Game 5 was a second match against Steven Montano.
After two disappointing performances, I decided to scrap the Wizard Tactician. I wasn't getting the kind of mileage out of Bigby's slapping hand that I wanted. The Elf Stalker, too, had pretty much played out his usefulness.
To fill their slots, I knew I wanted to bring back the Xorn that had performed so well against Steven in our first match (besides, Xorn are just cool -- who wouldn't want a Xorn?). A Swarm of Spiders and Kobold Miner gave me two wandering monsters for a pretty good shot at first-turn Assault points.
Swarm of Spiders
Played Tuesday, February 14, against Steven Montano of the Finance department. I'd beaten Steven in our previous match but felt that it had more to do with the inherent strengths of my figure draws than on great play by me.
This was basically the same warband that Steven played earlier, but with a Troglodyte Barbarian and Kobold Miner subbed in for the Gold Dwarf Soldier and Lolth's Sting.
I chose Magma Keep as the map and set up on the left side. My Kobold Miner landed in the upper right victory area, while the Swarm of Spiders popped up in the lower right victory area -- both were potential point-grabbers. I didn't expect the kobold to survive, however, because its setup area gave it nowhere to hide from Steven's arrows.
Steven set up primarily in the upper right corner. His Kobold Miner squared off against mine in the upper right victory area.
Turn 1 -- Steven's initiative, Steven moves first
Most of my warband maneuvered around the lower left corner. My Kobold Miner fell immediately to a ranged attack, as expected. Steven set up nice fire lanes for the Nentyar Hunter and Elf Stalker, somewhat restricting my turn 2 options.
Turn 2 -- My initiative, Steven moves first
Knowing how dangerous my big hitters were, Steven spread out across his end of the map while advancing light units toward his victory area along the top edge of the map (which was far from my units). The Elf Stalker put two shots into my Swarm of Spiders. Steven's Troglodyte Barbarian moved near the upper left corner of the map as if to taunt me.
Turn 3 -- My initiative, Steven moves first
And taunt it did. The Hunched Giant, filled with wounded pride after two humiliating defeats (and seeing that the Justicator was too far away to move and counterattack), charged. The troglodyte routed with 25 hit points, but rallied on its activation very near Steven's upper victory point area, where his Kobold Miner was now camped. The Justicator moved up to threaten and bottleneck my figures, even though it couldn't attack this turn. The Swarm of Spiders suffered another 5 points of damage from the Elf Stalker. Because it could survive at least one more turn, garnering me 40 victory points in exchange for 25, I left it in the VP area.
Turn 4 -- My initiative, I move first
Winning the initiative gave me a golden opportunity to eliminate the Justicator. The Hunched Giant hit it once for 30 damage, then accepted 25 points in return from an attack of opportunity while stepping back so the Iron Golem could advance and deliver another 30 to the Justicator. With 20 points left, the Justicator passed its morale check.
What looked like another golden opportunity opened up for the Xorn. It was just one movement point too far away to burrow under the Justicator and flank it, but it was within eight of both the Nentyar Hunter and Troglodyte Barbarian. Even though the Xorn wouldn't be able to attack this turn, basing Steven's commander and another figure seemed like a worthwhile proposition. The Xorn took a beating in return, but stood its ground.
Turn 5 -- My initiative, I move first
This turn was similar to that flurry of moves in every chess game where pawns, knights, and bishops are exchanged in rapid succession. My Iron Golem killed the Justicator -- the Xorn killed Steven's Troglodyte Barbarian -- the Gray Render killed the Xorn -- and the Elf Stalker killed the Swarm of Spiders. Almost as significantly, at the end of the turn, the Iron Golem was positioned to charge the Gray Render and the Hunched Giant and Half-Orc Paladin were advancing on a separate axis. The Nentyar Hunter withdrew a safe distance from the approaching storm.
Turn 6 -- My initiative, I move first
The Iron Golem charged the Gray Render, knocking it down to 100 hit points. The Hunched Giant moved adjacent to the Kobold Miner (who was still collecting VPs) and within reach of the Gray Render. The giant could attack once. My options were, a) kill the Kobold Miner with a +10 (30) attack or b) try to hit the Gray Render behind the sheltering kobold. Hating to waste a powerful attack on a figure that wouldn't even earn me a victory point, I attacked the Gray Render -- and missed because of the kobold! The Gray Render lived up to its name and rent the Iron Golem.
Turn 7 -- Steven's initiative, I move first
With no weak units left on the board other than the Kobold Miner (which is Beneath Contempt) and Steven's Elf Stalker (which, after destroying my Swarm of Spiders, was too far away from the action to concern me), this turn was spent with heavy hitters wearing each other down. Except that the Gray Render rolled lousy dice and did very little wearing.
Turn 8 -- Steven's initiative, Steven moves first
Two beatsticks fell this turn -- The Hunched Giant was brought down by the Nentyar Hunter and Elf Stalker, and the Gray Render was finished off by the Iron Golem. That loss bumped me over 200 points and ended the game.
Looking back on it, I'd say that Steven made a mistake in placing his Troglodyte Barbarian where I could charge it. It was a small mistake, but it cascaded into bigger and bigger things. He wasn't helped by me winning the initiative every time it mattered -- he could have extricated himself from some ugly situations if the initiative dice had been kinder to him.
This game bumped my standings back up to 3:2. It's good to have a better-than-50/50 record.
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.