Friday, December 23, 2011

Friday Night Book of War

Here's a Book of War game from last weekend where I decided to field a force of Elves and the new Treant figure -- gambling big that I'd get some Woods terrain, obviously. Well, I got not one but two Woods tiles, as well as Rainy weather (which helped to shut down opposing archers) -- but my opponent just coincidentally picked this game to bring a fire-using Wizard and Gold Dragon to the game (the first time she ever opted for a Wizard, in fact). Let's see how that played out:

Start -- Advanced Rules with All Unit Types Allowed (incl. Expansions); Optional Rules for Weather & Morale; 300 points. At the far top of the board, you'll see my opponent's two solo-hero figures: a Wizard (Rank 3, i.e., 13th level; with a wand of fireballs and two 6th-level spells that I don't know yet) and a Gold Dragon (charmed into service, perhaps?) In front of them are sizable units of Goblin Infantry and Archers, along with a figure representing a squad of Trolls (a perennial favorite of my opponent). At the bottom, I have only 7 figures on the table -- a half-dozen Light Cavalry, and the single figure of Treants (all I could afford). I also have 5 figures of Elf Archers, but they're currently hidden from view... somewhere.

I can't help but relate the terrain-placement phase, because this itself had us yelling at each other, and the dice, back-and-forth. I'm first-mover, so initially I rolled Rough and placed it center of the enemy, hoping to disrupt her movement. Then she rolled Woods and put it top-left, as far from me as possible (days earlier in my price-balancing for Treants, I'd sketched out a hypothetical game board that looked exactly like that placement, as expected opponent behavior). Hoping for my own Woods tile, I instead rolled a Marsh -- and after some consideration and trash-talking, I decided to put it top-right, on the very slim chance she would get another Woods on the final roll, thereby blocking its placement and forcing it towards my side. Well, that's exactly what happened, and after much rejoicing (huzzah!), she put it far right, as distant from the first Woods as possible. Armies were then placed -- and of course this allowed me to start my Treants already within 6" of those right-hand Woods. Random weather came up "Rainy" (-1 to hit with missiles), which, as noted above, was another point to my advantage, because the enemy was bringing twice as many archers to the table as I was (and I suppose in principle it might serve to dampen her fire-powers, though that's not simulated in any way).

Turn 1 -- On my first turn, the Treants immediately use their animation power, such that a new unit of two powerful Trees (really 20 huge trees, of course), step forward out of the Woods on my behalf. Cavalry also advance, getting into range for a fast charge on the next turn; and Elves appear from the edge of the Woods on the right, trying to get a shot at the Trolls (but between long range and rainy weather, it's an impossible shot; oops!!). On the enemy turn, the only movement she's made is to fly her Gold Dragon across the board, attacking my Treants in the bottom-right with fire breath, instantly and automatically burning them all to cinders. Holy crap! That was like 2/3 the value of my army right there, dead on the first turn -- thank goodness I got the animated trees out first (and as noted Wednesday, they remain in the game even with Treants gone).

Also: Compare the top-right of the picture to what came before. The other thing my opponent did was to have her Wizard cast Move Earth at the Marsh tile, so as to shift the whole terrain piece, along with the Elves now on it, towards the board edge. This caused a major argument: She thought she could slide the whole terrain piece (and my Elves) right off the table and out of the game, whereas when I'd pulled similar tricks in the past I mentally assumed that I had to keep it on the table somewhere (largely for manipulative purposes; half-off and it would probably fall awkwardly to the floor). Neither option is specified in the rules, so at an impasse, we went to rock-paper-scissors. First try: scissors/scissors. Second try: rock/scissors, with me winning, and thus the Marsh stayed on the edge of the board. (Phew!)

Turn 2 -- My Elves about-face and wheel out of the Moving Marsh, back into the Woods; my leftmost Light Cavalry charge the Goblin Infantry, and with some very nice rolls, actually run the whole unit down. I'm also compelled to try and wipe out the Dragon if I can, so my other Cavalry wheel rearward and charge; I've got 2 dice (1 figure) to attack, and if either one comes up 5+ the Dragon is dead -- but I fail to do so. Thus, on the enemy's turn, her Dragon takes off again and slams into my first Cavalry from the back, killing two figures and routing the unit. Also, the Wizard lobs two fireballs at my Trees, connecting with one for a full 6 hits (painful, but it takes 8 hits before I lose a figure).

Turn 4 -- On the 3rd turn, all I could do was partial-moves with my Elves, Trees, and remaining Cavalry, trying to get them forward into position to threaten the enemy. Then the enemy Dragon attacked and routed my second Cavalry; the Wizard fireballed my slow-moving trees again, burning up one figure; and the Trolls charged around the Trees into my Elves, killing a figure. Now I get a chance to respond -- Trees are in range to unleash their powerful melee attacks on the Trolls (2 dice which hit on 3+, for potential 2 damage each), and the Elves strike back as well. But the Trees roll snake-eyes and I score no hits at all!

