Thursday 13 August 2015

Second Thoughts on Age of Sigmar- Vampire Counts vs Chaos Warriors

Last week, I managed to get my second game of Age of Sigmar to try out the new system. My first game did not go so well and I highlighted many of the problems that I had with the game. Hopefully my second match would go better and I would start to see the appeal of GW's newest game.
This week I took on Yans' Warriors of Chaos. Before the game started, we did have a little chat about what kind of game we wanted to play. I wanted a balanced game with a reasonably sized army. I was planning to take mostly infantry with a unit of cavalry and I also wanted to try out a monster this game. I suggested capping the model count at 100, but Yans pointed out that this would not work with Warriors of Chaos as he was mostly fielding dragon ogres, who have 5 wounds a piece. So model count was out. We then settled on roughly equal numbers of warscrolls and just what "felt right" on the battlefield and see how the game turned out. Once again, I really missed points values at this point. Games are so much easier to arrange when you can say to your opponent "2000 pts, I'm taking Vampires". So, we had a go at balancing our armies, but the only way to tell would be after the game had ended.
For this battle, I took:
Vampire Lord (V)
Two Necromancers (N1 and N2)
Terrorgheist (T)
30 Skeletons- Spears and Crypt Shields (S1)
30 Skeletons- Ancient Blades and Crypt Shields (S2)
40 Zombies (Z)
3 Crypt Horrors (CH)
Corpse Cart (CC0
9 Black Knights (BK)
A decent sized force for the vampire counts. I wanted to take bigger units of skeletons and zombies this time in order to access their special rules (skeletons get additional attacks in bigger units, while zombies get bonuses to their hit and wound rolls). I also wanted to try the Terrorgheist as monsters are absolute beasts in Age of Sigmar. I also took a few magic users in order to bolster my undead forces.
Yans force consisted of:
Chaos Lord of Nurgle (CL)
Nurgle Sorceror (S1)
24 Chosen of Nurgle (C)
Giant (G)
6 Dragon Ogres (DO1)
3 Dragon Ogres (DO2)
Shaggoth (S2)
Gorebeast Chariot (GC)
Hellcannon (H)

This battle had 37 models vs 117 models. Yans got Sudden Death and chose Blunt (kill a unit containing at least 5 models). I chose the block of zombies, they were the most numerous and I could always add to them by summoning more.
We played on a 4 foot square board and rolled for the terrain. The hill in my deployment zone was Damned (bonus to hit rolls by sacrificing members of unit), the wood was Inspiring (bonus to courage) and the other hill was Arcane (bonus to casting).
We then deployed our forces, Yans starting. He deloyed the Hellcannon with good view of the battlefield. His right flank had the smaller unit of Ogres and Shaggoth to hold it, the rest of the army taking position on the left flank.

I also split my forces around the woods. The faster moving Black Knights and Vampire on the left to take on the Shaggoth, supported by a unit of skeletons and Necromancer. The other flank held the majority of my army to counter Yans' deployment.

Yans chose to go first, so the battle began.
Turn 1- Chaos
The Sorcerer attempted to cast Mystic Shield on the Dragon Ogres, but the fickle powers of Chaos deserted him and he failed in the attempt. The Chaos Lord activated Morbid Vigour, giving the troops of Nurgle greater protection in the coming battle.

The majority of the Chaos army advanced on the Undead legions before them, only the Hellcannon staying to fire on the skeletal hordes. The Hellcannon turned its daemonic attention on the Terrorgheist, hitting the beast twice and causing 9 mortal wounds! (Ouch! At this rate my Terrorgheist would not survive long).
Turn 1- Vampire Counts
The Vampire Lord reached out with his Eldritch powers, commanding Blood Feast upon the Black Knights (giving them an extra attack), also protecting them with Mystic Shield. The Necromancer nearest the Knights also boosted their powers with Vanhel's Danse Macabre (allowing them to attack twice in next combat phase). The other Necromancer cast Mystic Shield on the Terrorgheist, hoping to help the beast survive the coming encounter. The Skeletons sacrificed one of their number to the Cursed hill to help them out but the Necromantic magic in their banner brought the sacrifice back to undeathly service
With a thought, the Vampire Lord commanded his legions to advance. All units but the zombies moved up to face the chaos army arrayed before them. The Terrorgheist let out it's shriek, wounding the Ogres three times.

