Sunday, July 31, 2011

Warhammer: Skaven vs. Orc & Goblins

Today’s blog is about Warhammer and my favorite foes: The Orcs and Goblins. And I want to type down my thoughts while my memory is still more or less fresh (despite going straight to a D&D-session afterwards).
I’m no expert at writing battle-reports. Therefore, this is not a battle-report as such. It’s me rambling about my experience with the rat men, when confronted with the orcs and their savage lot. I have a few battles with the Skavens under my belt, but I am by no means anything more than a casual gamer, hoping to inspire and encourage my fellow rat-players with advice. Take my comments and thoughts for what they are, even if it’s just simple entertainment.

My first impressions:
Ironically, O&G is one of the sides I’ve played against the least. But once I do challenge them I tend to enjoy it a lot. I’ve always favored armies with some amusing surprises up their sleeves, that at the same time didn’t take themselves all too seriously. In truth; when I returned to WFB about a year ago, my first impulse was to play O&G. A choice I was quickly discouraged from, in favor of Warriors of Chaos, that now make up one third of my Warhammer-minis. But I’ve always been in love with the green-skins, deep down inside.
But the O&G provide you with plenty of reasons to hate them too. With their new army book, the barbaric hordes have several tools to make your life a living hell. Combined with either numerous or tough-as-nails troops and potentially devastating magic, this is no longer a side to take on lightly.
First and foremost, I was blessed with a true gentleman of an opponent. I therefore didn’t expect to see any stupid or abusive list, and instead went for whatever I wanted to try out. He even was so kind to provide me with some advice that seemed valuable for my composition.
My second blessing is the fact that I’ve played O&G with my dwarf army. It was a hard lesson for me, especially because I got butchered, despite having all the odds with me. The massive horde of savage orcs was simply too savage, I was too stupid to shoot them up in time, and the Doom Divers packed a nasty punch on my poor Hammerers. But this time; I was going in with the hordes of the Underempire!
Thoughts about army-composition:
We played 2000 points and no special restrictions.
I usually go with what I feel like, but due to said crushing defeat with the dwarves, I also wanted to make sure I’d inflict at least some carnage.
As it has been argued by many; Skavens are all about numbers. Lots of them. And whereas some people swear to Skryre-armies with tons of guns, weapon teams and catapults, I’m more the “Boys before toys” kind of guy. It looks impressive, and never fails to leave my opponent with a certain impression, once he sees the black carpet of rats. Besides, I lost to some nasty attrition with the dwarves, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to do so this time.
In this light it’s likely no surprise how much I love slaves. I adore slaves. They’re so wonderful in every possible way, and I always bring at least 100 of them. Against the orcs, I was pretty certain I’d be facing something with a punch, such as trolls or savages. The slaves would be the primary anvil for this, and maybe even inflict a little damage. I made up two blocks of 50.
As the wild-card I brought 50 clan rats as a horde. Either as an additional anvil, or in horde-formation to inflict extra damage. Additionally, 20 clan rats were brought to shield the Warlord and the BSB, who were to provide the bunker with much needed leadership. For the BSB I chose the Storm Banner. It’s an old favorite of mine, and as mentioned; war machines are trouble. Disrupting just one shot can be worth all the points and more so.
My hammers: Abominations. Two of them. This was a gamble for me (yes, I hear all of you out there laughing at this statement, as these are clearly some of the most awesome units in the Skaven-army). They were to drive up between my units and smash into enemy flanks. Besides, I brought 50 giant rats for my flank. I never tried giant rats that much, so it’d be as good as any.
I also included two ‘Rat Darts’. For those who’ve never heard this term, it’s the name for five giant rats along with a pack master. For the mere sum of 23 points you have a very fast, albeit small, unit that you can basically throw away at your leisure. Against O&G they make for awesome fanatic-revealers and maybe they can even take down a war machine. Even then, they make for good harassment or just speed bumps. Just make sure to place them away from anything that might panic, once they get smashed.
Finally there was magic and gadgets. For this I took a Grey Seer with a Power Scroll, a Warlock (Level 1) and finally two ordinary warlocks with a doom rocket and a brass orb respectively. The orb, I admit, might seem like a gamble, but then again O&G aren’t really known for their great initiative, and lobbing it into a regiment of Initiative 2 trolls seemed like a really great idea for those 65 points.
My seer stuck mostly to Pestilence. This was a purely aesthetical choice. I could’ve gotten more from Ruin, depending on my opponents’ choice of troops. Luckily, he brought a lot of goblins and almost no orcs, making my spells a solid choice. I kind of regret not choosing the 13th spell, but I assumed I’d get more out of skitterleap, all my fancy gadgets considered.
Finally, five gutter-runners with poisoned slings. I hate Doom Divers. I really, really do. In a sense I could’ve brought more than five, which I likely will in future games.  These guys always make for great war-machine hunters.
To the field of battle!
I didn’t get to take either pictures or notes, since my mind is quite focused on the game at all times. But if memory serves, my opponent fielded two regiments of trolls, two hordes of night-goblins, two units of wolves, two Doom Divers  and a level 4 orc shaman along with a level 2 goblin shaman.  At the flanks, four chariots with scythes made their way.
I rolled the spells Plague, Wither, Cloud of Corruption and Skitterleap. My warlock had Warp Lightning.
We rolled up ‘Battle for the Pass’ and besides some fence and two buildings in each end, there was a fimir-mire at one end, an elven rune-stone at the other, and an arcane ruin.

