Staring into the Abyss – Part 6 : Playing a campaign

So I’ve been putting this post on hold for a while, after the first few games I realised the photos aren’t very exiting to view in a blow by blow account, especially with so many of the model being WIP paint jobs! Instead I’ve gathered a bit of a high level overview of all the campaign games I played, some key observations and commentary on the campaign implications of each game.

Game 1 – Light the Beacon

Turns out this scenario is pretty likely to come up when rolling on the random chart! I’d played this before in a non-campaign game with forces of nature so had some ideas for tactics. My first opponent was Mark, with his Basileans, also not his first rodeo.

Mark deployed in two big clumps, he had so many models it was almost like a small game of kings of war – quite daunting to face. As the defender in this scenario I had less points, so had to approach this really carefully with the glass hammers that my Abyssal forces are. With a lone lesser hiding behind the beacon, the rest of my forces waited in the wings, hoping to engage and entertain the attackers before they could set fire to their target.

Mark advanced as fast as he could, very aware that he needed to clear my forces out in good time to achieve his objective.

I resisted rushing forward to engage the enemy, I wouldn’t last long in the open, there were a lot of shots on the other side! The seductress isn’t asleep here, she’s on the rise of the hill, with some carefully spread out grunts wary of the lightning bolt the enemy spell caster had.

The game progressed largely trading models one for one. I had taken a lot of grunts, as had Mark so we weren’t too worried about campaign casualties initially, but as the turns wound one we had to commit more important models. Both Mark’s Ogre and my defiler left the battlefield on stretchers. As the game to a close I threw all of my models into engagements to tie Mark’s men up. I didn’t dare attack as his spell caster was waiting to get an area effect shot off with a lightning bolt, so I had to dip and dive in combat and trust the allure of the seductress and the brace action would keep me alive. It did, although playing so out of character was quite odd!

After the game my Defiler was given bed rest by the infernal doctor, so would miss the next game. Everyone else was ok and we found a few healing potions to add to the stash. My seductress went up a level, gaining a bonus leadership die.

Game 2 – Light the Beacon – again!

So, that was unlucky! A different Mark, but more men, although from the Kingdom this time. Mark had even more ranged models here and once again I had a beacon to defend. This game I decided to swap leaders and use my Tormentor, and as the Defiler was out of action, I brought the warlock (at this point he was still a Large class model, so I could only bring one or the other).

Both sides deployed quite similar to the previous game, although I was a bit more aggressive with my ranged grunts.

Mark dashed forward, making good use of his leader’s special ability to move his forces faster. Shots were traded and various grunts died in the cross fire.

Mark ended up avoiding my left flank where I had some flamebearers successfully kill his advance. This meant the brunt of his thrust hit my right forces, who I fed in one by one to try and slow the mass of men. The Hellequin took a few men out and refused to stay down, repeatedly passing saves and getting back up for another beating. My man of the match.

In the end the men decided to retreat rather than take any more casualties – I was on the cusp of doing the same, we both lost a lot of our warbands. A narrow win for me, with my Tormentor out for an extra game due to severe concussion. After this match my sneaky demons found a horse tied up that we added to our stash. My reliable succubus and guard both went up a level, gaining some stats rather than risking a random skill. At this point I finally added some Imps to my company as well so should the opportunity arise I could try them out.

Game 3 – Destroy the Baggage Train

This was an interesting gaming evening despite the lack of photos. A new club member, Quinte, asked to try Vanguard out, so I bravely let him use my Warband, full campaign consequences and all. Playing Will’s Trident realms in what turned out to be a tough scenario for the attacker.

My forces were spread out very thinly and I had to keep looking away as Will had a crazy amount of shooting taking out my forces every time one attempted to approach a baggage wagon.

My hellhound was pin cushioned in a cunning distraction tactic which let the despoiler approach the lead wagon, only to be undone by a bevy of otters! After quite a few losses I begged my apprentice to retreat before I lost any more characters. He agreed and the Abyssals limped home, having barely scratched the wagons.

After the battle the hellhound recovered with terrible scaring and the despoiler has recurring nightmares – presumably about being swarmed by yipping otters…

Game 4 – Supply Grab

Quinte enjoyed the previous game so much he immediately joined the campaign, bringing forces of the undead with him on my next Vanguard outing. We rolled up supply grab and set up the nice primitive village battlefield to battle over.

