I'm Andy Smith, Assistant Brand Manager for Avalon Hill Games and regular competitor in the internal minis league since it began. You've read Steve's article and know about the format we're using, so let's jump ahead to the fun stuff.
My boosters netted me:
Blackscale Lizardfolk x2
Bugbear Champion of Erythnul
Caravan Guard x3
Dwarf Mercenary x3
Scorpion Clan Drow Fighter
Xeph Warrior x2
One rule Steve didn't explain last week that will be important when I talk about warband changes is that after a match each player gets to select and keep one miniature from the other's sideboard.
I tend to build around rares unless there's strong synergy among the other figs. The Village Priest boosts the Caravan Guards and Direguards, but I don't think it's enough to build a warband around. That made it a toss-up between using the Archmage or the Stone Giant (the Ghostly Consort wasn't in the running for lead position).
The Stone Giant is a solid piece with a lot going for him, but I decided the Archmage would be more interesting to play (also I hadn't opened one yet in my other boosters and wanted to keep him from being picked out of my sideboard!). I was a little nervous that I might not have the skill to pilot the Archmage to victory, but I figured there's no better way to learn than by actually using him.
The Archmage needed melee support, and the Feral Minotaur provided it. He won't last long against a determined assault with only 50 hp and 14 AC, but the combination of powerful charge and pounce is hard to resist, and regeneration will help a little. The highest commander rating available to me is a mere 3, so I'm not too concerned about the Minotaur being Disruptive.
The Caravan Guards are good figures, especially when backed by the Village Priest. I included them all to screen for the Archmage. The Priest also provides a valuable magic weapon for the Feral Minotaur and bless for everyone, as well as some healing.
The Bugbear Champion gave me a second commander, a damage boost if I destroy some opposing fodder, four uses of lesser frighten, and a decent attack.
At 200 points exactly, my warband stood at
Caravan Guard x3
Now for some games.
In the first week I played five matches. The highlights are covered below.
Game 1 (vs. Kevin Wilson, Associate Brand Manager, RPGs)
What better way to start the league than by taking on your immediate superior? Kevin brought
Bugbear Champion of Erythnul
Mina, Dark Cleric
Round 1 -- I used a quick-cast dimension door and banished the Justice Archon. Kevin accused the Archmage of being broken.
Round 2 -- I cast Mordenkainen's Sword on Mina and maneuvered my troops.
Round 3 -- I cast Mordenkainen's Sword on the Werebear and charged the Feral Minotaur into Kevin's Bugbear Champion, which was destroyed by Pounce and Powerful Charge. His Werebear scored a critical hit against the Archmage but failed the conceal roll.
For the remainder of the game, the Caravan Guards stayed between the Archmage and Kevin's Werebear while I waited for the sword spell clock to run down and cast some empowered magic missiles just to keep busy. I won the game by a substantial margin.
Game 2 (vs. Mike Dunlap, Direct Sales)
Hobgoblin Impaler x2
Wand Expert x2
Round 1 -- I was worried about those Wand Experts, so I pinged one with an empoweredmagic missile on my first activation and it routed off the board.
Round 2 -- I tried and failed to banish the Sword Archon, then quick cast dimension door back to what I thought was a safe position. Then the Sword Archon flew into base contact with the Archmage -- Oops. The Feral Minotaur missed the Werebear by 1 and proceeded to get beaten on by the Werebear, Hobgoblins, and an acid arrow. He ran for the exit (this would become a trend).
Round 3 -- Conceal 6 saved the Archmage from the Sword Archon's AoO as I moved out and cast Mordenkainen's sword as a parting gift. Mike's Sword Archon and Werebear started tearing through my fodder.
Round 4 -- Mike's Werebear received my second sword spell, but the Archmage took a nasty hit from the Sword Archon. All my remaining fodder went down, too, but at least I routed his last Wand Expert.
Highlight -- At this point I was reduced to just the Archmage with 5 HP. Mike's Sword Archon was doomed by the sword spell the moment it activated, and that would push me to victory. The Werebear, however, could reach the Archmage and probably kill him -- but it would drop below half HP when it activated.
Mike needed to make three rolls to win: a morale save on the bear when it activated, a successful attack on the Archmage, and a roll to defeat the Archmage's conceal. None of these was guaranteed, though the odds were in his favor on each roll. He succeeded at all three and won the match. I consoled myself by figuring that there was a cumulative 70% chance he'd have failed one of those rolls, so in some alternate universe I'm enjoying my victory.
Match 3 (vs. Adam Reeves, Customer Service)
Cleric of Dol Arrah
Adam used his Longstrider Ranger to get tile points, so I didn't have to deal with that figure for most of the match. After he moved all his minis, I moved the Archmage to get LoS, quick cast dimension door, and dropped Mordenkainen's sword on his commander, the Cleric of Dol Arrah. My Caravan Guards tied up the Chraal while I fired wands and eventually cast sword on the Stone Giant. Adam plowed through most of my filler, but missed his chance to heal the commander, who was killed by the sword. I kept the Archmage out of the Stone Giant's way while shooting the occasional empowered magic missile at him. It was close, but I won when the Giant fell.
Match 4 (vs. Steven Montano, Finance)
Hobgoblin Impaler x3
For this match, I swapped out a Caravan Guard and the Bugbear Champion for a Xeph Warrior and the Ghostly Consort. The Xeph's job was to score tile points on the first round, and the Consort was there just because.
