Let the madness continue!
Sitting on a healthy 4-1 record, I went into my next match with the intent of just having some fun. That wasn't going to be a problem, because my next opponent was none other than the lovely and talented Linae Foster ("Lurking Lidda"), Assistant Brand Manager for the D&D Miniatures line, working mother, and all around swell gal (is it legal to call women "gal" these days? I guess the Legal Department will let me know soon enough.). Linae is intimately familiar with the D&D Miniatures products and has years of experience playing D&D (and thus maintains great knowledge of the RPG side of the line), but she is somewhat new to the skirmish game itself. Though she has resisted and delayed the inevitable addiction that would result from her exposure to skirmish for a score of years, her eventual collapse was inevitable. When Organized Play announced the Blood War internal league, Linae decided to make it her goal to learn the skirmish rules, consequences be damned. Burdened by her youthful inexperience, Linae and I both approached the game with the intent that it would serve as more of a Q&A/instructional session than a serious match.
That's probably why I almost lost.
For this match, I used the same warband that I had against Mike Mearls because, despite the reduced power that this band held in comparison to my "Two Titans" build, I simply liked this better. I also didn't want to annihilate Linae in what was only her second live game, remembering how horribly Stephen Schubert humbled me in my first skirmish game ever during the Angelfire league. (How was I to know that the Ogre Mage was no good?)
Red Hand War Sorcerer (34 points, Commander 3, aka "The Not-So Green Goblin")
Fire Giant Forgepriest (84 points, aka "Half-Fire Elemental Santa")
Maug (41 points, aka "The Bowler")
Shadowdancer (28 points, aka "Milla Jovovich's Stunt Double")
Greenspawn Sneak x2 (aka "Mr. Happy" and "Mr. Noisy")
199 points, 6 Activations
Linae had posted her booster pull on the message boards a while back, and her final choice for her warband was both versatile and, ultimately, effective:
Doomguard (26 points, Commander 1)
Free League Ranger (25 points, Commander 2)
Centaur War Hulk (58 points)
Large Water Elemental (36 points)
Bralani Eladrin (35 points)
Ethereal Marauder (14 points)
Greenspawn Sneak (6 points)
200 points, 7 Activations
Linae had some serious front-line melee power at her disposal, not to mention the formidable ranged power of the Bralani (a piece to which I have lost many a Constructed match) and the Free League Ranger.
Linae gave me my choice of map, so we played on the Outpost. I set up in the lower left half (the 'building side'), primarily because in Constructed games, I always take the opposite starting area in the upper right. Because this League was all about experimenting, I decided to continue in that vein. That meant Linae got to set up behind the wall of stone. Both of us set Greenspawn Sneaks in the central victory area on the bridge, with the understanding that whoever moved first was going to commit a sort of green fratricide.
Round 1 -- initiative and first move Steve
With my first-round move, I charged my bridge-bound Scout into Linae's Scout, but of course failed miserably with his attack. Linae's Scout promptly hit and routed my own Greenspawn, who fled with the cruel weight of failure nestled squarely on his scaly shoulders. Linae advanced her Doomguard to keep the Greenspawn and rear pieces in command, but she placed her just a tad too far forward -- far enough that my Red Hand could target both her and the enemy Greenspawn with a lightning bolt, which put some heavy damage on the Doomguard and turned the little dragonspawn into a mushy green puddle on the bridge.
I'm pretty good about helping other people with tactics and strategy, especially newcomers who are trying to learn the ropes. Sometimes I'm too nice. (Ask my daughter about how badly she beat me in her first couple of D&D Miniatures games). I wasn't going to be concerned in the least if Linae beat me. In fact, I was kind of hoping that she would, though I also didn't think it would be right to just hand her the game intentionally -- not when I'm so good at doing it by accident.
But I digress. Linae maneuvered her pieces forward gradually, and I pointed out that by positioning my Red Hand where he could strike with a lightning bolt, I'd mistakenly set up a situation where both her Bralani and Free League Ranger could advance to the end of the tunnel in the top right portion of the map and target my commander with their ranged attacks. From that position, they couldn't see the Fire Giant I'd parked in front of the Red Hand like a fiery roadblock (you'd think it would be hard to miss a 22-foot-tall flaming Santa Claus). Linae acted on my so-called "expert" advice, but luckily (for me), both of her shots missed. My Maug and Shadowdancer put themselves into useful positions -- the robot in the building and close to the bridge, the Shadowdancer along the bottom wall of the building near my Start Area, where she could see the walls on the opposite end of the bridge). In the meantime, Linae's War Hulk and Marauder massed near the right side of the bridge. My injured Greenspawn finished his short trip out the door, and Linae's Water Elemental slowly but surely chugged his minty blue self toward the battle.
