Friday, 1 January 2016

Fimir vs Chaos Dwarfs - A Kings of War Battle Report and System Review

Remember them?  From all the way back in post four?

 The entire reason this blog is called The Bearded Quail is because I founded it to catalogue my painting and gaming for wargames, of which the two new armies I wanted to start were Squatrs for 40K and Chaos Dwaarfs for Warhammer Fantasy.  Although I've blogged a lot about my Emperor's Children Chaos Marines, I had painted so much of them that I expected they'd take a back seat.

As it happens it didn't quite work out that way and few if any beards have been painted by this quail, and none of have been played.

Now, cue the Jeremy Clarkson voice while I say... UNTIL NOW!

Priestly Paul invited me to his pad on the 30th December to play Kings of War, the game of fantasy battles made by Mantic.  (They of Dreadball fame.)  A Kickstarter recently brought a new updated version of these rules to the world and the local gaming community in Glasgow seems to have taken to it - certainly there's a few players at G3 who are into it.

The rules and supporting miniatures line are very clearly written as a fertile ground for Warhammer-proxy armies.  The Dwarfs, Elves and Humans have clear analogues to their Warhammer equivalents, though that isn't hard as they are such generic fantasy armies anyway. The more obscure races still map across though: the Salamanders for Lizardmen, The Herd for Beastmen, The Empire of Dust for Tomb King Undead.

Of particular relevance to us though ars the Abyssal Dwarfs who are of course a Chaos Dwarf proxy.  Most of the key elements of the Games Workshop version can be found here, though Mantic have some of their own twists - such as the demonic Gargoyles fast support or the scorpion-like sorcerer model.

Best known for their appearance in Heroquest

Paul would also be using the rules to enable a sort of proxy-playing.  He has some models for Fimir, a fairly obscure 80s Warhammer element that was never very popular back in the day but has a bit of a cult following.  Using the army list for the Varangur - essentially the Warriors of Chaos expy - he statted up an equivalent army so our two Warhammer cast-offs could finally do battle.

Set-up on his 8' x 4' table.  I am on the table closest to the left hand side, all red and green (and some unpainted plastic)

With a 1,500 point army assembled from each side (though mine needed some donations from Paul's unpainted collection to get it up to snuff) our game began.  Set-up is done one unit at a time so we had time to see and react to the arrival of our opponent's forces.  I went for my heavier hitters, the varying kinds of Golems, on the "east" flank (closest to right hand side on above picture) while the left flank was a light smattering of "Slave Orcs" and some flamethrower support.   Paul went the reverse - his heavier hitters took the "west" flank, while the fast but weak forces took the "east flank"

The bulk of both armies took the central section, James the Death Engine acting as a rocket launcher and taking a view of the middle of the battlefield.

So how did things go down?

Part of the army list for the Abyssal Dwarfs.  Click to embiggen!
 Army selection is a system I quite enjoyed, being a lot more regular than Warhammer but not feeling like you were losing much tactical depth.  Rather than the Warhammer style where you buy models and have a minimum and maybe maximum per unit, you buy pre-styled unit sizes in Kings of War - for infantry that usually means Troops of 10, Regiments of 20 or Hordes 40 models.  This varies for different types of units - a troop of cavalry is usually only 5 models, a regiment 10, and a troop of Ogre-sized infantry might only be 3 models.

Of cour an issue in point based games is encouraging people to build balanced armies rather than daft things like twenty canons, three dragons and fifteen halberds looking a bit pointless.  In Warhammer balance is encouraged either by Force Organisation Charts (so you can only have a maximum of say 3 Heavy Support choices in a game, but six troops) or by percentages (so at least a quarter of your army must be generic troops and you can only spend so many points on war machines.)

One for a certain vintage of nerd

In Kings of War, the balance method works a bit like the old Army Cards in the 6mm Epic scale Space Marine/Titan Legion games.  Buying different sizes of core infantry unlocks other elements.  A Regiment allows you to add two Troops, a Horde lets you add four.  A Regiment entitles you to add either one Hero, one Monster or one War Machine; a horde lets you add one Hero AND one Monster AND one War Machine.

