked.

Time to set up the field.

The field ended up being a bit...well, I thought at the time we had kind of blown the set-up. The center of the table was kind of crowded but there was little or nothing affecting the deployment zones. Too much of the terrain was next to each other. After the scenario, though, I think it was quite well set up. Had a nice impact on mobility.

They were taking a dual slann list. One had Life (?), the other metal. They had I think 3 other 10 man saurus blocks, a bik skink/kroxigor block and a couple units of skinks. Also the Engine and another stegadon.

As is typical for me when I see such a list, I immediately start thinking of its strengths. This army is quite well set up to crush my Warriors. I despise the lore of metal. It essentially removes my army wide strength of armor. Wish I had some lore that did not allow enemy armies their specialty....that removed ASF for high elfs, hatred for dark elves, cold blooded for lizardmen, etc. Saving grace is they have to be cast successfully. Downside is...with +2 to cast and the Slann abilities to add a die to every spell...I could be in a world of hurt.

Add to that the Engine allowing no armor saves and they have the potential to do a large amount of unstoppable damage that I can do nothing about. I just have to hope I can minimize that.

It used to be the Saurus would not bother me. I used to argue that they would sub-par and over-cost, that they did not do enough damage against weaker troops (say...empire state troops) and were as weak as state troops against stronger troop choices like Ogres. If there is one thing the Warriors are strong on, it is high quality troops.

Ironically, it was my brothers who convinced me the Saurus are better than I believed and a threat even to the warriors. So I am concerned. The skinks will cause me lots of saves which I tend to fail in large quantities, the Saurus outnumber me and their temple guard seem to be a valid threat to even my Warriors, they will dominate the magic phase and I could be in trouble.

I roll a 5 to snag the tower. I am happy. I already have my plan formed. I am going to throw my tough block into the tower, then tie up his other units and hope the game ends on turn 4 with me having 1 or 2 Warriors left in the tower.

I know that is all that matters. I can lose every guy I have except one. As long as I have one guy left but he is in the tower I will win. So that is the plan.

Then they spoil my plan by rolling a 6. "Fortunately" the only unit they have to put in there is a 10 Saurus block. I figure to be able to kill them...but will I be able to then occupy the tower?

I throw the 2 Marauder Horsemen units on the right as a feint. Everything else I plant right around the tower. My bog block of 20 is directly opposite the tower. The 14 khorne great weapons are to their left, the 5 man knights to their right in front with the 10 behind, the Shaggoth right of that and the cannon out to the side to get a line of sight. I plan to drop it on the Metal Tempe Guard/Slann unit hoping to get lucky.

I get to go first.

Warriors of Chaos Turn 1
I want to soften up the tower and do not want to use my Warriors to do it. I want to keep them protected as long as possible. I think it will take 2 turns to wipe out the Saurus in the tower. I also forget the rules....I start moving other units to block him off from entering the tower after I clear it out. If I can tie up his infantry units in combat then I will have time to occupy it on my turn. Otherwise, I figure I will kill his garrison off on my turn, then he will occupy it with a temple guard unit on his turn and that will be game.

The Knights make it into the tower, the big warrior block moves close hoping to be able to occupy it on turn 3, the khorne warriors move up on the building's left and the dragon flies in that direction.

I roll a whopping 11 dice for magic. I throw 6 at Infernal Gateway at his Metal slann. I want irresistible force. I will take my chances with the mis-cast. That is the most dangerous thing he has on the table to me. I am going to concentrate on it.

I roll a total of about 21, he rolls all his Dispel dice and stuffs it. I have 5 dice left and nothing to do.

Shooting; I center the template on the Metal Slann. It scatters off a couple inches. I then roll a "1" for the guy under the template and a 2 to wound the slann. Even though he loses 5 or 6 Saurus...I am disappointed. So far this turn has not gone well. Both units of Horsemen combine to get zero hits on their respective targets (I had moved them to throw shots at his terradons and a small Saurus block).