I got to chose sides, and being the ignorant I am, naturally selected the one with the biggest disadvantage for me. In hindsight, I probably figured I could push him back into the swamp or something. Not sure. It was stupid.
Deployment:
I’d practiced an (in my eyes) awesome setup from home, deciding to go Bunker-style in this games.
I placed my rat darts all out in the flanks, at the frontline. In the middle the 50 clan rats took the front, along with the seer. On their flanks were two deep regiments of 50 slaves, each housing a the warlocks with the doom rocket and orb. Behind them and in the middle were 20 clan rats, my BSB, general warlord and final level 1 caster with his Warp Lightning. Frankly this guy was mostly included to be a scroll-caddy. If he could lob off a lightning, great. Otherwise he just channeled.
In between the 50 clannies and two slave-units I placed the aboms. A bit behind, so they wouldn’t accidently hit fifth gear and speed off ahead of the army. Finally, the giant rats took the right flank to smash the chariots and hopefully proceed through the back. The gutter runners were set up for reinforcements.
Closing in and playing Scorched Earth:
As said, I didn’t take enough notes or pictures to really justify any kind of report. It’d be way too vague and hardly of much use.
In a broad perspective my opponent went for the first turn, meaning I swiftly turned on my Storm Banner.
I was quick to dismiss this thing back in the early days, but it’s really damn good and should pretty much be brought along for most fights in which you rely on a solid bunch of rats to do the killing. Not really sure how much good it would do in a shooty Skaven-army, but then again, I’ve been there and bought the T-shirt. I’d show it to you, but sadly it misfired on the way home and engulfed my suitcase in flames.
Sadly, the Storm Banner failed in epic proportion, as both Doom-Divers made their 4+ rolls and swiftly started nuking the poor rats. Of course it wasn’t really a biggie for me, as my bunker would easily hold, and the giant rats were well out of sight behind a house. Not surprisingly this resulted in dual-hatred against my first abomination which luckily made it’s regeneration saves for the first nuke, but took two wounds from the second.  At the start of my turn, the effect ended. Quite a short storm.
Nothing big really happened during the first two turns, as far as I remember. As we played in the pass, there was some way to navigate through, including a dangerous fimir-swamp. We both made some bold attempts to get off some magic, including my deviously planned skitterleap, but alas. Only a hand of gork managed to drag some chariots into position. I fired my Doomrocket, as the engineer was likely to get squished very soon, and I don’t need to tell you anything about me and Doomrocket-dices. We don’t roll well.
My gutter runners entered the table in the second turn. A rare incidence. They managed to take out one Doom Diver in the first turn, and got damn near destroying the second one, before being wiped out by a rallied regiment of trolls.
Once the close combat began, I will admit I got quite lucky, albeit my original plan never turned out as intended. I suppose that’s a rare luxury in the Warhammer-world.
My right regiment of slaves clashed with the wolf-riders and my giant rats assaulted the chariots on my right flank. In the middle,  my two abominations progressed up to address the two regiments of trolls (This was a very bold move for me, which happened mostly due to limited maneuverability) and my other regiment of slaves charged the remaining chariots. In the middle my clan rats took cover in the tower, in order to provide line of sight to the seer.  The small clan rat regiment scuttled up, carefully maintaining the LD-bubble. I really wanted to lob that Brass Orb into the face of those trolls, in case they broke through.

Melee and How I love Abominations and Plague
I’m so often amazed at how much punch a horde of slaves can pack. No wonder they’re the best regiment in the game!
Some miscasts meant that the Orc-Shaman lost basically all but one spell; Foot of Gork. Whereas this spell is indeed potentially lethal, it’s one of those I don’t mind falling victim to, because it’s fluff is so awesome. For my part, I got off a miscasted Wither, which was lost along with two wizard levels. Luckily, my Seer survived his 4+ chance to avoid being sucked into chaos, and the next turn it was Plague-time.
I’ve heard lots of good things about Plague, and even though it may seem like an odd pick against O&G I really wished to try it out. Through the game I tried my luck with some trolls (being the only target within range, which frankly was me being reckless) and best; the goblin hordes. Initially I hit his horde right behind the trolls, and with an awesome roll of 5 on the table, it immediately jumped right to the next regiment. I can’t remember how many goblins I took out, but it was a lot. Also, it made some dents in the characters along the way.  There is so much potential in this spell that I frankly can’t see how I’ve missed it for so long.

