Sunday, October 30, 2011

Warhammer: Skavens versus (new) Ogre Kingdoms

It’s been a while since we last spent time with our friends in the Underempire. A mistake we’re about to remedy in today’s blog.
As quite a lot of you may know the Ogre Kingdom (OK) faction recently had a significant upgrade to their chubby ranks. In fact, it was a whole new book that literally spelled pain for the unfortunate souls who (more than often) took pleasure in jesting about the lacking utility of the ogres.
If you’ve been in the game for the last year it’s honestly no secret that OK hasn’t been the most feared side of the Warhammer armies. Their book was dated to say the least, their items and magic not exactly up to par and a lot of the rules didn’t make much sense. This left them for a long while with their elderly cousins; the Wood Elves and Tomb Kings. Sides you really didn’t see all that much because they couldn’t do very much, compared to the powerful alternatives.
Recently, however, we’ve been blessed with a severe upgrade on those fronts. Whereas Wood Elves still have it coming, both OK and the undead Tomb Kings have graciously received a long overdue upgrade in the form of brand new units, rules and lists. Ogres, in particular, might have taken the biggest leap from one of the weakest to potentially some of the hardest hitting units in the game.
As said; there were so many things that never made sense in their old army. Their magic that often ended up wounding the caster, the odd ratio between gnoblar-ogre and the fact that they seemed to either panic at any given chance or simply lack anything related to a ward save. For the same reason I was really eager to look more into their new armybook once it hit the shelves. Even though I’ve never played OK.
And today, I had the pleasure of trying my first battle against them.
Something old, something new, something smashed up…and red.
Summarizing every single ogre-update would be a daunting task indeed. Frankly, I’m not even sure I’ve noticed them all because this side has changed massively, compared to what I’m used to.
I only read through the new armybook once and noticed that, first and foremost, these guys can seriously pack a nasty punch, when given the chance. Getting a good charge is the bread and butter for ogres and only adds insult to injury. At the same time they’ve been granted new units that you’d be wise not to underestimate, such as the notorious cannon; The Ironblaster.
Other things you might recognize (perhaps even with a smile on your lips) and you’d do well to reconsider previous concepts. Units such as lead-belchers don’t blow up anymore. Man Eaters are now more or less able to pick their own combination of special abilities (which for Skaven-players is bad news in the form or dual pistol wielding ogres with Sniper and Poison. Our poor BSB’s…).
At the same time, Gut Magic is perfectly able to provide the fat men with both Stubbornness and mass Regeneration.
In other words we’re now looking at a side which has taken the piss for so long and is now back for revenge. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t expecting the worst from the ogres and a lot of skaven players on Underempire have told dreadful stories about utter defeat at their hands.
How to prepare…
Compared to my battles against Orcs and Goblins, I frankly didn’t know what to expect here. So I had to generalize a bit.
In my optic there are two major facts Skavens can utilize against the ogres. First and foremost, ogres hit hard, yes. They’re capable of delivering a hail of blows but nothing near the hailstorm you might encounter against ‘Wizards’ of Chaos. Some of these are delivered with immensely high strength, but against Skavens anything with an S higher than 3 starts spelling bad luck. Once they reach 5 I just put them in the ‘certain death-qualification’.  What they lack, however, is the numbers. Ogre Kingdoms still field very small armies, meaning we’re able to outnumber them to a much bigger degree than we would against other sides. Harassments and outflanking becomes easier, we can even pump out tons of small units whose sole purpose is to ensure failed charges from the ogres, while we blast them apart.

Bringing us to lesson number 2; we likely won’t stand much of a chance in fair combat against the brutes. They’re simply too big and hit too hard for us to achieve any victory through strength of arms. Core Troops will likely manage to hold them for a turn, but I wouldn’t expect miracles in this regard.
Luckily, we aren’t about fighting fair. Skavens have plenty of weapons to deal with the fat men, many of them ideally designed to address their multi-wound profiles. Whereas the Hellpit will likely be able to make a serious dent in their side (can’t honestly say I’ve tried) it’s really clan Skryre that brings out the big guns now. Litterally.
The Doomwheel, Warp Lightning Cannon and Warp Fire Throwers are all wonderful toys that can spell absolute death to ogres and I made sure to bring as many of these as I could.
Finally we have your pestilent wizards. I’ve often mentioned how great Skaven Magic really is, once you understand its ways. Yes, I’m also sad that we never get to play with augmented spells but let the man-things have it. We don’t need it.
It’s likely no surprise that the lore of ‘Ruin’ is the way to go against the ogres. The D6 S5 hits from a Warp Lightning will make an impact on most Ogre-regiments, whereas the forced panic check from Scorch can work wonders for those straying regiments. Finally; Crack’s Call. There has been a LOT of debate on the net whether this spell does provide a ‘Look out, sir!’ or not. While I see good arguments on both sides, even if you play it like me (and allow LoS) this spell is so insanely good against and army whose majority of troops houses a meager Initiative 2. It’s not hard to wipe out about 9-12 wounds in one cast. Nice!

