Battle Report #12
2300pts vs Forces of Nature: Salt the Earth
Eldroth and Alenui, two mages in the service of King Paweldran, stood silently in a glade within the forest north of the city Bel-Valdar. There was great natural and magical energy flowing within these woods. Gradually the patterns in the flow became discernible, great power was emanating from the east. Eldroth and Alenui opened their eyes, the task complete. There had been reports of a force massing in the forest now the two elven mages knew exactly where.
King Paweldran surveyed his troops, arrayed for battle the tightly formed ranks of his coastal guards, his nobles mounted on their prized steeds, forest rangers, experts in woodcraft and the mighty Drakon lords astride their monstrous steeds. Each one would have it’s part to play in the coming battle.
The Forest Dwellers’ arrogance would not go unpunished. Whilst there had been skirmishes and a few pitched battles Paweldran was keen to inflict a chastising defeat on the elements that called the forest home. The recent incursions into his realm could not go unanswered!
Game Intro and Lists:
Over the Christmas holidays I’d had a chance to play one of my old friends Ed. He’d taken one of the trickiest armies to face imo, a flying & surging Forces of Nature army. This army has so many ways to operate you really need to position units very carefully in the early turns to avoid what could prove disastrous errors. Sadly I made numerous mistakes and was soundly beaten. Keen for revenge and to try out some further list tweaks I challenged Ed to a rematch.
Mage (Alenui): Inspiring Talisman, Bane Chant, Lightning Bolt: 135pts
Mage (Eldroth): Lightning Bolt, Conjurers Staff, Bane Chant: 125pts
King (King Paweldran): Horse, Shardblade, Blade of Beast Slayer: 170pts
King (Pauldren): 100pts
Seaguard Horde: Brutal: 270pts
Seaguard Horde: Fire Oil: 265pts
Drakon Horde: Strider (1): 290pts
Glade Stalker Regiment: 130pts
Glade Stalker Regiment: 130pts
Quicksilver Lancers: Pathfinder: 260pts
Stormwind Troop: Nimble: 150pts
Stormwind Troop: Mace of Crushing: 145pts
Silverbreeze Troop: 130pts
I’ve been tweaking the list I’ve used since the last report throughout my subsequent games. Rather than using 2 Gladestalker regiments and 2 Forest Guard Troops I switched to 4 troops of Gladestalkers as they had similar combat abilities minus the thunderous charge. So I’d have a bit less punch. However, the extra points would allow me to upgrade the mounted King to have Blade of the Beast Slayer and Shardblade bring back some punch against high defence monsters.
Having used this I’d found that it had inadvertently turned the list into a bit of a gun line (albeit one that could push up aggressively), although effective it wasn’t really the kind of list I enjoyed playing. I like a more varied list that has a range of tools to operate in multiple ways. So I wanted to drop two of the Gladestalker troops for something different and balance the list out.
A unit I’ve wanted to get into an elf list for a while but not been able to is Stormwind troops. These guys aren’t up there with the best value “thick chaff” (expendable units that can also take or give a hit given the opportunity) in the game but given the elf list and the models I have they’re one of the better options available. In particular I liked the idea of using the new 10pts nimble item on one to create a cheap highly manoeuvrable unit that could get in awkward positions for my opponent. I took a second unit to give myself more long ranged blocking charge threats that I could use to support my main units getting into combat.
The one thing I’m currently lacking is an infantry regiment to carry out scenario and other thankless tasks without being vulnerable to smaller threats. This would probably take the form of a seaguard regiment in place of the 2nd stormwind troop. I don’t really want an extra shooting unit as mentioned above but it’s hard to argue there’s anything close to being as effective when performing that role for similar points.