The tower battle goes very well, however. My 5 frenzied knights do what 5 frenzied knights do and wipe out all 10 saurus before they even get to attack.

The good news is...the tower is now empty. The bad news knights are in the way of my warrior block getting into the tower.

Lizardman Turn 1

His terradons and saurus charge my marauder horsemen. I flee the terradons...and he overruns them. My other unit stands and shoots at his Saurus, do no damage and die in close combat.

The Metal Slann Temple Guard marches but outside the parameters of the building. The Engine moves up close to the building. The other Slann unit advances on what I call the left side of the building. Unbeknownst to them, they are playing right into the battle plan I formulated.

The old saw is "battle plans never survive contact with the enemy". They had no way of knowing this...but they were actually doing exactly what I would have begged them to do. By those moves they gave me the chance...albeit a slim one...of getting off suicide charges on both units. Clever movement of my BSB would mean I could tie them up with hard to kill, stubborn units.

They then rolled I think a 3 or 4 for the winds of magic. I breath a huge sigh of relief. They first attempt throne of vines. I do not even hesitate, I let it go. I know it protects them from miscast but it does not hurt me. I am saving all my dice to stop anything that lowers my armor save permanently or is damaging with no save.

My plan works as I have enough dispel dice to stop their casting.

Their stegadon bow misses. The skinks they put into the tower next to the watchtower then shoot at my dragon, one poison hit which I duly fail. After all, I only had a 3+...I am bound to fail one of 3 of those, might as well get it out of the way early.

So overall, the first turn was excellent for me. I already think the game comes down to one die roll which I will attempt post haste.

Warriors of Chaos Turn 2
The door is open. If I can get my Knights out of the way I will shove my Warriors block into the tower and then thrown everything I have at keeping him from assaulting it. I will save all my dice to protect the tower in the magic phase.

I declare the key charges. My knights with the zteentch mark and banner of rage charge the temple guard. This will come as a surprise to just about everyone...but I actually would not have done this in any other scenario.

As awesome as my knights are, I think they will severely reduce the Temple Guard unit but will eventually die. I want to combo-charge this unit. However, in the Watchtower scenario, the only thing that matters is occupying the tower. If I fail my swift reform roll, I need to keep him out of the tower.

Meanwhile, Shaggoth charges the terradons who also choose to flee. They go a long, long way.

On the left I advance my khorne warriors toward his other temple guard block.

It is now time for THE most important roll in the game. If I can swift reform the Knights, I will move them out of the way and shove my warrior block in the tower.

The charges succeeds, the swift reform...passes. I get my 3+, 5+ save, 20 man block into the tower. I now have a strong advantage.

Meanwhile, their positioning means I cannot get the dragon out of range of the skinks, but I fly him behind their lines anyway, aiming to charge the Engine next turn. I need to kill that thing off at all costs, because they have it perfectly positioned to kill off a few Warriors every turn.

I roll a 5 or 6 on the winds. After a brief debate,  I dispel Throne with all my dice. Probably should have tried Infernal on his engine.

The h-cannon scatters away, doing no harm.

My knights on the right do a few casualties and lose one of their own.

This next turn will be key. He will charge with his Temple Guard, do a few casualties, I will do a few. I actually figure I am about 85% likely to win the combat, I just need to withstand the attrition because that is what this has become; a war of attrition. I think they will work to wear down my block with repeated suicide charges and the Engine. Will I be able to hold out?

Lizardmen Turn 2
I get a huge shock. They do NOT charge the Temple Guard into the tower. Instead they move up between the tower and the Bane Tower or whatever it is. They move the razordon to block my Dragon charge on the engine and a jungle swarm hoping to also block.  The skink/kroxigor block swings around the tower.

They roll another low number on the Winds. He then fluffs Throne and I dispel his Metal spell. The Burning Alignment rolls a low number, does in one of the knights fighting his temple guard.

In combat I kill his champion again (came back to Throne prior turn I think?) and he kills another knight. I do almost no other casualties as they make every save.