My army
I went for solid blocks of slaves and some clan rats, even though I didn’t expect them to hold for long. Two warp lightning cannons, two warpfire throwers and finally two doomwheels. For additional killing I brought a Ruin-Seer with powerscroll and five warlocks (only two of them able to spam Lightning). The rest were there for road blocking and the ever so valuable Brass Orb.
I also brought a storm banner and tried to equip my general for combat. In hindsight these points were utter wasted, he never saw any bloodshed. I could’ve tried harder to protect my BSB, really.
But all the firepower would do me no good if the ogres got the chance to shoot first. And let’s be honest, one of the things ogres have become really good at in their new army is shooting. The dreaded Ironblaster is your average cannon, only more accurate and mobile. And it grapeshoots for a nasty S10 and formerly mentioned Leadbelchers and sniping Man Eaters didn’t help either.
Besides wise deployment and movement the Skavens would do wise to utilize our old favorite; the Storm Banner.  This solution is dual edged, though, since our machines of destruction might just as easily fall prey to its effects.
The strategy: Delay the ogres as long as possible through failed charges and harassment, chipping away with my cannons and rolling doomwheels. The slaves and clannies were pure anvils and the last line of defense. Hopefully my weapon teams could clean up whatever my magic and machines failed to annihilate.
The Field of Battle
We had decided for a pitched battle, lasting for five turns at the most.
We rolled for terrain and produced a building (didn’t own a miniature building, we used an old can) a venomous forest, a wild wood, a river (which turned out to be a necrotic ooze) and finally a tiny hill with an obstacle in the middle.

I won the roll and decided to deploy on the geographically crowded side. I was punished severely for doing so, in my last game. This time, however, I noticed that there was a lot of poison-potential on the table and ogres don’t like poison very much. I thought that regiments near the toxic river would be enough to intimidate my opponent into placing his flank closer to my central line.

Standard procedure for me is the bunker. I wasn’t in a hurry to greet the ogres, so we decided to fortify ourselves way back and wait it out.
Turn 1

I won the roll which pleased me immensely. As a Skaven player this is not an all too common experience. I naturally decided to go first.

During compulsory movement, both Doomwheels drove off towards the center of the table. My left flank was guarded by the poisonous river and close to about 75 rats. Obviously a risk for the ogres. On the right flank the huge forest made any kind of progress a slow trip, so my opponent was basically forced to gradually take the middle road. My plan was to park my wheels and let them do some zapping before driving up their flanks.
I aggressively moved towards the house on my left flank, knowing my opponent might attempt a charge, even at long distance. In the middle I closed the gaps left by the Doomwheels, as I was not about to take any chances against those damn snipers.
During the Magic phase I decided to go for aggressive. I got off Skitterleap, moved my Seer straight up next to the regiment of Ironguts, including the Ogre general/caster and the BSB. I ate a powerscroll and hoped for the best. Which was good enough for a Crack’s Call.

I rolled a nifty distance. Enough so that the cracks ate some standard ogres in the other unit as well. The butcher passed his LoS but sadly the BSB did not. He ended up failing his initiative test along with five other ogres. I rolled a 7 on the misfire table, which did nothing but annihilate my power pool. Frankly, it was already quite empty.
I was most pleased by this.
As for Shooting I decided to concentrate all firepower on the Mournfang cavalry. These guys WILL hurt you, if you don’t address them. They bring so much pain and tend to show up with a 2+ AS by themselves. The cannons managed to bring down two during the first turn.
Never being a fan of retaliation I activated the Stormbanner immediately. Not only did I fear the Ironblaster, the Leadbelchers and the Man Eaers kept worrying me. With the Storm Banner these threats become as good as insignificant. The Seer survived thanks to it, so I suppose it serves its purpose.
The Ironguts charged the small unit of Clan Rats. I fled, effectively making sure the ogres would stay put a while longer. As predicted, the rest of the army started moving closer to the middle, whereas the Leadbelchers sat course towards the forest. This, I admit, was unexpected. If they were able to reach my flank they’d easily be able to blow it up.