In the assault phase, the Terrorgheist charged the Dragon Ogres, the Black Knights charged the Shaggoth and the Vampire Lord charged the three Dragon Ogres on the left flank.
The Terrorgheist struck first, causing 3 wounds on the Dragon Ogres, slaying one of the monsters. Next, the Dragon Ogres facing the Vampire attacked, only managing to wound the mighty warrior once. The Black Knights were imbued with mystical power and put 4 wounds on the Shaggoth. The Chaos beast struck back, slaying two of the undead riders. The Vampire Lord put two wounds on the Dragon Ogres, while on the right flank, the other unit of Dragon Ogres wounded the Terrorgheist 5 times, leaving the mighty beast on one wound.

In the battleshock phase, no models were lost.
Turn 2- Chaos
The Sorcerer attempted to cast Mystic Shield on the Gorebeast, but failed on a double 1. The Chaos Lord used Morbid Vigour once again to bolster his troops.
In the movement phase, the Giant moved up towards the Skeletons, while the Chariot and Chosen advanced on the Crypt Horrors. The Hellcannon fired at the Skeleton warriors, six dying in the resulting chaos.

The Chariot and Chosen charged the Crypt Horrors, while the Giant failed a 6" charge on the Skeletons.
In combat, the Chosen struck at the Horrors, causing 4 wounds and killing one of the ghouls. The Black Knights managed to cause 5 wounds on the Shaggoth, leaving him on one. The Dragon Ogres struck at the Vampire Lord, only causing 2 hits from their 12 attacks and taking a wound from the vampire. The Terrorgheist struck at the Ogres before he could be slain, causing 4 wounds on the creatures facing him. The Gorebeast chariot caused 5 wounds on the Horrors, killing another one, while the surviving horror struck back, but could not damage the Chosen. 
The Ogres on the left flank succeeded in killing the Terrorgheist. On the other  flank, the Vampire Lord struck down one of the Dragon Ogres, while the Shaggoth wounded a Black Knight (despite having a 2+ save).

In the battleshock phase, two skeletons crumbled to dust, while one of the Dragon Ogres fighting the Vampire Lord was overcome with fear and fled the battlefield.
Turn 2- Vampire Counts

The Necromantic magic coursed through the vampire count's army, bringing back one Black Knight and three Skeletons. The Vampire Lord used blood feast on the skeletons moving up to support him, then cast Spirit Blight on the chosen, weakening the chaos warriors. The Necromancer on the left cast Vanhels on the skeletons, boosting their offensive capabilities, while the Necromancer on the right failed to cast Vanhels on the other unit of skeletons. The skeletal spearment sacrificed 3 skeletons to the cursed hail to gain +1 to hit.
The undead units advanced on the enemy, the skeletons moving up to support the vampire while the skeletal spearmen moved to engage the Giant.

In the combat phase, the skeleton spearmen attacked the giant with a massive 51 attacks and caused 8 wounds on the monster (I completely forgot about the +1 to hit from the cursed hill as well as +1 to hit from having a hero within 18" of them, so I was hitting on 5+ instead of 3+. Unfortunately had I used the correct rolls I may have slain the giant as I should statistically caused double the number of wounds!). They levelled another 15 attacks on the Chosen, but could not wound them. The Chosen then struck back, killing the last crypt horror, three skeletons and three zombies. The Zombies struck next (their numbers and corpse cart bonuses meant they were hitting on 2's and wounding on 3's), causing 6 wounds on the Chosen, all of which were saved and wounded the chariot twice, both of which were once again saved.

The Dragon ogres on my right were able to pile in, killing two skeletons. On the left flank, the skeletons put four wounds on the last dragon ogre (I once again forgot about the +1 to hit). The Dragon Ogre struck back, putting two wounds on the Vampire Lord. The Black Knights were finally able to finish off the Shaggoth, while the giant killed 7 skeletons facing him. The Vampire Lord was unable to finish off the last Dragon Ogre from the unit, while the Gorebeast Chariot succeeded in killing one more zombie.
In the battleshock phase, 6 skeletons were lost as the magic binding them failed.