Warriors of Chaos Turn 3
On the left I charge my khorne warriors into his Temple Guard. I believed they had made a mistake by not charging the tower last turn. (We had quite a debate about this post game. They had a different strategy than I would employ that they believed...and still believe in...which has some merit. If I knew then what I know now, I might not have charged...but I doubt it.)

This actually contradicts one of Napoleons dictates; "Never interrupt the enemy in the course of making a mistake." However, it also comes into whether they were making a mistake. And it completely comes down to point of view.

For the strategy they had adopted it was not a mistake. It was only a mistake if they had the same battle plan I would adopt in their place...which they would not. So while for me it would have been a mistake to not charge the tower, for them it was the correct play. Confused? Check out my post-battle meanderings for a more thorough discussion.

Behind his lines I charge Mithridates and Phangoria into his razordon. The stand and shoot is appalling as he rolls 2 hits and a misfire, eating a skink. He does no damage.
On the right Shaggoth charges his terradon who flee. A long way.

On the left he does in a couple of warriors and I then do in 14 of his temple Guard. Wow. that was..unexpected. It is also more what I used to think of Saurus.

He was striking first with I think 13 S5 attacks plus whatever the Slann does (read "nothing"). His S5 reduces my save to a 6+.   The damage done was quite modest. The khorne warriors, however, were devastating. Over 20 attacks needing 3s to hit, 2s to wound with a -3 are going to put a hurt on anyone. Him saving I think zero of them did not hurt.

On the right I do in a couple of his temple guard. I think he did not do any back, but he might have.

Mithridates and Phangoria do their thing, killing the razordon and over-running into the engine.

So this was a stupendous turn for me. I am in position to get some help to my Knight block on the right which is whittling down his temple guard, I am going to kill his life Slann in oneish more turns, I am a turn or two from ending the Engine's burning alignment, and the Shaggoth will stall his 10 Saurus block on the right. Even if he hammers Shaggy, 10 Saurus are not going to win this game for them.

Oh, think this was the turn I gave him a 3+ save with the Warshrine. So he is going to be pretty tough.

Lizardmen Turn 3
He moves some skinks up behind the Saurus on my right. His Terradons fail their rally test and fly off the field.

He again rolls abominably on the Winds...maybe a 3? 4? Their plan to regrow the Temple Guard on my left flies out the window. They do not have enough to Throne AND a metal spell. They cast a metal spell. I would need double 6s to stop it (might have been Dwellers Below, come to think of was either that or Final Transmutation. Either way, all 20 of my Chaos Warriors take a test and die on a 5 or 6. That should drop them to about 12...I had lost a couple to Burning Alignment already).

I burn my Dispel Scroll. Burning does a wound to the dragon, takes down another knight, wounds one of my wizards.

In the shooting phase he hits the shaggoth twice with poison. Needing 3s to save, I take both wounds. Ugh.

I kill his skink priest in a challenge, then put a couple wounds on the Stegadon who wounds the dragon back. I now have 3 wounds on him. Just now occurred to me I forgot to roll on the Eye chart. Irrelevant, but would have been fun.

Warriors of Chaos Turn 4
Shaggy charges his Saurus. The cannon and Shrine move forward. Magic is pointless. I have nothing to dispel, nothing to cast.

Close combat is my specialty of course. The ancient stegadon dies, his Life Slann/Temple Guard block dies, I do a couple wounds to his Saurus with Shaggy (and take one back). The game is really over at this point. He does not have enough juice left to dislodge my essentially untouched tower-holding warrior block and I am devastating him everywhere else.

He does finish off my Knights, though. They did their job, whittling him down to maybe 5 or 6 Temple Guard left. Maybe less.

Lizardmen Turn 4
A little movement, another failed magic turn. His Kroxigor block did get into combat with the tower. I killed his skink champ in a challenge, put 2 or 3 wounds on kroxigor but think he did not get anything through.