Forces of Nature List:
Avatar of the Green Lady: 150pts
Gladewalker Druid: Crown of Wizard King, Ring of Harmony, surge, blizzard: 180pts
Druid: Conjurers Staff, Bane Chant, Lightning Bolt, Surge: 115pts
Earth Elemental Horde: 220pts
Earth Elemental Regiment: 130pts
Earth Elemental Regiment: 130pts
Fire Elemental Horde: 220pts
Greater Fire Elemental: 175pts
Hunters of the Wild: 90pts
Hunters of the Wild: 90pts
Nature’s Wrath Formation:
Greater Air Elemental: Lightning Bolt: 220pts
Air Elemental Horde: Dragonshard Shield: 250pts
Air Elemental Horde: Hammer of Measured Force: 250pts
Ed’s list is full of great units. Earth Elementals getting extra nerve along with defence 6 makes them immensely resilient even in regiments. These provide perfect screens to push up and absorb charges before the other units counter. They’re also a nightmare to build up damage on as the list has plenty of heal when you can’t kill them outright.
Air Elementals are really tricky to face as their nimble fly and surge combination makes them a nightmare to stop getting flanks etc unless you can keep them at arms length. The formation adds regeneration limiting shooting’s effectiveness and the Thunderous Aura which makes up for their lack of natural crushing. In the previous game Ed used the Hunters of Wild to screen these guys from shooting. These are also great value in troops as defence 5 makes them tougher than most chaff and scouting means they can be in awkward positions on turn 1.
The three characters are what really makes this list so tough to face. The Avatar is ridiculously good value compared to a heal 6 Elf mage for instance (only 25pts more) cloak of death in a flyer with pathfinder is horrible and radiance of life combined with the army’s high defence, regen and heal is also excellent. The Gladewalker Druid comes with a an excellent mix of abilities in particular being able to cast twice a turn most of the time which is an incredible ability.
Previously Ed deployed in a compact formation to maximise the benefit from his screens and protect his individuals. Realistically I don’t find it worthwhile chasing individuals most of the time but especially when surge means getting into the back lines is often more dangerous for you than the enemy! This also means getting flanks tends to be fairly unrealistic at least earlier in the game. I tend to find the best approach is to try and stretch a shambling army’s line out to reduce their ability to support each other whilst keeping them at arms length. I then strike decisively to gain an advantage I can then exploit.
So all I’ll need to do to win this game is to keep most of my units away from Ed’s flyers, avoid going near anything that might surge into me from any direction whilst also punching through the front of his high defence units that will be healed if I don’t wipe them out in a single round of shooting or combat. Easy peasy!
Deployment and Scenario
In our previous game I’d deployed against Ed in quite a traditional formation flyers & cavalry on the flanks infantry in the centre. I believe this was a mistake for a few reasons:
- Surge/Shambling means I get little benefit from trying to “turn the flank” through movement alone in addition it also prevents Ed from doing the same with his flyers so I don’t require speed to counter this threat.
- I find infantry Hordes often very good at holding a flank especially seaguard with phalanx and shooting attacks. They can push up absorb a frontal charge hit back hard and act as an anvil for supporting units to operate as hammers.
- Because I want to punch hard so that I can kill units in front of me quickly Cavalry & flyers often work better nearer the centre. From there they can threaten several units to allow for combo charges units rather than very wide on the flanks where they often have fewer options.
Therefore I had two main styles of formation I felt would work well. Either I invert the traditional model and place faster units in the centre and shooting units on the flanks or I form a fast flank and a slow flank essentially forming a large hammer and anvil with my entire army. I will decide which approach to take depending on the scenario and terrain.
We rolled for a random scenario excluding those with bluff tokens as whilst possible to play online with Universal Battle it’s more fiddily. The scenario we rolled was Salt the Earth which should be a fairly neutral scenario.
I won the roll to choose sides taking north as there would be two Tokens in my deployment zone. All the tokens had been placed on the right hand side of the board which surprised me as I’d have though Ed would use the woods on the left to help provide cover and hinder my units. I used my character placements to buy me time whilst Ed placed his Earth Elementals in the centre so I was able to counter with my cavalry and flyers. His Air Elementals then went on the right so I countered with my Seaguard. In the end I largely ended up with my fast flank/slow flank deployment. Ed won the first turn roll having deployed defensively he decided to give me the first turn which I was happy to take but I don’t think it hugely mattered as either way came with its own merits.