On a melee-note, my slaves DID manage to cause some serious mayhem. Not only did they send the wolf riders and chariots fleeing on both flanks, they also took very light casualties and advanced. Thanks to terrain, the chariots drove for the hills and ended up pretty much at the back of the table, in which my Rat Darts were ready to do some harassment.
The Giant Rats tore the chariots apart and lined up to flank charge the troll regiment engaged with my abom. Sadly, the wolf riders rallied and managed to block the way.
It didn’t matter much though, since my abomination went on a rampage, single-handedly annihilating trolls. After beating them in combat, the trolls legged it but were overrun by the monstrosity. This caused the general and BSB to take a panic-test, which was (to my joy) double-failed. So they ran for it, through the swamp, and were now well out in the distance.
This bought me enough time to bring both abominations to battle with the goblin-horde and its many heroes. Another thing I learned here, is that 1-2 on the Abom Attack-chart can be devastating to enemy characters.  Once two of them joined the fray, the rest of the army had free room to line up for a good charge and prepare once the general and the trolls returned.
The first abom died without resurrection shortly after, though. It did provide me with two nice rat-swarms, that managed to inflict an additional wound on the very expensive orc-shaman. As the game neared its end, my second abom annihilated the rest of the goblin horde and started chewing through the general’s regiment. Sadly he brought the fire, and even though it fought valiantly, it was reduced to a burning crater of charcoal soon after.
The final turn; Thinking like a skaven.
The culmination of dice luck was likely during the final turn, in which I was greatly saddened by the fact that 1) The very expensive orc shaman stood with 1 wound. 2) My brass orb was itching to be thrown. Luckily, my opponent decided to channel with a full +4 dices for being near the arcane ruins, and rolled up three sixes. Even I get lucky some times, as he took a wound and collapsed with power seething through his corpse. A net gain in victory points for me, and man did I earn it! (At least I think so).
At this time, my clan rats carrying the seer, warlord and battlestandard bearer were charged by the O&G general, bsb and remaining goblins. As this was the final turn, I decided to act like a Skaven and get out of there. If I could deny him victory-points for my characters, all the better. This might seem like a douche-way to do it, but you’ve gotta admit it’s true to the nature of the rat men.
My slaves took it like a man and braced themselves for the incoming chariot. Sadly, nothing really happened although they did make a dent in it.
The great finisher of the battle was my warlock, who decided to leave his regiment of slaves and run up to the remaining tree trolls. With a sadistic glee, I rolled my scatter-dice and found the “HIT!” result extremely appealing. The Brass Orb landed right where it was supposed to.
Of course, my opponent managed to roll a 1 on one of the dices.
But I suppose I deserve credit for trying.

Final Thoughts
I hope I have made just a little bit of sense here. As said, I’m not used to this but did my best to present the highlights of the battle.  I won, although we didn’t bother calculating, as we both had to catch the bus, but admittedly through some dice-luck. It’s certain that had he not panicked with his general, they would’ve sliced through my first abomination and down behind my ranks, which would’ve left me defenseless. But I suppose that’s why I really love this game so very much. It’s not always possible to predict these things, and even the best planned battles can end up in total mayhem.
What I learned (TLDR-version):
- Whereas ‘Boys before Toys’ is a better strategy to me, I deployed in the stupid end of the table. Going for open terrain with few obstacles is the way to go. I ended up having around 70 troops that couldn’t perform as intended, which is unacceptable.
-  Wither (on trolls, in this case) and Plague performed wonders. Especially cast into enemy regiments in close combat with Abominations.
- Abominations. Once I tried them, I realize why so many people fear them. Bringing two puts a lot of carnage of the table.
- Giant rats. I somehow wish I brought more of these guys, since they can seriously pack a punch. Just make sure not to throw them at anything with too much of a toughness or something that hits back too hard. I have a hard time not getting too cocky with these guys, which I paid for when I threw them at five trolls. Even thought they did cause some damage, they splattered and quickly broke from combat and were destroyed.
Magic items: Storm Banner, Power Scoll, Dispel Scroll, Doom Rocket and Brass Orb all did their job here (mostly). Had Doom Rocket actually destroyed anything, I’d be more optimistic. The Orb+skitterleap can be such a nasty combo against anything with low initiative (which counts for some of the nasty stuff in the O&G-army).

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