I think this is the turn he charged my BSB who was left in the open when my knights died. I had been using him to keep Shaggy and the Knights stubborn. His positioning left him open.

Warriors of Chaos Turn 5
The knights charge in with Shaggy, my cannon and shrine finish off his other Saurus, he kills my BSB on his way out the door. The game is really over at this point so we call it.

Wrapping up
First off, what went right?

I think I came up with a really solid battle plan. The only mistakes I felt like I made were irrelevant. My Marauder Horsemen are in the list to go after Repeater Bolt Throwers, Stone Throwers, Jezzail Teams, Cannons. He had none. I threw them away going after irrelevant targets. They were not speed bumping units.

But it was at worst a minor mistake. I am not sure I want them in front of his tempe guard anyway as they would occupy space I would rather have for other units.

I had superior fortune in killing off his Saurus in turn one and then being able to occupy it myself with the block I wanted in there. There was very little chance I would fail my swift reform. I was trying on a re-rollable 9 due to Mithridates and the BSB. Had he kept just one Saurus alive, the game might have gone much different. As it was, I accomplished my goal in turn two and was able to put my plan into effect.

From this point on, my battle plan worked to perfection. I was able to occupy every unit he had that could assault the building and whittle them down to where they would be no threat to my warriors. I threw everything I had into stopping anything that could really hurt me. I got rid of his Engine's burning alignment, seldom had to stop metal magic and had plenty of dice to do so.

In the last couple of turns I made up for early bad fortune. The first couple of turns I was failing every save, he was making a lot of saves, my attacks other than the first tower assault were poor. I think it was 4 times I hit with 5 attacks, needed 2s to wound and did 2 wounds.

But most important of all, they rolled abominably for the winds of magic every turn. I think 6 was the most dice they ever got. They had based their strategy around crushing me with metal magic and regrowing their units. They never got enough dice to do both and spent their dice on Throne, leaving no dice for Magic.

Late in the game my dice were much better. They more than made up for the earlier pathetic rolls.

What went wrong?
Well...these are nothing but nit-picking. My shooting was horrific. The cannon scattered every turn, it never hit the Slann that was its target and was again ineffectual....though it was pretty awesome in close combat.

I did not know the correct rules or might have played slightly different. For whatever reason I was thinking you could not occupy the tower if you killed everyone in it. Otherwise I might have assaulted the building with my Warriors early on.

As mentioned above, early in the game I was failing every save. The shaggoth failed the first 2 3+ saves, the dragon failed all 3 3+ saves he attempted, my 5+ ward never saved anyone from the Burning Alignment.

All in all, it was a highly entertaining game against my brothers.

Now, on to the big controversy. Strategy.

Let me preface this by saying this; one of the things that makes Warhammer go is that different people make different strategies work. My take on this is not "right" or "wrong", it is MINE. By the same toke, their strategy is not "right", it is not "wrong", it is THEIRS.

Their strategy would not work for me. My strategy would not work for them. Whatever else you take away from the following, THAT is the key principle.

In the Tower scenario, only one thing matters. Who has a model in the tower when the game ends. Nothing else matters. Who killed what? Does not matter. How many saves did I make? Irrelevant. Did I get off an epic charge? Who cares. Do I have a model in the tower and is the game over? Button made of win.

If the roles are reversed, I am going to throw everything I have at the tower. I know going in that if I have Skinks, Saurus Warriors, or even Temple Guard and am facing Chaos Warriors...with or without the 3+ armor save, 5+ ward save...that I am going to lose the vast majority of combats. I am going to lose many more models in EVERY combat.

Math-hammer time.
10 Temple Guard with Halberds v. 10 Chaos Warriors with hand weapon/shield and tzeentch.
Chaos attacks first; 21 attacks hitting on 3s, 14 hits. 7 wounds with a -1. He saves, I want to save base 3+ save, 4+ net, he takes 3.5 - 4 wounds per turn.

