Staring into the Abyss – Part 3 : Practice and Warband building

Undead vs Abyss

With the Your Club, Your Story initiative running at the Aftermath Club, a lot of players are being introduced to Vanguard at the same time. I’ve played Vanguard on and off since release, as have a few other members of the club (most noticeably Mark who fully backed the Kickstarter and ran demos all day at the Norwich Diceni 2019 event in May) so we started “Our Story” by running a couple of demo nights for everyone taking part.

My first demo was a very small 75 point game with Darren using his Goblins. This was literally an exploration of the mechanics with him, as well as a chat for everyone at the club in the campaign to talk about how we’d run things. I didn’t take any pictures of this first encounter – nothing was painted on either side so it wasn’t very exciting to look at. What I did very quickly learn however was how apparently powerful the Seductress was, combined with the faction ability of Fury, she was a one demon, goblin slaying force impossible to stop, at 75 points at least.

After this initial round of games we kicked off the campaign for anyone who wanted to get stuck in immediately. Following the campaign default settings in the book to the letter, everyone had 400 gold to buy their force with. For this first campaign at the club we kept the narrative and direction simple – anyone could play anyone and scenarios could be re-rolled/picked if they same ones kept coming up or if a good reason to play a specific mission came up. My plan was to try to thematically link my wins and losses by agreeing with my opponents why the scenario was being played, sometimes discussing who should be the attacker/defender if that helped a narrative develop.

Our club is running gaming day in September, so we’ll be working towards a big Kings of War Siege game to tie all the Vanguard games together – a loose good vs evil agenda based on how the campaign has gone at that point – which ever side has won the most games will be the attacker and the other side inside the castle.

A second week of demos was still planned, so I held off picking my force at this point, taking the opportunity to play with my new demons a bit more before committing to a roster.

The second week then I played Ady. He’s literally just been handed his Basileans (which you can see more of here) so for the demo purposes I lent him some of my undead. I used a rag-tag selection of demons, including a Hellequin Masque so I could compare his performance to that of my Seductress from the previous game. Demon commanders are all over 40 points so I didn’t think I’d be able to afford one of each in the campaign, so testing them beforehand was a boon.

We played power stones, although using some of the random objectives as the stones were already in use on another table – Matt hadn’t painted his yet at this stage. Ady was experimenting with as many unit types as I had brought with me and I was doing similar with the demons, some of which I had partially painted at this stage. This picture shows an early turn with my “expendable” flank advancing through some rocky ground whilst the undead move fast and ranged models into worrying positions.

An early bit of wisdom Ady and I were discussing was the comfort using grunts gave in a campaign – they come back after each game! Ady took a lot of skeletons, zombies and skeleton archers and I had a good number of lesser Abyssals and Flamebearers to see if they were any use. Ady flooded all 3 objectives with grunts galore – here’s the left flank dripping in Oldhammer skeletons, under the watchful eye of the Necromancer.

I noticed that my Warlock could turn his fireball spell into an breath effect by boosting it – so I leapt at the chance to BBQ many zombies all at once. Things were looking quite good for me after this, the central objective was suddenly vulnerable – the lone Revenant shouldn’t be a problem should it?

Alas this was when Ady struck with the thing of the match – the werewolf! This shot is actually towards the end the match, but the werewolf essentially sat in this position in front of the central objective for 3 turns, taunting much of my warband into combat with it. Despite putting the thing down many times, between being an undead unit near the necromancer (just out of shot at the top) and having the heal spell cast on it repeatedly, it would not die and it pretty quickly destroyed much of my combat strength on the table.

I tried to stop these tricks with my Hellhound by eating the necromancer who was keeping the werewolf in the game, but it turns out they really are all bark (3 heads after all) and very little bite. That harmless looking solo Revenant did for the poor demon dog.

So I learnt a lot of lessons from this game, by far the most one sided Vanguard match I have played. I lost sight of the other objectives, and frustrated by the werewolf’s seeming vulnerability every turn, I wasted a lot of models in trying to finish it off. In campaign terms if this had been a real game I would have had a lot of casualties to worry about.

So, with what I had learnt, I went off to consult the scrying orb and the book of names to determine what fiends would crawl out of the pit and serve my on the campaign proper! I’ll cover my choices and thinking in a future post.

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