I hit the Orog with an acid arrow right off the bat and started scoring tile points immediately thanks to the Xeph. The next few rounds were spent picking off Hobgoblins and the Wrackspawn while also losing my Minotaur. The Orog took a second acid arrow but made his moral save. At that point, I held back a little, assuming that I could finish the Orog with empowered magic missiles. By the time I realized that I needed to use Mordy's sword against the Orog, it was too late. The Orog plowed through my Ghostly Consort and then the Chraal smashed my Archmage.
Match 5 (rematch vs. Mike Dunlap)
This was another loss, and not nearly as close as the first one. I'd rather not talk about it.
As impressive as the Feral Minotaur can be when charging, he just doesn't have enough staying power once the fight is joined. Also, even with a low commander rating, I found disruptive to be a bigger liability than expected, especially since the Archmage needs to take his turn at the most optimal time. The Ghostly Consort has good abilities and incorporeal can spoil the otherwise guaranteed damage of the Wand Experts, but 35 hp just isn't enough in this environment. The Caravan Guards are tough little guys for 5 points, but I think I need speed more.
With my record at 2-3, it was time for a radical overhaul. Fortunately, I'd been selecting figures from my opponent's sideboards with something in mind. It ran along these lines --
Cleric of Dol Arrah
Xeph Warrior x3
The core of the band is still the Archmage (it has to be, because my Stone Giant was taken by Steven). The Wand Expert can clear away screeners and provide some guaranteed damage. The Cleric of Dol Arrah's commander effect won't be any use, but he can help me win initiative, heal the Archmage, and cast several decent spells. The rest are for points, screening, and to control activations.
Next week we'll see how the changes work out.
In Other Developments (Steve Winter)
I didn't get in as many matches as Andy, playing only two in the first week. As a recap, here's my warband --
Caravan Guard x2
I was placing a lot of faith in the Village Priest's commander effect and the Barbed Devil's hold person spell.
In my first match (against Robert Mull, who works with me on the Avalon Hill website), I ran up against a warband that I really didn't want to see:
Three flyers, Conceal, Fire Foe, and only two humanoids in the bunch.
The match went badly right from the start. The Barbed Devil took a critical hit for 30 points, the Djinni flew in and based my Village Priest, and my Direguards could have had red strobe lights strapped to their heads for all the good conceal did them. My Xeph Warrior and a Direguard charged Rob's Wand Expert and both missed, allowing him to win the initiative and gun them both down with wands on the next round. I managed to rout the Chraal and had a shot at turning things around by routing the Ogre Mage with the Barbed Devil's frightful impale, but failed to penetrate the Ogre's conceal. The Barbed Devil never did get to cast hold person. My sole consolation was that in all the carnage, only one lowly Caravan Guard ran away. The rest of my boys died facing the enemy, at least.
My second match was against Steven Montano, who also played Andy earlier. This time, Steven brought
Caravan Guard x2
This time, I had humanoid targets for hold person, and that made all the difference.
The Barbed Devil paralyzed the Longstrider Ranger twice, allowing the Direguards to team up and finish it off in two rounds.
I foolishly moved my Village Priest within two spaces of Steven's Werebear in order to cast magic weapon on the Troll (the Troll was squared off against the Werebear and its DR). This was doubly foolish in that a) I just didn't see the danger because the VP was behind a statue and b) the Troll was standing on a magic circle, so it was dishing out magical damage anyway! One good smack from the Werebear and the Village Priest lit out for parts unknown, never to be seen again despite three rally attempts.
Happily for me, it didn't matter too much because by then everyone was in the fight. The Barbed Devil paralyzed Steven's Werebear and then my Troll ripped it to shreds in a single round. In a singular moment of heroism, one of my Caravan Guards killed an opposing Caravan Guard with a critical hit, then stepped forward to engage the other CG, who decided to withdraw -- and was killed by a second, consecutive critical hit from that same Guard!
While that was happening, however, the Dwarf Wizard was whittling down my Troll Slasher with lesser cold orbs. When I advanced it to engage the ferocious Stone Giant, Bigby's slapping hand was the trigger that finished off the Troll.
And the Stone Giant (that Steven had lifted from Andy!) truly was fearsome. If it got into a one-on-one against my Barbed Devil, I suspected I didn't stand a chance. I had one shot, and that was frightful impale. It paid off -- the Stone Giant routed. My remaining Direguard based Steven's Village Priest, who decided to withdraw in an effort to rally the Stone Giant. But the Direguard's AoO scored a third critical hit, killing Steven's commander and putting me over the top on points.
It was a very close-run affair. Had the Stone Giant not routed from the Barbed Devil's frightful impale, the game could easily have gone the other way.
After those two matches, I was seriously considering restructuring the warband around the Cleric of Dol Arrah and its commander bonus of 7 -- but Steven decided to do the same thing, and he selected the Cleric out of my sideboard. Now I'm looking at
I'm sure they'll get a trial very soon. In fact, Andy has challenged me to a match later this week (and I'm not at all keen about facing that Archmage) ...
About the Author
Steve Winter has enjoyed a long and lustrous career in the hobby gaming industry, beginning at TSR in 1981. He is currently a web producer and writer living in Seattle.