Turn 5 -- The enemy Goblin Archers make a second move forward into the Rough; the Trolls kill another Elf figure; and the Dragon attacks my Trees, but fortunately it's out of dragon-breath for the day, and only scores 2 damage from tooth & claw. The Wizard also misses with both fireballs. On my turn, the Trees turn around and kill the Dragon (finally!), while the Elves wrap around the Trolls (still no hits!). Meanwhile, in a stroke of luck, my remaining Cavalry figure has managed to un-rout while fleeing through the Woods, and now moves to the edge of that grove of trees, aiming at the enemy Wizard.

Turn 6 -- On the enemy's 5th turn, the Wizard takes a risk to stand motionless and fireball my remaining animated Trees, incinerating them at last. The Goblin Archers (who haven't accomplished anything so far) about-face, and Trolls kill one more figure of Elves (but morale is still good). Then I attack: Elves score 2 hits on the Trolls, and my Cavalry unit charges out of the Woods at the Wizard. This is a dicey prospect -- I get 2 dice and one needs to show a "6" to succeed -- and that's exactly what happens (ding-dong, the Wizard's dead!). However, the enemy responds with a fusillade against my Cavalry -- she starts rolling 20 dice for the attack, but due to range & inclement weather she needs two 6's to kill my guys. Towards the end of the dice-rolling, she accomplishes this, and the Cavalry are now dead.

Turn 7 -- As you can probably guess, about a turn later the Trolls finish off the last of my Elves. Victory to the forces of Chaos!

Postscript -- This was a really interesting game to play: well-paced, constantly tense, with new unit-types on the board, and unforeseen rules debates to iron out.

My major mistake in this game (there's usually one) was to move my Elves out of the Woods on Turn 1 and try shooting the Trolls. By underestimating the distance (or simply not thinking it through), with the Rainy weather, that was an impossible shot, and the turn was wasted. Moreover, as I found out later, my opponent was guessing that the Elves were actually in the other Woods, and she was about to use the Move Earth spell over there instead (which would have wasted it entirely). So by revealing my Elves, it relieved her of that, making it doubly dumb on my part.

The other thing is that this caused both of us to re-evaluate the price of the Treants unit. Not wanting to overreact, but previously my thinking had been that as long as I had a Woods tile accessible I'd be a shoo-in to win -- whereas in this game I had that twice over, plus a Rainy weather advantage, and I still basically got stomped-on. So whereas earlier I had scored them at 200 points, this ignored the very potent value of Heroes & Wizards against them, and made them clearly over-priced (although -- isn't that a Christmas tradition, too?). After running the simulation in again some more times (adding code for the effect of fire on Tree-kind), and setting up a spreadsheet of hypothetical army weighted-values, I've now updated the price for a figure of Treants to 140 (as seen in Wednesday's post). That seems more likely to be about right.

Final thought: Look back at the dispute we had in the 1st turn over the Move Earth spell (which serves to shift one existing terrain tile, 6" per turn). What's you're opinion on that -- should Move Earth be allowed to slide terrain (and any supported units) right out of the game, or not? I suggest "no", but my worthy opponent argues that you should vote "yes". (Quoted argument: "Nobody likes elves! Nobody! That's right, you can quote me on that.") So, which seems preferable to you?


  1. Instakill all units on a terrain as long as it's within 6 inches of the edge of the playing space seems overpowered... plus, wouldn't it kind of depend on the size of the table? How about a compromise? You can slide a terrain completely off the table, but any units on it re-enter the game from where it left after a one turn delay?

  2. I agree with Joshua - that would be way too powerful. Perhaps the terrain could be removed at the caster's option, but any and all units on the terrain remain fixed in place whether or not the terrain is moved or removed.

  3. about 1/2 of the units destroyed, survivors return with one-turn dealy?

  4. How about letting the spell move terrain off the table, but any units that were in that terrain can't reenter the battlefield until they pass a morale check? Also, units moving 9 or less can't attempt to return until the second turn after the terrain was moved.

  5. Good ideas, guys -- I usually lean towards "out of sight, out of game" (re: units off-table coming back) for things like routing off the table and such. Although, we've got a similar mechanic in play for when the Elves themselves start in hiding, so perhaps I should re-think that!

  6. I'll vote "Move Earth wraps the terrain around to the other side Asteroids-style"!

    What happens if you Move Earth one terrain into another?

  7. LOL. Overlapping terrain is also prohibited by unstated assumption. And another argument waiting to happen: What happens if you do it on the wiggly stream.