Elf Turn 1
With Ed deployed defensively there wasn’t a lot to exploit. My only real available targets were the Earth Elementals. With so much healing available I felt it was best to go at the regiments and concentrate fire as best I could. Most of my moves were based around taking up firing positions as I wanted to keep my fast troops back so that they could advance with a pivot in future turns rather than potentially needing to back up in a straight line. With Ed’s army largely shambling I knew he wouldn’t be able to rush me in a single turn.
The foot king moved up to give himself some options as he could move 360 in any direction he could easily back up if required I wanted him to either do some blocking/support charges or move to help the Seaguard later on. The nimble troop of cav began swinging round hoping to get into position to combine with the other fast units later on.
All but one Seaguard Horde could target the Regiment on Ed’s left flank (or centre of the board given half wasn’t being used). However, given the lack of piercing little damage was achieved with one regiment unscathed and the one on Ed’s left taking only 5 damage so would likely be fully healed next turn.
Nature Turn 1
With little pressure to respond to Ed redressed his lines but mainly focused on getting his heal into position. Elven hopes were raised when poor rolling left the Earth Elementals with a point of damage still on them but a last minute reroll from the Druid’s Conjurer’s staff dashed those hopes. Even worse the Greater Air Elemental threw a Gladestalker unit into disarray with a lightning bolt wavering the unit.
Elf Turn 2
With the Forces of Nature hanging back the Elves had plenty of room to operate. This allowed the Seaguard on the hill to move over and get a clean shot on the Greater Air Elemental along with the other Seaguard horde and the mages.
Meanwhile as the Cav troop on the left was able to swing round into a relevant position the Cavalry and flyers pushed up a little to apply some pressure in case Ed decided to push up. The Greater Fire Elemental had turned towards the left flank so hopefully I could either draw him away or he’d have to let my troop be aggressive.
Shooting saw arrows and lightning rain down on the Greater Air Elemental piercing the old wind bag so many times it popped like a balloon struck with a pin. The Elves had claimed vengeance for the hurt feelings of the wavered Gladestalkers.
Nature Turn 2
Ed continued to redress his ranks unwilling to engage in piecemeal fashion. Shooting saw an almighty blizzard strike the Gladestalkers who had already suffered from lightning bolt the turn before. Despite their sturdy elven cloaks they exclaimed “we’re not dressed for this weather, we’re going home!” and promptly left the battlefield in search of hot cocoa.
Little else occurred as the traditional healing ritual was observed on the Greater Fire Elemental who was too busy paying attention to his injuries to properly aim a fireball at the Stormwind Cavalry troop thereby leaving them unscathed.
Elf Turn 3
Ed continued to be cautious but was leaving some units in range of my seaguard hordes so I pushed these forward to continue pressuring the right flank. In the centre I continued to shuffle preparing in case Ed tried a long range surge attempt with his Earth Elementals.
On the left I backed up the troop of Stormwind intent on drawing the Greater Fire Elemental away from the centre or being able to push back up if he turned away. The Stormwind Regiment and mounted King advanced to force the Greater Fire Elemental to push further away if it wanted to pursue the troop.
Shooting saw the Seaguard and Eldroth do enough to rout the Hunters allowing Alenui to target the Gladewalker Druid but sadly he only scored a single point of damage. Both the Gladestalkers and Silverbreeze managed 2 wounds each on their targets which pleasingly meant Ed would need to use heal and not just Radiance of life in his turn (a moral victory).
Nature Turn 3
Ed decided to take a leaf from the Dwarf book of tactics and formed his lines into a castle. Meanwhile the Druids and Green Lady saw to every ache and sprain suffered by the army leaving a pleasingly clean table top with no damage markers to be seen.
Elf Turn 4
With Ed forming a defensive perimeter the Elves took the opportunity to shuffle their units ready to advance next turn. Most units stayed out of charge range with a couple of units in range of the Air Elementals as bait just incase Ed nibbled.