During the Magic phase the butcher attempted an empowered Brain Gorger on the slaves, but it was dispelled. Instead, the ordinary ogres were buffed with a  Toothcracker.

Much to my dismay, the Ironblaster made its 4+ roll and blasted one of my doomwheels into oblivion.
Turn 2
Needless to say, the Storm Banner died out. It always does when I’m rolling. On the bright side, both my units of Gutter Runners entered the table, poisoned and ready to go against the Ironblaster or the Lead Belchers.

The remaining Doomwheel happily bumped on for its optimal position, from which I’d hoped it’d be able to zzzap some ogres.  In hindsight I was likely way too immobile with these things, but it’s my second time actually playing with them, so bear with me. My general idea was to wait for the ogres and zzap them for casualties and get the hell out of there before they could charge me, back into my own ranks. Might seem like a bold move, but you only live once. It turned out to work fine, though, and killed three Ogres with a well rolled 10 on the artillery dice.
My units braced themselves for the impact. I was frankly prepared to suffer heavy casualties, but luckily the threat to my entire right flank was gone, except for the remaining Mournfangs. I made sure to place my sole engineer (sorry, Bill) in their way, so that the cavalry was forced to flank into an unfavorable position, between two regiments of rats and a warpfire thrower.
My Seer moved with the Ironguts, making sure to remain on their flanks, and got off another Crack’s Call. The Butcher made his LoS and four Ironguts perished.

My Gutter Runners decided to aim for the moon and unleashed a barrage of 20 poisonous shots against the Iron Blaster. In hindsight, this was so immensely stupid. It’s a mastodon of a model. Not as hard to kill as, say, the Hellcannon, but with five wounds, a toughness of 6 and a 4+ armor save, IIRC, you’ll need much better luck than me. Or more fire power. I only managed to inflict a single wound. The worst part, I was now looking at three Leadbelchers, angrily aiming their guns at my poor Gutter Runners.
My cannons didn’t manage to kill a single thing. The first one misfired on its second bounce and with a meager 2 on the second, the ogres had it easy this time. Such is the ways of the Skavens.
I couldn’t evade it anymore. Pain was coming.
On the left flank, I had placed another lone warlock (sorry, Dave) to misalign the remaining ordinary ogres, should they decide to charge. My opponent obviously didn’t approve, so he had his general Butcher charge out of the Ironguts. This was a clever move, as he’d likely smash my engineer and overrun straight into my 20 Clan Rats, housing my general and BSB. I didn’t want to push my luck here, so Dave fled for the hills.

The remaining ogre regiment was quite small and I’d made a fatal mistake. I’d left my Warpfire team exposed. So they had a charge coming in straight after. Fleeing would put the ogres behind my lines. So I decided to stand my ground and give them a buttload of Warp Fire.
The hit was spot on and with a nasty S5 and -3 the poor ogres were nothing but a smoldering crater. This immediately lead to panic tests, and the this is where it happened:

Both the general, the Ironguts and Man Eaters panicked and ran…
It’s one of those moments, in which silence settles over the room for a short while.
He took his revenge, though, by a well placed shot from the Iron Blaster and took out my other Doomwheel. I frankly didn’t expect him to roll that high on the dice, denying me another turn to move it out of sight. Unlike him, though, none of the Skavens ran. I frankly forgot that the Iron Blaster is actually a move and fire-cannon and took the punishment for my mistake.
In a clever move the Mournfangs outmaneuvered my warlock and charged one of my Warpfire Cannons and destroyed it. Sadly.
Luck was on my side again, though, as the Leadbelchers failed their swift reform thus rendering them unable to shoot in this turn. My Gutter Runners were safe for one more round!
Turn 3
With half the Ogre army running in the opposite direction, I utilized the time to reset my former position for the charge. I’d lost one cannon, but began by rallying my small fleeing unit on the left flank, meaning I’d be able to stall the ogres for the rest of the game, even if they rallied the next turn.
I moved along with my Seer, decided to blast the running Ironguts one more time with Crack’s Call (you’ve gotta love that DC 11). Wiping them out could mean a lot more victory points.  With an Initiative of 2, what were the odds that it’d go wrong, eh?