Turn 3- Vampire Counts

I won the roll off for the turn and was rewarded with the return of one Knight, 6 skeletons and one zombie. The Vampire Lord cast Spirit Blight on the chosen and gave the Zombies +1A with his command ability. The Necromancer then cast Vanhels on the zombies to boost their combat prowess, while the second Necromancer used Vanhels on the Black Knights.
The only movement was the Black Knights moving up and charging the Hellcannon.

In the combat phase, the emboldened zombies struck at the chosen, killing 6 with a great 12 wounds and putting two wounds on the chariot. The Hellcannon struck at the Black Knights, killing one before he could strike. The skeletal spearmen attacked, wounding the giant once and two wounds on the Dragon Ogres. The Chosen attacked the undead hordes before them, killing 2 skeletons and 7 zombies. The skeletons on the left managed to finally kill the remaining dragon ogre, while on the right, the Giant killed two more skeletons. On the far side of the battlefield, the Black Knights could only put one wound on the Hellcannon, while the Gorebeast Chariot killed another 3 zombies.

In the battleshock phase, four more zombies were lost.

Turn 3- Chaos

The Sorcerer attempted to cast Stream of Corruption on the Black Knights, but failed to reach the casting value.
The Chaos Lord moved to engage the Necromancer, while the Sorcerer moved up to the Black Knights. The Hellcannon fired at the dwindling Zombie horde, killing another 8.

In the assault phase, the Chaos Lord charged the Necromancer and the Sorcerer charged the Black Knights.
Combat began with the Chosen killing 4 skeletons and another 9 zombies. The zombies struck back, putting one wound on the chariot and the Chosen. The giant, in his weakened state, only manage to kill one skeleton. On the other flank, the skeletons caused one wound on the chaos lord. The remaining Dragon Ogres killed 6 skeletons, while the Black Knights killed two the Dwarves manning the Hellcannon and wounded the cannon itself.
The Chaos Lord struck at the Neromancer, but he passed the damage on to his undead minions and three skeletons died. In the remaining combats, the only damage was the gorebeast chariot killing three more zombies.

In the battleshock phase, the zombies had taken too much damage and were wiped out without a roll being required, the battle was over.

Well, that went a lot better than my last game. Thanks to Yans for an interesting game, I think our forces were a lot more balanced in this game. At the end of turn 3, I pretty much controlled one flank, while Yans had the other. Were it not for Sudden Death, I'm not sure who would have won in the end.

My biggest mistake was definitely charging the Zombies in to combat. With all the boosts they got, they were hitting on 2's and wounding on 3's, so I was pretty confident in their killing ability. Unfortunately, when I charged in, I did not get a huge number of attacks in the first round due to the positioning of my troops. Had I managed to get most of the unit in contact, I think it would have made a big difference. From there, the Chosen and Gorebeast chariot were able to whittle them down each turn and eventually wipe them out. I could have used the Necromancers to add to the unit, but it would have taken at least 3 turns to get the units together to merge (one turn to summon the unit, the second turn to move the new unit up to the existing zombie unit and the third turn to merge them in the hero phase), so this is not a reliable tactic.

The undead units are certainly more effective in greater numbers. Skeletons and Zombies get a huge boost when fielded in large units and this is something I will definitely try to use in future games (assuming I play any).

I forgot about a lot of the special rules in this game, particularly ones that would have helped the skeletons and zombies. I guess this is something that will come with time and practice.

This game was a lot more enjoyable than my first game of Age of Sigmar, I am still not completely sold on the game, but I can see the appeal a bit more. Here are some additional thoughts from this game:

1. Balance:
Before the game started, Yans and I had a talk about what sort of forces that we wanted to bring to have a balanced game. We talked about having a model limit, but seeing as he was fielding mostly chosen (with two wounds a piece) and Dragon Ogres (with 5 wounds a piece), that wasn't going to work. We then talked about fielding roughly the same number of battlescrolls and whether that would be suitable. In the end, we put down on the table what felt right.
In hindsight, the forces were probably fairly even. If I hadn't made the error with charging in the zombies, the game probably would have gone the distance. The fact that it was a balanced game can only really be determined in hindsight once the game has been played. This is probably true of 40k as much as it is the Age of Sigmar, but arranging a game of 40k and what forces to take is much easier in my opinion. I'm still not sure what the solutions to this is; group-determined points costs, wound matching, etc.