Shooting was constrained as most of the squishy stuff was hiding behind a wall of defence 6 Earth Elementals. Combined fire from the Gladestalkers, Silverbreeze and Seaguard rained down on the Hunters but could only waver them. The remaining shooting targeted a Earth Elemental regiment causing minimal damage as was to be expected.
Nature Turn 4
Ed again decided to reform his ranks. This time he moved up his Air Elementals to screen them with the Earth Elementals so he was now in a position to threaten charges next turn.
Shooting saw the Earth Elementals healed by the Green Lady. Both Druids entered a trance, coercing the weather itself to change as sunshine was replaced by a freezing blizzard and a bolts of lightning falling from the sky. The Stormwind on the hill, being exposed to the elements, suffered terribly as their silk ruffled sleeves got slightly damp lowering their spirits (represented by 1 point of damage).
Elf Turn 5
It was decision time, I had three options 1) Attack: go aggressively after the central tokens knowing Ed would have 2/3 turns to strike back 2) Persist: position to charge next turn in an attempt to take the central tokens 3) Defend: play defensively destroying the most vulnerable tokens and looking to hold the 1 or 2 of the wider ones along with the two in my deployment zone.
I decided on number 2 Persist. My Silverbreeze moved to ensure the Air Elementals couldn’t see any of my faster units. The nimble Stormwind Troop moved forwards to draw a Pegasus or Greater Fire Elemental away from the fight. The rest of my force just moved to take up positions to either charge or move into objectives in turn 6.
Shooting saw some excellent rolls as the Gladestalkers finished off the injured hunters and then everything else aimed at a Earth Elemental Regiment 9 wounds were scored but a weak nerve roll came up just short. Still an excellent turn’s shooting that may even leave the Earth Elementals damaged for my turn 6.
Nature Turn 5
Unfortunately as is usually the case I’d missed a nimble flying surge trick. This is exactly why I said this is such a tricky army to face. As such a Seaguard horde were hit front and flank by the Earth & Air Elementals in what could easily be a decisive move.
Other movement saw the Pegasus drop into the forest to destroy the objective and threaten another next turn. (Another oversight by me!). Meanwhile the remaining Earth Elementals charged the Silverbreeze troop.
Shooting saw the the injured Earth Elementals recover a good chunk as the Florence Nightingdruids and Avatar Crusher whipped out the bandages. The Earth Elementals easily crushed the Silverbreeze underfoot (well made them run far far away at least).
Finally the big combat saw the Earth Elementals chip in with a welcome 3 damage. If the horde of balloons could do their bit they’d be a great chance of wavering or even killing the Seaguard. Fortunately (well for me) despite them knowing phalanx doesn’t work to the flank the mere sight of pointy sticks unnerved the Air Elementals stopping them striking with too much vigour and risk a puncture and the Seaguard held firm.
Elf Turn 6
A lone piercing note rung out across the battlefield. The Elven troops who’d held formation with unwavering discipline, finally heard what they’d been waiting for and charged into the fray.
Both Seaguard units charged the Earth Elementals as there wasn’t room for the wounded Seaguard to face the Air Elementals. The other Boulder brother units found themselves beset by cavalry in the flanks and Drakons in the front. King Paweldran himself drew his Ancestral Sword Yahdra and charged into the wood hunting the ignoble Pegasus cowering in its hiding place. Finally the nimble Stormwind made a blocking charge on the Fire Elementals.
Shooting saw the young mage Alenui attempt to bless the spears of the Seaguard but his concentration failed him at the crucial moment. Imperceptibly shaking his head at his young apprentice Eldroth turned from the Drakons he had been blessing and aided the Seaguard’s spears instead.
In the woods the Pegasus was swiftly despatched as Yahdra sliced straight through the beast’s neck. Imbued with a soft light the shard glass blades of the elven spears were driven into the creatures of the earth breaking their magical bonds leaving only rubble as remains. The cavalry and Drakons were equally devastating as their lances could finally target the weak spots they’d spent all battle observing.