21 attacks back (assuming champions are alive). 10.5 hits. 3 - 4 wounds, I save 2 -3 with armor alone. So he may or may not do a wound in any given assault (by the way, after this game I am back to believing what I used to believe; Saurus cost too much for what they are).

So honestly, I am going to win over 90% of the times this combat takes place.

At the same time, take the Knights versus Temple Guard grind. I wore him down over the course of several turns and he wiped out my unit (with the assistance of the burning alignment).  There was one turn where I think I failed 3 saves (only to make my only ward save with that unit in the game).

THAT is the turn my strategy revolves around. I want the charge where I have the statistical outlier. 18 of my attacks hit, 12 of them wound, my opponent saves 2.

Is it likely to happen? No. But I think it is my BEST CHANCE. Burning alignment is still taking off one or 2 models a turn. Reinforcements are theoretically available to me. My opponent has to hope to hold on. I can do this with multiple units. My first one dies horribly after 2 or 3 assaults? I send in the next unit.

This strategy requires me to protect the units I plan to tag-team the tower. I sacrifice the Terradons, small Saurus blocks, and skink blocks to keep my Temple Guard units available to charge the building every turn until the game is over or my guys are all dead.

Conversely, if I take the strategy they adopted and plan to kill everything in the building with magic and the burning alignment, I am going to fire everything I have at it.

When they rolled low on magic, I thought they got distracted. Throne of Vines is nice...but it does nothing to whittle down the numbers in the tower. If I were trying their strategy, instead of casting throne I would have been max dice at Final Transmutation or Dwellers below every turn. (Or Comet of Cassandora if they had it). If I lose my Slann to a mis-cast it is bad...but not as bad as going a turn without attacking the unit in the building.

Every shot I can muster, no matter how unlikely, is going to be aimed at the building. The 10 skinks in the building next door are going to be pot-shotting the building, even knowing I need 7s or more and am unlikely to do a casualty. But every casualty I do is just one small nick of attrition that is irreplaceable.

As it was, from my standpoint they got distracted. Burning alignment was taking 1 or at most 2 warriors per turn. Since I had 20 of them, that meant they needed 10 - 18 turns to get the job done with burning alignment.

I never had a Metal spell affect that unit. Each turn they had other things they attempted. We disagreed after the game on whether that was the right move. They believe they made the correct move, I was far more worried about the metal spells that could quickly and seriously reduce the number of Warriors I had available to defend the tower.

So it felt like I I was not facing a concentrated assault against the building. To me things like the Throne, shooting at my Dragon/khorne warriors were distracting them from the most important point of contact.

The thing is...I am in complete agreement with them on one point. Regardless of whether you go the magic/burning alignment route or the assault/assault/assault route, once I got that block into the building they were very, very unlikely to ever move them out. I suspect I win that game 98% of the time.

The question before us is what is more likely to win those 2% of the games. So for your amusement, I present the two strategies we discussed and let you choose for yourself.

Their strategy was to do a couple wounds with burning alignment and try to get a few more each turn with either Final Transmutation or Dwellers Below.

This has the probability to do several wounds a turn. I think it has an excellent chance of being successful and, in my belief, is best supported by throwing as many shots as possible in support. The hope is to use Burning Alignment, shooting, and magic to do 4 - 5 wounds a turn, then assault with the Skink/Kroxigor unit when it has been whittled down to a handful of warriors.

Weaknesses are if you roll low for Burning Aligment, Winds of Magic, or cannot get a spell through or cannot get your shooting into position.

Conversely, the strategy I would probably adopt would be combining Burning Alignment with assaults. This would also rely on having a secondary target; killing the BSB.

The goal here is to win that one combat and have them fail the Leadership roll. It is unlikely to work. As we saw above, neither Saurus nor Temple Guard are going to do very many casualties in an average combat.

However, if you have played Warhammer for long, you have seen the untouchable unit of doom fluff their attacks and the sub-par unit roll unbelievably well. I have seen night goblins take out iron-breakers, for example.

