Organized Play has set up another internal league for us here at Wizards of the Coast. This time it's sealed Underdark. I'll endeavor in these articles to give some flavor of the highly-competitive action.*
My pull from two boosters was --
Iron Golem (61)
Hunched Giant (48)
Half-Orc Paladin (48)
Githzerai Monk (34)
Winter Wolf (24)
Troglodyte Barbarian (24)
Mercenary Sergeant (23)
Earth Shugenja (17)
Elf Stalker (15)
Royal Guard (10)
Spider of Lolth (9)
Lolth's Sting (7)
Monitor Lizard (6)
Orc Skeleton (5)
Kobold Miner (3)
League rules allowed the Commander 0 option, an 8-figure limit, and play on either maps or tiles. The scenario was a slightly modified Assault format.
After opening my warband-building process to input on the forum, I was pleased to see that the majority (or at least, enough) of the suggestions were in line with what I wanted to play.
Played Tuesday, January 31, 2006 against Rob Bane from the Sales department.
Lolth's Sting (commander 0)
Gold Dwarf Soldier
Rob won terrain initiative and chose the Tomb of Peregrine map.
Turn 1 -- my initiative, Rob moves first
Rob split his warband between his two setup areas. I concentrated mine in the lower right corner, with the Kobold Miner randomly placed in the lower left victory area. Rob spread out and moved aggressively down the top side of the map, headed toward the upper right victory area. The Half-Ogre Barbarian swept in on my poor Kobold Miner and killed it before it could score any terrain VPs.
Against Rob's speed, I knew that I couldn't contest the victory areas -- I had to go for kill points. My warband moved as a compact mass along the bottom edge of the map with the idea that if Rob waited too long to close his net, I might be able to concentrate my whole warband against a portion of his and overwhelm it piecemeal.
Turn 2 -- my initiative, Rob moves first
Rob maneuvered most of his warband into threatening charge positions while Guenhwyvar moved to a charge-safe position near the Hunched Giant and Githzerai Monk. I positioned myself to trap the Half-Ogre Barbarian if it moved forward. It did at the end of the turn, putting a hit on my commander.
Turn 3 -- my initiative, I move first
I took the first move in order to trap Guenhwyvar. The Githzerai Monk circled around behind the cat to deliver a Stunning Attack with Unavoidable Strike, though Guenhwyvar wasn't stunned. Then the Hunched Giant stepped up and delivered a mighty swing that caused Guenhwyvar to rout (and take another punch from the Githzerai Monk).
After the Gold Dwarf Soldier killed my Orc Skeleton, the Draegloth charged my Monk. At that point, something happened that would color the whole battle -- Rob rolled a lousy attack. It was the first of many. Even with the Troglodyte Barbarian stinking up the Monk's space, the Githzerai lived longer than it had any right to.
In the meantime, Guenhwyvar rallied.
My big, final move was to surround the Half-Ogre Barbarian with the Paladin and the Iron Golem. First the Half-Ogre took a hit from the Golem, then it took a hit + Smite from the Paladin. When it routed, it got dropped by a critical hit from the Golem's AoO.
Turn 4 -- my initiative, Rob moves first
At this point, I faced a decision. The Githzerai Monk, although unhurt (thanks to his AC 25 and Rob's uncooperative dice), was surrounded by the Draegloth, Troglodyte Barbarian, and Lolth's Sting and was less than one rout move from the exit. He appeared doomed. The Hunched Giant could tackle the Draegloth in an effort to take some heat off the Monk, but I didn't like the odds. Instead of fighting that losing battle, I abandoned the Monk and his 25 AC to whatever fate and Stunning Attack had in store for them. The Giant moved back within mutual supporting distance of the Iron Golem and Half-Orc Paladin where they could concentrate against Rob's weaker units. The Giant hammered the Gold Dwarf Soldier without routing it and took several smacks from the Gold Dwarf, Guenhwyvar, and Duergar in return for its troubles. They left it 15 points from a morale check, again thanks to Rob's unhappy dice. The Half-Orc Paladin layed hands on the Giant, healing 20 points and taking a huge weight off my mind.
Happily for me, the Githzerai Monk, Draegloth, Troglodyte, and Sting flailed at one another without anyone getting seriously hurt. The situation looked good from my perspective.
Turn 5 -- Rob's initiative, Rob moves first
Rob took the first move in the hope of finally chasing the Githzerai Monk off the map, but it made its morale check with 15 hit points to spare. The Monk routed the Troglodyte Barbarian, which failed its subsequent rally check and fled the map.
Rob's Gold Dwarf Soldier slipped past the Hunched Giant to attack the Half-Orc Paladin to no avail. In quick succession, the Iron Golem killed the dwarf, the Hunched Giant killed Guenwhyvar, and -- though these matches aren't actually timed -- time ran out (Rob had to get to a 1:00 meeting).
By then I was well ahead on points (156:35), and there was little hope that Rob's Draegloth, Sting, and Champion could pull off an upset if we continued. It could have been much closer with a bit more luck on Rob's team -- my Monk made his morale check, and my Hunched Giant narrowly avoided having to make one, while Rob's only successful morale roll was Guenhwyvar's rally check when the cat had only 25 hit points left anyway.
Rob picked an Earth Shugenja from my sideboard, and I gained a Dwarf Ancestor. I can't see myself adding it to my warband, since the Hunched Giant costs one point less and is better in most ways, but it's so darned cool. Anway, the only other real choice was a Kobold Miner …
* Actually, the games here are pretty relaxed, with players mostly interested in having fun and trying new things. That despite the fact that the R&D guys are some of the best DDM players anywhere. You just expect to lose when you play them, and go in with low expectations.
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.