For this outing, I changed my warband slightly to incorporate at least a minimal ranged threat. I hated giving up the Githzerai Monk and Orc Skeleton but felt that the Xorn and Elf Stalker were good substitutes.
Played Tuesday, February 7, 2006 against Steven Montano from the Finance department. Steven said that this league started really well for him with some early wins, but things had been sliding downhill since.
Gold Dwarf Soldier
Steven won terrain initiative and chose the Drow Outpost map from Dragon #337 for the battle. I'd never played on this map before and was a little dismayed to see all those choke points and open fields of fire. I was glad, however, that I'd added a ranged unit to my warband.
Steven set up in the corner near the outpost itself, leaving me the opposite corner.
Turn 1 -- my initiative, Steven moves first
I had two chief concerns going into this match -- Steven's ranged power was three times mine, and the Justicator's flight made him a potential assassin against my Half-Orc Paladin commander. As it turned out, those threats probably worked to my advantage by forcing me to be more cautious than usual.
During setup, we both managed to plop our Kobold Miners into their respective victory point areas. Neither one, however, lived long enough to collect any VPs, falling instead to the opposing Elf Stalkers' cloth-yard shafts. Lolth's Sting collected 10 VPs for Steven by reaching the central bridge. The Justicator made a wide flanking move across the upper right corner of the map, ending the turn in a very threatening position. I parked my commander 14 spaces away to prevent being based.
Turn 2 -- my initiative, Steven moves first
Steven advanced across the bridge aggressively with Lolth's Sting but thought he'd stopped her in a safe place. Only after announcing "all done" did he realize that he'd left her where my Xorn could burrow under a wall and attack. It struck the Sting a killing blow but promptly blew the Conceal check. I hate Conceal.
My Elf Stalker put an arrow into the Gold Dwarf Soldier now blocking the bridge, and the Nentyar Hunter popped one into my Xorn, burning off one True Strike spell. Realizing that the Justicator would be out of command next turn if it tried to pursue my commander, Steven pulled it back across the chasm and sent his Gray Render across to accost my Xorn. My Iron Golem strode into view and based the Gold Dwarf Soldier to the accompaniment of many a jest over what that poor dwarf was thinking right then.
Meanwhile, the Hunched Giant circled around toward the middle passage on the lower right in an effort to block the Gray Render and, I hoped, develop some sort of flank threat.
Turn 3 -- Steven's initiative, I move first
The Iron Golem took a cheap swing at Steven's Gold Dwarf Soldier, which routed, then the Golem moved up to base the Gray Render. The out-of-command Xorn missed Lolth's Sting but burrowed away to safety behind a spur of rock.
Intimidated by the Iron Golem, Steven decided to accept an attack of opportunity in order to get the Gray Render into attack position against the Xorn, but then missed anyway. Lolth's Sting used Ghost Step to slip away from the Iron Golem toward the retreating Xorn.
Unfortunately, the advancing Hunched Giant was not to be stopped, and it killed the Sting with one blow -- and a successful Conceal roll. He was, in turn, based by the flying Justicator.
The Justicator upset my plan. As Steven pondered what to do with the Justicator, he had two clear options -- flank the Hunched Giant or flank the Iron Golem. The golem is an intimidating figure, and despite my psychic urgings to move that way, he placed the Justicator behind the Hunched Giant. I'd hoped to move the Half-0rc Paladin behind the Hunched Giant to keep it in command and maintain pressure on the Gray Render, but I didn't absolutely didn't want my commander going toe-to-toe with the Justicator while the Iron Golem was undented. So instead, I moved the paladin toward the gap where he could see the bridge and the Iron Golem.
Turn 4 -- Steven's initiative, Steven moves first
With the Hunched Giant double-teamed by the Justicator and Gray Render, Steven took the first move hoping to rout the giant. A critical hit triggered the save, but the giant stood his ground.