So, yeah...
My warlock had a lot more luck with his Warp Lightning , though. Now that the Butcher was running solo, targeting him was no sweat. I rolled a 5 on the amount of wounds and connected with all of them. With a 4+ Ward Save and five wounds, surely the Butcher would be survive this, right?

It was a grim day, indeed.
On the right flank, the Warpfire Thrower flamed the Mournfangs, forcing a panic check. And yeah, they ran.
The Gutter Runners inflicted 4 wounds on the Leadbelchers and that was it.
The Ironguts and Mournfangs rallied but the Man Eaters didn’t. The Ironblaster splattered the Warpfire Thrower and the remaining two Leadbelchers managed to kill three Gutter Runners. Not that much to say.
Turn 4
Things were pretty much laid out by now, so I decided to play it safe. 50 slaves moved up to take the impact from the Mournfangs on the right flank. The warlocks moved in to annihilate the Ironblaster. My rallied Clan Rats moved up to stall the remaining Ironguts.
My Seer skitterleaped up next to the Ironguts and attempted to finish them off with the final Crack’s Call. Sadly, one survived. No victory points for me there. The warlocks attempted to slay the Ironblaster but due to abysmally bad rolls it didn’t happen.

My remaining cannon attempted to reduce the fleeing Man Eaters’ numbers, forcing them to roll double 1’s in order to rally. Again, I rolled a 2 on the second bounce.
After my second volley, one Leadbelcher stood with one wound remaining. I assume that the Ogre gods thought “Enough victory points!” at this point.
The Man Eaters rallied, which annoyed me immensely.  The Mournfangs charged my slaves and I decided to hold. There can be no real Skaven battles without dead slaves.
The Ironguts charged the clan rats who fled and forced them to stay put for one more round.
The Ironblaster hit one of my warlocks but managed to inflict one meager wound. The same counted for the Leadbelcher except the Gutter Runner made his 6+ Ward Save.
The Mournfang killed nine slaves.
And then we decided to end the battle.
Verdict:Skaven won with 950 victory points over 475.

Afterthoughts by Maynard (Skaven)

This is one of those battles that ended as a mixed blessing. Although winning is always great, a lot of luck was involved both ways. The roll(s) that truly made the difference was the triple panic in the Man Eaters, Butcher and Ironguts. This truly shows the possible rewards of bold play, as they would likely have made it, had I not gipped the BSB in turn 1.
In a fair fight, Skavens don’t stand an earthly chance against ogres and my army reflected this philosophy. There was close to no melee involved, exactly as I intended. Some might call this lame or cheesy, but honestly, it’s what we do. Things could’ve gone better had the Doomwheels survived a while longer. They could also have gone a lot worse, however, had the ogres managed to get into melee sooner. I was also blessed that my opponent didn’t draw the Trollgut spell as this could easily have made things a lot messier.
Our multi-wound weapons are our bread and butter against ogres. WFT, Wheels and characters with multiwound weapons are all great. Lore of Ruin is insanely good, too. Crack’s Call can absolutely devastate a regiment of ogres, Howling Warpgale gives you a much needed edge against their nasty shooting and Scorch is ever so relevant for panic tests and the annoying Trollgut spell.
The ogres have some really nasty toys to look out for now. I haven’t encountered their ‘mammoths’ yet, but the Mournfangs are downright dangerous. With the conventional brute toughness of the ogres and a nasty armor save, don’t expect your ordinary forces to make a single dent in them. On the other end you’ll encounter the brutal Ironblaster. If I had to give a piece of advice from this battle, don’t underestimate how hard this units is to kill. Use cannons. It simply hurts too much otherwise.
The Leadbelchers and Man Eaters are dangerous to us for respective reasons. Belchers are capable of inflicting a whole lot of wounds under the right conditions. Easily 3D6 per turn of shooting. Utilize the fact that they muster a meager BS3, suffer from long range and can’t march and shoot. Stormbanner and Howling Warpgale can make these a lot less effective, compared to their price in points.
Man Eaters, besides from being an annoyingly catchy line from a song, will likely face you with poison and sniping. They can turn your characters and BSB into a pincushion in an instant. The best counter is to prepare for this and either take them down quick or deploy wisely. Again, Stormbanner, Warpgale and movement hampers their BS.
The ogres are a dangerous army, for sure. But as usual, being prepared for the impact can make the difference. Make Skavenblight proud!
Afterthoughts by Roque (Ogre Kingdoms)
(Coming up soon)

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