My warband was starting to get a fair amount of paint on it by this point and after a few games I felt I had some idea what I was doing. I had my seductress in the centre ready to quickly redeploy with her decent speed and flight and had the hellhound on a flank ready to dash onto a supply objective later in the game. The rest of my forces I spread out to try and avoid getting stuck in too much terrain and gain some line of sight with my flamebearers. Quinte clumped up on one side aside from his wraith, which was a bit worrying…

Soon into the game I could see my lack of experience against undead was going to be a concern, Quinte sent his minions sprinting across the board – we later discovered the faction ability can only be used once a turn so this was not actually allowed.

After a crazy combo charge from the ghouls which took some of my flamebearers out, I was able to recover my flank (even the hellhound helped).

Quinte moved his necromancer onto the near central rise, which meant he was clearly visible to my seductress who having dispatched a few other undead leapt into the air and put the decaying mage down. Quinte conceded at this point and thus marks what is bound to be an endless grudge match at our club, can I hunt down the necromancer before attrition kills my forces? It wouldn’t take long for a rematch…

After this game my forces entered into a joust somewhat unexpectedly, earning lots of gold but permanently injuring my second succubus (who has never graced a battle!). I used some of the gold to buy some exciting new equipment as I’d received the card pack and there were lots of goodies in there.

Game 5 – King of the Hill

Technically this game was set after the initial campaign ended. We’d played a big “Goodbye Kings of War 2” siege battle where the forces of darkness (who were overall losing in the campaign) joined together to try and defend a huge fortress from the combined might of the neutral and good armies. More on that in a future post!

The Ice and Iron book was doing the rounds at the club, so we wanted to try out the new scenarios. King of the Hill was an opportunity to try multiplayer out, so Mark (with Basileans again) and Quinte (with a fresh necromancer) faced off against my nearly finished painting forces, fighting over a snowy battleground.

We spiced up the game a little by adding a shrine to the hill we were all trying to be king of. Using the standard objective mechanism, if a model could capture the shrine, they would gain a unique item. We drew a random card and it turned out to the the unique Bat mount item, which is a serious boost for any model that can capture it.

Getting to the hill was obviously the focus of the game, but so was getting good line of sight to the centre. With two mages with lightning bolt and my flamebearers proving to be powerful in previous games, we were all looking for good positions.

I made a very early dash for the hill with a lone lesser abyssal to see if I could tempt the other players to commit. The gur panther quickly dispatched my minion and then all chaos broke out on the hill.

Things escalated quickly, with all the large models in a scrum on the hill, my despoiler putting the ogre palace guard down…

With the help of my seductress anyway. Everyone was throwing troops onto the hill to collect victory points, but the fight for the battle mount was ferocious.

This shot was taken after a key moment, the necromancer managed to cast an AOE boosted lightning bolt, using the energy crystal to re-roll all failed hit rolls, wiping about half of my warband out. From this point onward the undead had control of the game, a revenant now riding the battle mount to add to his lead firther, Mark and I had traded too many kills leaving Quinte in a position to dictate the game flow – I should have hunted the mage down again!

So that brings me up to date. I’ve really enjoyed my games so far and there’s plenty of scenarios I haven’t played. The Ice and Iron book bring a number of new aspects to the game I want to try out, so there’s lots of material still to work through.

The aspect that’s not worked so well at my club is the campaign. A combination coordinating the sheer number of players and the power that certain models gain through items, advances and retinue perks has meant the rules as written have led to some off balance match ups. In addition the events after the games seem to have more impact on a company than the outcome of a game, to the point that players were considering retreating very early in games rather than suffer any casualties.

Ice and Iron covers some nice ways of tying a narrative together with a sense of progress and outcome, as well as ensuring a nice mix of scenarios and clear end point. I think for a relatively small group with dedicated turn out to games this will work well.

At my club, we have a larger pool of players who will drop in and out of games depending on what’s going on with real life and other gaming commitments. With that in mind a more flexible campaign system may be possible if players still want a sense of progress and achievement, rather than just moving to a standard competitive play model. I’m working on a ruleset to cover this, I’ll share my thoughts in a future blog.

Next time we’ll have a look at my painted company…

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