Round 2 -- initiative and first move Steve
Things got ugly on the next round. I won initiative and charged the Maug onto the bridge, where he smacked the Doomguard with his fist of fury and sent her running for the nearest EXIT sign. Linae flew her Bralani into a perfect position on her side of the pit that enabled her to land a whirlwind blast on my Fire Giant, Maug, and Red Hand sorcerer. I'd left them in a nice, neat row for her to do so. I'd even had the courtesy to point out that fact. Go me.
My bone-headed maneuver was made all the more profound when the Red Hand failed his save against the blast, but a natural 20 on the ensuing morale check meant that he'd stick around for a bit to ponder his weak tactical decisions. Meanwhile, other things clicked off like clockwork. Linae's Centaur landed a solid hit on the Maug. My Fire Giant moved closer to the action. The Red Hand damaged the Ethereal Marauder and the Centaur with another lightning bolt. My Shadowdancer Shadow Jumped onto the Bralani's flank (he was already based by the Maug) where she would have dealt hefty Sneak damage, if she'd actually hit. Linae's Doomguard ("Biker Barbie," as I like to call her) failed her rally attempt and headed home to commiserate with Ken. And the Water Elemental continued to ever so slowly make his way toward the melee.
Round 3 -- initiative and first move Linae
Wisely enough, Linae used the Free League Ranger's Initiative Surge to take the initiative, which allowed her Centaur to, alas, completely miss the Maug. On the plus side, her Bralani flew over the pit (suffering a 20-damage smack from the Shadowdancer as he went) and planted a cloth-yard shaft into the Red Hand, relieving him of command. Luckily for me, the Bralani's move meant that only the Ethereal Marauder remained in base-to-base contact with my Maug. Unconcerned about that attack of opportunity, I ran the big robot back across the bridge to lay another smack on the injured Bralani, who obligingly failed his Morale Check and made for the door. Linae had to move her Free League Ranger to a position where he could place the Bralani back under command in the hope of a rally on the next round.
Meanwhile, my Fire Giant thundered across the bridge, smashed the Ethereal Marauder to pulpy bits, and Cleaved onto the Centaur War Hulk. As a return favor, the Water Elemental charged and laid some serious hurtage on the fire-immune Giant.
Round 4 -- initiative and first move Linae
Linae won initiative again, and things looked bright for her as the Water Elemental and Centaur both laid into the Fire Giant. They lashed him hard enough, in fact, to trigger what might have been a game-ending morale save that the Giant only had a 50/50 shot at making. But make it he did, and with flying colors (in spite of no longer having a commander urging him to keep smashing things with his big hammer). And smash he did -- his next attack forced an unsuccessful morale check on the Centaur, who promptly ran out the door. He was followed closely by the Bralani, who failed his rally attempt. My Shadowdancer moved closer to the Free League Ranger, while my Maug simply tried to figure out how to get back into the fight (my Giant had all of Linae's other pieces blocked off so that the only productive thing the Maug could do was collect victory points from the bridge).
Round 5 -- initiative and first move Steve
On the last round, I managed to win Initiative even without my commander. That allowed the Giant to finish the Water Elemental and the Shadowdancer to eliminate Linae's Free League Ranger. Thanks to the Maug's big, robotic butt camping on the central victory area through the middle of the match, that pushed me just over 200 points for the victory.
All in all, for a relative newcomer to the game, Linae played well. In the end, it was dumb luck that earned me the win as much as any skill or strategy. Several key rolls dominated the flow of the game.
- The Centaur's second, missed attack against the Maug (a hit would have destroyed it);
- The Centaur and the Bralani's failed morale checks and the Bralani's subsequent failure to rally;
- And the Fire Giant's success on his own frightening, 50/50 chance at a morale check.
Had any of these rolls gone differently, the game could easily have swung in the other direction.
The dice can't be controlled by anybody (even here at Wizards), but Lidda should take solace in the fact my victory wasn't so much earned as granted. My thanks to Lurking Lidda for a fun game.
I've decided that I truly like this version of the warband. I earned an Acheron Goblin as my sideboard reward, and I decided to roll him out in the next match. At 7 points, he could take the place of my second Greenspawn Sneak and, for the first time in this league, bump me up to an even 200-point warband. (No way!)
After this match, one week remained in the league. I'd enjoyed a stellar winning streak up to that point. We'll soon see what my last few matches held in store, when I bumped into some of those unsavory characters from down in Organized Play.
About the Author
Steven Montano's body has been taken over by a psionic entity from the Far Realms. This nameless presence, which we dare not identify for fear of our readers' sanity, will soon control every drive-through espresso stand in the Western Hemisphere. Beware the power we yield, mortals!!!