2. Combat Activation
I never talked about this in my first impressions, but I really like the unit by unit combat activation mechanic that Age of Sigmar uses. It adds some tactical complexity to the game (something that has been reduced) by making you think about what order combats are fought and by which units. Do I attack with the Terrorgheist that is on one wound or do I attack with the skeletons so that the giant can't kill more and reduce my attacks back? Also, it makes a change from always striking last with most of the undead army.

3. Battle Reports
As much as I like the combat activation phase, I don't think it makes for exciting reading in a battle report. You no longer have the back and forth between two units engaged in combat, you need to jump all over the battlefield to cover it accurately. Maybe it should not be covered accurately in Age of Sigmar, but needs a more narrative approach, though the choice of what units to activate and when might be interesting for some readers. I would be interested to hear what people think about this.

The other issue is that combats just look messy in the pictures. I think skirmish games look better on the round bases as the combats just look hideous in the pictures. I am not going to re-base my collection as I still want to get some games of 8th edition in.

4. Shooting
The shooting mechanic is still very powerful. The hellcannon was able to severely damage the Terrorgheist in the first turn, making its own shooting attack weaker against the dragon ogres.

5. Undead Abilities
The Vampire Counts have some very powerful abilities to use in the game. Being able to bring back casualties with the banners is very useful and can keep units in the fight for even longer. As has been mentioned, skeletons and zombies get some huge boosts when in larger numbers and Vampire Heroes can boost their combat skills even further.

Overall, I enjoyed this game. I'm still not sold on the game overall, but I'm starting to see the appeal behind it, but not enough to keep me from playing 40k more than Age of Sigmar.


  1. In general, my group has found that using wounds makes for pretty balanced forces. However, there are a few warscrolls, skeletons being one such unit that we count as 1/2 wound for purpose of force generation. Units that get a bonus at 20 models, and another bonus at 30 models are the units we do that for.

    1. Interesting approach. Would give horde armies such as undead and skaven a nice boost.

  2. Good to see that you gave it another shot and that you enjoyed the game. In terms of points / balancing mechanisms one fan made version I have seen and that seems pretty reasonable is at the following link Intended for tournament use, so you can just agree a total 'pool' value and deploy up to that value. Most of the values seem pretty fair, and I expect we will see lots of work on it as a number of UK tournaments are planning on using it.

    In terms of the game - doh on the forgetting that you hit on 3+! That would have made a big difference! Also, with Zombies hording up that could take one turn - there is nothing to indicate that you can't merge a unit on the turn it is summoned, and the only summoning restriction is more than 9" from enemy units - so not likely to happen in combat, but outside of combat, go nuts.

    You asked about the report writing. I think the narrative approach would be great to read and give you the opportunity to just focus on the unusual, the interesting and the well planned. As an example of this look back at early White Dwarf battle reports - one that sticks in my mind is a combat between a unit of dwarves and Imperial Halberdiers. This was a real grind and lasted for about 4 turns - each turn the description was about a sentence like "The Dwarves and the Halberdiers continued to batter each other, and now only a handful of each stood". So, for me, from the report as written some stand out things - the devastation inflicted on the terrorgheist - the glorious charge of the Black Knights (x2) - the Vampire hacking through the Dragon Ogres - the nearly there attack on the Giant - the slaughter inflicted by the Chosen. These could be spun into interesting stories, and the rest of the battle dealt with in a kind of broad brush "and there was much slaughter off camera" kind of way.

    1. Thanks for the advice. I'll need to look into the points system, and see what my own club decides in the way of balance.

      I was annoyed about the giant after I had made my attack. Odds are, I could have got rid of it! That might have allowed me to take on the chosen and save my zombies (or else, focus on the dragon ogres).
      Losing the terrorgheist so quickly was a blow. With their low courage value, he could have made a mess of the dragon ogres if he was a full strength.

  3. No... Don't give in! Do let games workshop trick you into this new heresy lol

  4. This is the comp system we're using for a tourney this coming weekend. We've found that this creates pretty balanced games overall