The golem advanced and swiped at the Gray Render -- and I rolled a 1, missing the forced morale check. By now, the Gold Dwarf Soldier had rallied and was back on the bridge, so my paladin charged him -- and missed. Meanwhile, the Nentyar Hunter and Elf Stalker were pouring arrows into the Xorn, who was alive only by virtue of his 21 AC, cover, and immunity to Cold. Aside from the Hunched Giant's successful morale save, it was a dispiriting turn. With both the Hunched Giant and the Gray Render teetering on the brink, the next turn's initiative would be key.
Turn 5 -- My initiative, I move first
Here's where I demonstrated just how incompetent I can be.
I used my initiative to take the first move in the hope of killing or driving off the Gray Render, who was surrounded by my Iron Golem and Hunched Giant with the Half-Orc Paladin just one move away. The Iron Golem hit it for 30 points (with the paladin's bonus), leaving it with 15 points remaining. Then, for reasons I still don't comprehend, I made three simultaneous errors --
- I attacked with the Half-Orc Paladin, who does only 10 points of damage against a Gray Render, instead of the Hunched Giant, who does 30;
- I compounded that bit of silliness by forgetting to use the Half-Orc Paladin's Smite ability, which would have given me the extra 5 points of damage needed to kill the Gray Render;
- and worst of all, I didn't activate the Hunched Giant, who was surrounded by high-level enemies and clinging to life with a bare handful of hit points remaining!
Needless to say, the Half-Orc Paladin hit the Gray Render and left him standing with 5 hit points. It and the Justicator then double-teamed the Hunched Giant and killed the poor slob -- all my fault.
The one remaining bright spot for me was that so far, the Nentyar Hunter and Elf Stalker had largely been neutralized by bouncing arrows harmlessly off the Xorn's tough hide. That bit of luck came to an end this turn, too, when enough damage got through to trigger a morale check, which the Xorn failed. It was trapped by the Justicator and Gray Render, however, and couldn't rout away.
Turn 6 -- Steven's initiative, Steven moves first
If I'd won the initiative this turn, I could have killed the Gray Render before it did any more damage, but no such luck. The Render put just 15 damage on the Iron Golem before being hammered into a grease spot in return. The Justicator and archers slew what was left of my valiant Xorn, then the Justicator withdrew as far as it could.
At that point, I felt that things looked pretty bleak. I was well ahead on points because of the Gray Render, but Steven had three times more ranged attacks than me and between his speed and flight, I couldn't catch him. I briefly considered throwing in the towel -- yet more evidence that I was making poor decisions, because the situation was much better than I thought.
Instead of resigning, I moved the golem and paladin to base the Justicator. If it was going to run, I would at least make it pay.
Turn 7 -- Steven's Initiative, Steven moves first
Steven took the first move in an effort to put some hurt on me but got lousy attack rolls everywhere. That same luck continued when, during my return attacks, the Justicator failed its morale check and routed. That lifted my spirits considerably.
Turn 8 -- Steven's Initiative, Steven moves first
Steven took the first turn again and peppered my Elf Stalker with arrows, routing it. His Justicator rallied as expected. The remaining two figures moved toward the bridge, slowly.
Turn 9 -- Steven's Initiative, I move first
My Elf Stalker, which was out of command, routed off the field. Everything else advanced as far as possible through the hail of arrows in the hope that I'd win initiative on turn 10, which would allow me to take a double move and base one of Steve's figures.
Turn 10 -- I win initiative, I move first
And that's exactly what happened. Both my Iron Golem and Half-Orc Paladin thundered across the bridge into base contact with the Nentyar Hunter and Elf Stalker. Without their ranged attacks, they were much less threatening to me. On turn 11, the Golem killed the Elf Stalker, putting me over 200 points.
It was far from the best game I've ever played. There were some key mistakes in there, the biggest being letting my Hunched Giant fall without attacking on his final phase. I also forgot to apply special abilities consistently, such as Smite and the Half-Orc Paladin's commander effect. I felt the win had more to do with the inherent strengths of the figures I pulled from my boosters than anything I did. Still, in league play, a win is a win whether or not you feel proud of it.
Steven selected the Earth Shugenja from my sideboard. I picked up a Wizard Tactician, hoping to make great use of its two Bigby's slapping hand spells in my next match, which would be against Ian Richards.
As it turned out, the only one getting slapped would be me ...
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.