The end result is encouragement to build "sensible" armies formed out of large blocks of troops, but still with a fair bit of flexibility if you want to focus on different elements.  On the table it quickly became apparent that Hordes have a lot of advantages beyond that - even crap troops like Slave Orcs and Paul's own grunt infantry can carry fights on sheer weight of numbers.

Under shelling from James the Death Engine, slave chattel and Fimir warriors charge the Blunderbuss line.
Paul basically had no ranged combat bar magic spells, and I wasn't much different apart from short ranged Blunderbusses and some heavy artillery.  The meat of the game was melee, and while our first turn was just spend manoeuvring it very quickly became apparent in turn two that combat could be bruta

Paul got several charges in where he hit my units on the flank, and the advnatage for doing so was notable.  There's double your normal dice for attacking on the flank and three times if you attack on the rear.  The end result is that my Wolf Riders and my Blunderbusses were out before they could really do much of anything and I had to desperately re-order my line to keep things together.  I dealt some minor damage to his units, but nothing to write home about at this early stage.

The result of that charge - the Blunderbusses completely routed, though the Slave Orcs and the spellcaster have come to the rescue.

Speaking of damage, for someone more used to Warhammer and casualities being recorded as individual models coming out of the unit it was interesting to try Kings of War's alternate mechanic.  Here, the unit stays at full size until it is killed - if you buy a 40 Slave Orc unit, it is either a full unit or a dead one.  Instead, damage racks up slowly over time like the Hit Points in D&D / Pokemon.  While this means units don't tend to drop in effectiveness during play which removes some tactical depth, it does make admin a bit smoother - you just put dice next to the model to mark damage points so far, then remove the whole unit when done.

After a unit has taken damage you roll 2D6 and add the new damage total - your objective is to get equal or higher than one of two thresholds for the Unit, the Waver and Rout Threshold.  If you equal or exceed Waver, the unit is weakened for the next turn as they start to panic - they will refuse to do much apart from hold position or retreat and certainly not charge anyone.  Equal or cross the Rout threshold and they'll just leave the table, either massacred or scattering to the winds.  Double 1s and Double 6s are effectively always fails and successes which means that every so often a unit will be randomly slain or inexplicably survive but usually the laws of average will make more predictable choices.

The after effect of shelling on the chattel - 12 points of damage, followed by a 2D6+damage total roll which didn't do enough to Waver or Rout them.
As part of the Kings of War kickstarter, Priestly Paul had gotten himself some cool coutners which we used to mark units that had tests still to take or had become wavered.  You'd definitely want something like these to play the game because otherwise I can imagine large games could see people forgetting which units had rolled already or had failed their tests.

Apart from those tokens though there's no other templates required.  In some games you might have teardrop-shaped templates for flamethrowers, straight line shaped templates for lightning bolts, circular templates for explosions or even humanoid shaped templates for falling giants.  Instead all damage in the game is handled by the same core mechanic of rolling d6 with some special rules multiplying or improving hit strength where required.

The example counter set and other odds and ends included in the Kickstarter - that's a turn counter on the left, a range ruler on the right.

Anyway, as the game progressed I experimented a bit to see what would happen.  The Gargoyles proved to be a curious unit, possessing low Waver/Rout thresholds but a good Regeneration score.  The end result was that if a unit couldn't wipe them in one turn they were likely to heal most of their wounds back at the start of the next turn, keeping them alive and annoying the opposition.  Their flight power proved little actual use since they spent much of the game in melee and on reflection they may have been better reserved a little longer

The Gargoyles and the Overlord charge in to tie up the opposition and protect the "west" flank.
It very quickly became apparent that a war machine could deal a lot of damage at range but would be minced in melee.  When Paul braved the Flamethrower's attack to get into melee he ended up tearing it to pieces quickly.  Effectively all melee attacks on war machines count as though attacking the unit from the rear, which means wonderful bonuses.

The troop of Slave Orcs and the Flamethrower go down without much fight.
I had expected the Slave Orc Horde to be so much cannon fodder but on the contrary they proved one of my best units, relying on their weight of numbers to keep them alive when more skilled but smaller units fell.  They have a cool "Yellow-Bellied" rule which means they have to be convinced to charge units to the fore - they will counter-charge or attack to the flank/rear without complaint, but sometimes they pretend not to hear you when you ask them to do something dangerous.  This might make them weaker but it's very characterful and it helped me get into my role as a Chaos Dwarf general as I yelled at the dice, demanding they be sure to obey my order THIS time.