I have also seen LD 9 Dwarves with a re-roll have 3 units run in one turn.

And that is what I am shooting for. I want to wear down the Chaos Warriors,  hoping that Burning Alignment and my Temple Guard will take down 2 to 3 Warriors per turn and, if I am lucky, win a combat and have them fluff the roll.

Once the Chaos Warriors get into the building, the game is going to be won by Chaos the vast majority of the time.

The question is what someone believes gives them the best chance to climb the mountain.

Both plans have merit. The magic approach will almost assuredly do more damage over the course of the game if allowed to happen. It then requires assaults that rely on finishing off a weakened unit or getting that failed Leadership test.

The assault plan wants to do more casualties in one turn and get more chances at failed Leadership tests. It requires getting lucky and winning assaults you are unlikely to win.

Again...neither is likely to happen. Both are long-shots. It just depends on the mind-set of the person playing it which works better for them.

Run the numbers and you will find what all three of us already know; no matter which way you go, once the Warriors take the building, it is all but game over. So the moral of the story is this; if you engage in the Tower scenario with the Warriors of Chaos, do everything you can to keep them from getting into the tower.

Send squads to stand between their units that can occupy it. You will die, but they will not be in the building. If they get in the building, throw absolutely everything you have at them every turn as soon as possible, as often as possible.

And if those things fail, distract them while you move the tower into your deployment zone and hope he does not notice....


John M said...

Another great write. I found your analysis of each game you play really interesting. Comment on your opponents mistake not being a mistake... was good.

Darth Weasel said...

glad you enjoyed the write.

I like revisiting the games because it really sheds a lot of light. When you are in the moment and things are moving along, a lot of times it feels one way....but when you look back, it changes.

For example, this one felt like a close game for a little over three turns...but looking back, it was never really close once I got into the building...though of course had they gotten a decent roll on the winds of magic for a couple turns, it might have been much different.

As for whether they made a mistake or not, some things are like that. A mistake for person, the right move for another.

In this case, they were just unlucky in that they played right into the plan I had developed and then got shafted by getting no dice to cast spells. So I got pretty lucky in that regard.

Fullur said...

One point I have to make is that there was absolutely no chance of us keeping you out of the tower. Zero. If we do not place a unit in the tower you do. If we place a unit in the tower, you kill them first turn and take it second turn. Starting 12" away with an 8" move means we cannot get there first. Preventing you from taking the building is a functional impossibility. That means we have to dislodge a unit that is going to save something on the order of 60% of our SUCCESSFUL wounds (not counting those that ignore armor saves). The probability of the magic succeeding is higher than charging the building, especially considering you were hitting the only troops we had available to hit the building on the second turn, that is, the turn in which you took the building. (I think you charged one in turn two, one in turn three.) Charging the building wasn't even an option.

I will concede the point we probably should have forgone the Throne of Vines to attempt more offensive magic. That is a function of my always having been a defensive player and something I will have to work on.

It just occurred to me the tactic we probably should have used: charge the engine in. It cannot take the building, and I am thinking it would not get impact hits, but with its attacks and Thunderstomp it could have done some damage. Of course, you would have killed the priest on the first combat negating the engine which would have been a negative, and we would have only gotten two charges if that out of him...

Oh well, we did not stand much of a chance and things went the way they were expected to.

Darth Weasel said...

I disagree on the keeping you out of the tower. Had I fluffed the reform roll (unlikely...but I have had worse rolls), and NOT charged both your units, you could have gotten into the tower at which point I would have been incredibly unlikely to shift you out since I did not realize how much better the great weapon Warriors were than the regular chaos warriors at that point...

But that was part of my strategy. Occupy every unit I did not want to see in the tower. Primarily by charging them whenever possible.

If you had a Saurus survive the first turn was, in retrospect, your best chance; he passes ld, you could uoccupy my infantry with suicide charges...but he didn't, I passed the key test, and from there it was all but academic for sure.