Not exactly a battle report, but kind of.
After a string of complete, brutal victories the Wide Patrol was finally dealt a loss. Overconfidence and berserk tendencies led to the usually well disciplined hares charging willy nilly, breaking formation and all sorts of other un-military things. The super elite and fearless Wide Patrol was destroyed piecemeal, the Black Rabbit calling them all home in a decisive and complete loss.
Time to try a different strategy. The idea of a small group of super elite Hares with crazy high stats depends on making it into contact with the enemy without losses and in formation. It also helps if the enemy has two or three formations that I can hit in turn. But we’re all getting the hang of this new game and my opponents are finding their own stride with their forces.
So yeah, different strategies. I decided to opt for a more standard set-up, and tried a couple of things. I thought that two groups of warriors marching forward in shieldwall formation would be good, but I ended up with mixed results. Two shieldwall groups proved awkward to keep in good formation when the battleground wasn’t completely open. A single terrain feature in the middle of the field could break the strategy. And lacking a ranged troop choice put me at a disadvantage when an opponent formed his own shieldwall and placed archers in support.
That seemed like a good idea, so I stole it.
After some playtesting the other day I have my initial campaign list and a basic strategy and some ideas of tactics. I’m running a Hare shieldwall moving in formation, with a Hare Leader and a Standard Bearer moving behind them, with a group of archers ranging out on the flanks to both cover the main formation and strike at targets of opportunity. I may trim some points somewhere and put long movement on the remaining ranged troops to move them around faster.
But with 1 leader, 1 standard bearer, 5 shield warriors, and 3 archers I figure I’ve got a good starting set-up. In campaign mode it gives me a decent maximum number, and should be nimble enough to operate in various types of terrain as pretty much an all-comers list. As the campaign progresses I plan to tailor warbands to different terrain or situations, but we’ll see how that pans out.
In my test run of the starting formation an interesting thing became apparent. When you have two Splintered Lands armies that are very evenly matched in numbers and tactics it sort of degenerates into waiting for someone to trigger the morale check. In the two battles I fought with this list I was up against 8 otters with my 10 hares. The otters had two personalities, a group of warriors, and a smaller group of slingers. I had a personality and a standard bearer, that’s where the real difference was.
In the first game I managed to seize the high ground first and rain arrows down on the advancing enemy. My shieldwall formation rounded the hill in good order and crashed into the flank of the enemy. I quickly triggered a morale check, and then chased down the surviving otters to surround and finish them off. I lost one archer to the otter’s sling stones.
In the second game the terrain changed oddly, leaving a hill sort of off-center but still in good position. Both warbands raced to be the first on top of it. The ranged weapons of both warbands dragged behind, the warrior formations made decent progress, but the two leaders raced ahead to claim the summit. A heroic individual combat broke out as the troops tried to climb to support. I realized at this point that whichever leader won was most likely to win the game. It wasn’t a given by any means, but taking out a leader triggers a morale check, and on top of that leaders tend to be vital for group movements and have better combat stats.
Captain Burdock got cocky and lost, though by the time he was felled the standard bearer was there to lend support. This is where the difference between the two lists showed through. In a similar situation in the preceding game the otters failed their morale checks and ran for the table edge. With my standard bearer right in the thick of things a failed moral check actually helped! My legionnaires got free moves toward the objective, excepting the two that rolled triple fails. So even though Burdock had fallen I found myself in a decent position to continue the attack. The battle was weighted against me, but I felt I still had a good chance of a clean victory.
Unfortunately the dice gods were not good to me. Here is where Song of Blades can get a little weird, though. Both battles were complete routes, but both battles were fought to the bitter end. In 40k you can get into a position where you look at it and say, “well, I’m boned. Let’s call it…”. But with Splintered Lands you don’t quit. I had some hares killed and ended up with three left for the end game. Two archers who had fled to the end of a hedgerow, and a standard bearer who had run and hid in the woods. The combat was focusing on the two otter champions trying to run down the hare archers, so the standard bearer got a couple of free turns to just sit in the trees and gather his courage. The first archer was run down and killed, but here I figured out I could still pull out a desperate win.
Everyone was near a table edge. Everyone was near a table edge in long or medium range. You see where I’m going with this? It became imperative to put a killing arrow into the otter leader. There was some moving around, some chances taken, some gambles, and some desperate rolls. I almost managed to do it. I harbored some hope once the standard bearer starting fighting troops who remembered to infiltrate the woods that I might take out enough to get a 50% morale check, too. These were long shot hopes, desperate “to the last” fighting. The standard bearer did not have a run of good luck. He did redeem himself by taking out one of the enemy foolish enough to run ahead of his companions, but could not take out the required number on his own to trigger the morale check. The hare archer fought bravely, doing much better than I expected, nearly managing his kill, but in the end he was run into hand to hand and slain. Everyone fought tooth and nail to the bitter end, and I learned a couple of valuable things.
Take a standard. Always. It costs nothing and not only can it keep your troops from running off the table edge, it can actually get you two free moves toward an objective.
Don’t get strung out. Rushing forward to claim an objective can be enticing, but without a clear lead the benefits are few to none. In the first game I was rushing to put archers on high ground and had a good head start on the enemy. In the second game field positions were evenly matched, but the two leaders were not. Burdock had a Q+ advantage and Finn (the otter leader) had a C advantage. It seems like an even match up, but what you’re really doing is giving the better warrior more chances to kill you.
Have a plan to trigger morale checks on the enemy. Really, this is where Song of Blades battles tend to fall apart for one of the players. Kill a leader and also trigger a 50% check right after and you’re golden. Try to get the leader at a disadvantage. Try to put higher C rated characters against easier targets in the opening stages. Try to maneuver the enemy so that he’s closer to the table edge than you. Try to surround harder targets, or really anybody you need dead. The negative modifiers for additional opponents can totally negate high C rated personalities.
And try to remember this the next time I take the Wide Patrol to war…
The campaign looms. Raspberry Haven must stand inviolate. The Wide Patrol will offer the blood of the slain to the Black Rabbit.
Death and glory! Blood and hate! Enjoy everything!
This army is crazy…