That said, a big difference to Warhammer is how rarely disobeying my orders was an issue.  In Warhammer, it is a regular element to make Leadership rolls because unit psychology is a big factor.  Fear of scary enemy units, Panic of friendly units being killed nearby, Hatred of an enemy encouraging you to new heights, Animosity of a "friendly" unit leading to internal fighting.... a big part of the game since the first edition was troops having different ideas than their general and similar concepts pop up in a few other GW games, from the command chains of Warmaster to the thick Trolls of Blood Bowl. 

Who do you think will survive Fimir attack better?  Trained two-handed-axe wielding Chaos Dwarfs or rebellious dagger wielding Hobgoblin levies?

This is a very medieval combat sort of problem, that of warriors with limited training or age-old grudges letting their passions get in the way of things - my Pendragon players will understand!  Kings of War has none of that, which means units are very obedient which possibly loses one of the big tactical issues of the era.

Anyway, with the west flank totally collapsed and the east flank a bit pointless - the slow moving Golems couldn't reach the fast moving units to charge - the real fight was in the center.  Here, Chaos Dwarfs fell before Fimir leaving only Slave Orcs to stand in front of the tide.

....I'm as surprised as you are.  At least the Golems are coming to help, very slowly!

One thing which did go my way was that the Rocket Launcher rotated, took aim at the bridge and managed to Waver the smaller enemy unit.  Thanks to that, they became pinned down and unable to charge as they had intended on doing.  This meant the large Fimir warrior unit behind them also couldn't charge - you can move through friendly units but since they couldn't see through them at the start of the turn, they couldn't declare a charge and were forced to sit back for a turn.  That slowed the advance of the forces on the West flank, buying me much needed time.

This is something Paul found really interesting - not that you could kill a unit by ranged attacks but you could slow a unit by ranged attacks.  Limiting the movement of enemy units can be a big tactical advantage and one which messed with his plans on this occasion.

Priestly Paul tries tot urn the other cheek, but really he wants to grind the bones of my Chaos Dwarves to make his bread.
Anyway, the so far hardy Gargoyles finally bit off more than they could chew and took two units attacking them in one go - Fimir and a Fimir warlord.  This was too much even for their regeneraiton power and they finally left the table, letting those units head towards the central battle.
I was otherwise happy with this unit, though, and would include it in my army again.
However some assistance was coming.  The large Golem managed to chew through the hounds and come to the rescue of the Slave Orcs -while slow moving the magic of my spellcaster could be used to boost their speed.  With the aid of their attack, suddenly Paul was the one taking models off the table.

Finally, I'm feeling a bit more cocky.

Turn 6 was our last guaranteed turn and Paul struggled to take many more units off the map, with his western flank units just too far away.  He does manage to bring his Warlord down who gives my spellcaster a Waver and routs the rocket launcher but the Golems are now close enough to chomp through whatever small units are hanging around.  In the end we failed to get an extra seventh turn which mean the game ended with just a vestige of both forces present.

The only models left on the table.
The end of our simple "kill everyone" scenario required totalling up how many points worth of enemy units we'd slain and what the difference was.  Paul had slain more, sure, but he had to slay a certain amount more to be classed the winner - 10% of the original total or 150 more.  While I'd lost a few units I had a couple of big ticket golems still on the table which might just scrape it for me.  In my head, I'm already calling this a draw.

Paul added his numbers up, I added mine.  He'd slain.... 195 more points.

Beyonce actually scored more points according to Kanye
OK, so the last game of the year for me was another George loss.  Still, it was a lot of fun and I think I definitely feel ebtter for seeing the Chaos Dwarfs finally put to use.  I think I'd like to play more Kings of War and hope that others will join me in experimenting with this game in 2016.

1 comment:

  1. Love it, really great to see this written up so well George. One thing I realised was that we had very few waivered units in the game. I think waivered is supposed to represent that medieval psychological problem...which forces units to assess what's hit them...and get afraid or huffy etc.

    The way waivered can be the result of shooting means that a shooty army could potentially control two phases of the game, even if they are slow and not very hitty...which I think might explain how some people are saying that shooty armies might be constructed in an OP sort of way with loads of regiments/hordes of archers...