Nature Turn 6
Despair engulfed the Druids as they witnessed the life spirits of their forest torn asunder. Years of meditation and mental conditioning barely kept their fury in check. Yet despite the loses they knew there was still a chance they could drive the Elves off.
The Air Elementals on the right charged head first into the wounded Seaguard. in the centre their breeze brothers stood in front of the Stormwind troop looking back at the Druids giving them a knowing wink. The Greater Fire Elemental moves to breathe fire on those same Elven Cavalry.
Shooting saw flames engulf the proud elven knights singeing rare fabrics which were thousands of years old past down from mother to son for generations. The flames, however, were immediately blown out by a great gust of wind as the Air Elementals surged into the fray. Finally tears in his eyes the ancient Gladewalker Druid stretched out his hand willing his Great Fire Beast to launch itself into the unsuspecting Drakon’s flank. Reaching deep into his reserves a pained expression came across his face, there was nothing left, he’d used all his magic. Despairing he crumpled to the ground in a heap.
(In what has become sadly typical of my play I’d messed up my positioning exposing the Drakons to a flank charge from the Fire Elemental if it surged. In a moment of great compassion Ed’s dice took pity on me and left the Greater Fire Elemental agonisingly short of hitting the flank of the Drakons.)
Combat saw Ed take vengeance on the Elves with both the Stormwind troops and Seaguard Horde routing due to to either windswept hair or burnt fine fabrics. The elves had carried the day so far but would the forest spirits accept defeat so easily? No they would not…
Elf Turn 7
There was little to do now but hope my Elves could mop up the remainders of the Forces of Nature to prevent them striking back. The Drakons and King Pauldren charged the Air Elementals whilst the Quicksilver Cavalry and King Paweldran charged the exposed flank of the Greater Fire Elemental.
Shooting targeted the other Air Elementals hoping to take advantage of their lack of inspire. It was all to much for them as the hail of arrows and lighting blew them away. Combat saw both Kings fail to wound their targets but the units made up for their leaders finishing off the Greater Fire and Air Elementals.
Nature Turn 7
The battle was lost but the Fire Elementals boosted by bane chant killed the Drakons as a final act of defiance.
Elves 2 - 0 Forces of Nature (1 token contested)
Paweldran sat in his command tent, sipping his wine, enjoying the poetry readings by some of the younger members of the party. Today had been a good day, he’d suitably chastised the creatures of the forest who’d dared to challenge his supremacy. No doubt they’d soon send envoys seeking peace and he could return to his studies and the management of his realm.
Conclusions and Jubilations:
Well victory and vengeance all rolled into one. This was a tight game that I could (and probably should) have lost or drawn. I made two silly mistakes late in the game, allowing surges into flanks that should have cost me more than they did. It was nice that dice bailed me out but after what I felt was strong play by me in the first 4 turns.
It was a strange game in that we had only lost 3 units between us by the end of turn 4 and zero combats fought. This is the nature of the lists though whilst I have a lot of shots they don’t have piercing and Ed has a lot of heal and high defence. I think the slow patient approach is the way to go about beating this kind of Forces of Nature list it’s so easy to get caught out. You need to get everything into position to engage them on your terms. Ed had to keep compact to avoid being picked off by shooting or cavalry, that gave me time to control board space.
I think the Stormwind Troop with nimble is a good example of this and it’s what I wanted it in the list for. I was able get it in a good position without committing it early then strike to block a unit from Ed’s backfield that I could never have reached from the front. Even though it seemed wasteful to have the Cavalry shuffling backwards and forwards for several turns it played an important role it impacting Ed’s moves without sacrificing itself too early.
We used one of the Epic Dwarf KoW map packs that many players use. The board we rolled up had an unusually large area of open space that essentially allowed my entire and to operate as one unhindered line. Different terrain would have had an interesting impact on the game. Anyway Ed made life very difficult with great play and was harshly denied a better result. As always he’s a gent to play and I’m looking forward to our next game!
No changes at the moment I feel like I’ve got the list in a place where I like the options it gives me. The Stormwind troops give me pretty much what I expected: not great in terms of their abilities but their abilities are a great fit in the list.