Friday Night Book of War

This past weekend, we played a game in which I crafted an army around a high-level Wizard character. He didn't bring any elementals to the table, but he did bring a Gold Dragon with him, which I thought rather clever. Imagine my surprise when I found out my opponent had brought three dragons to the fight! Here's how that played out:

Start -- Advanced Rules with All Unit Types Allowed; Optional Rules for Weather & Morale; 300 points. My opponent has selected 3 dragons (across top edge of table; one each blue, red, and gold; note fill-in figures we're using for 1:1 scale dragons), as well as figure of trolls (she loves them; extremely tough), and then rounded out those high-cost units with two big masses of goblin infantry (the cheapest unit type in the game). On the lower extreme edge of the table, you can see my wizard with 3 figures of pikemen guarding him. There are two long lines of pikes in the advance, followed by a row of crossbows; plus, I've got another unit of crossbows and my gold dragon positioned a bit to the left. My wizard is rank 3 (i.e., level 13), with a wand of fireballs and the 6th-level magic death spell and move earth.

Terrain, as you can see, is highly unusual. My opponent rolled not one but two streams, and she positioned them in a way that makes for a very tight bottleneck in the center of the board. I've placed the one wood and one hill tile. Finally, weather has come up "Sunny" (you can see the card hanging under the lamp in top right of photo), which is good news for me: No penalties for my crossbows, and the opponent's goblins will be at an extra -1 to morale checks.

Turn 1 -- I go first, pushing my forces as far forward as possible to get over the high ground, fill in the center bottleneck with pikes, and get my wizard on top of the hill. Then on my opponent's turn, the only movement she makes is to send two of her dragons roaring over my forces and attacking my rear (this is fairly standard usage for the dragons). Fortunately, her rolls are below average, and I lose only a single figure from each unit due to dragon breath (and also pass the morale checks).

Turn 2A -- I push most of my forces further forward -- in fact, more than I intended with the front pikes (I underestimated the distance and said "these pikes move forward full"). The main crossbows shoot goblins on the left, avoiding the overshoot penalty by virtue of being on the hill, but half the dice go against my own pikes because they're now so close to the enemy (hence, just 1 goblin figure down). My wizard has sent two fireballs crashing into the goblins on the right, automatically removing two figures. In the rear, the other crossbows have counterattacked the red dragon (no success), while the gold dragon has attacked and killed the opposing blue dragon (and also survived the hero's "dying blow" rule in return).

Turn 2B -- Stuff gets ugly. My opponent has charged my single row of pikes with all of her goblins and trolls. On contact, my pikes got their double-dice defensive interrupt attack, killing 7 of the goblin figures on the right (and routing them; so they get no attacks), plus 2 hits on the troll figure (of course, they have 6HD). They goblins on the left have wrapped around my rear, and they plus the trolls have killed 4 of my 7 pike figures, causing them to rout (although they're pinned in and unable to flee on the next turn). Elsewhere (not in the picture), the enemy red dragon has routed my secondary crossbows, and our gold dragons have fought, managing to kill each other simultaneously.

Turn 3 -- On my turn, all of my missile units (crossbows on the hill and two wizard fireballs) shot into the leftmost unit of goblins, managing to rout them. On the opponent's turn, both of those goblin units are now fleeing from the field, while the trolls have finished off my forward pikes (and are also regenerating their damage -- damn, how I hate that). Her remaining red dragon also just slammed into the rear of my second pikes, killing two figures (passing morale -- and that was the third and final fire-breath of the day). A bit out of the picture to the left, my other remaining crossbows routed across the stream, but then made a difficult morale check to un-rout and get back in the game. (Theme: Lucky morale checks for me.)

Turn 4A -- On my turn, instead of engaging the solo dragon figure, the pikes move forward, so the crossbows and wizard can get full unhindered shots -- and thus succeed in killing the last red dragon, which was a real concern for me. My other crossbows in the stream score one hit at long range on the goblins, so they can't un-rout before fleeing the table. However, the powerful trolls remain and are now undamaged.

Turns 4 to 6 -- The question now is basically: Can my massed missile troops shoot down the trolls before they get in contact (including my wizard on the hilltop who has only a 2-in-6 chance to accurately hit a lone figure with a fireball)? I'll probably only get 2 turns at most to succeed at it -- once the trolls come in contact, the missiles can't shoot, and generally not enough standard figures can melee them to overcome their regeneration and hellacious attacks (trolls roll 2 dice at +2 to hit each). This is a tense situation for me. I'll let pictures tell the story without further comment:

Postscript -- Victory for the forces of the wizard! In spite of the very unusual terrain setup, you can see a couple of regular things with Advanced Game play (including all the high-level monsters, heroes, wizards, etc. from the D&D game). One is that hero-types are very high-value targets, and tend be attacked quickly (perhaps desperately?) at the start of the battle. The dragons in particular, with their very high movement rate, and ignoring terrain penalties, often get used as fast-strike anti-hero assassins. Once hero-types are neutralized, the regular troops tend to battle each other in the standard fashion.

So, I was rather lucky that my wizard didn't get directly assaulted by a dragon (for example) in this engagement. One problem I've found with wizards on the battlefield is that in addition to their high price, you also need to budget for a good number of guards to protect them (perhaps more than I used here) -- they can't move too much if you want to use their full spells, so they wind up in a defensive, artillery-like position.

My one glitch for the game (there's usually one) was the move on turn #2 where I over-advanced my pikes, leaving the narrow bottleneck between the streams that they filled, and getting in the way of my own missile shots. Fortunately my opponent then somewhat underestimated the effect of charging them frontally in open terrain, so I still got good effect from them. Lesson: Estimate the distance before making some glib declaration like "this unit moves full".

The other thing is that trolls are truly ferocious opponents, and I needed half my starting army in position shooting at the single figure over a few turns at the end to take them down. Fortunately, I knew that massed missile fire is key, and I'd also chosen the wand of fireballs, granted my opponent's propensity for using trolls. If not for that, there were lots of opportunities for her to win.


  1. What is that game...? Chainmail? Something else...?

    Aha. I see it on Lulu now.


  2. I can't tell from the photos; what figures did you use to represent the dragons?

  3. jeffro -- Thanks for the interest! :-) A good introduction to what I'm writing about starts here and here.

    Desert Scribe -- For dragons at the moment, I'm just using some reptile-themed humanoids (ophidian, lizardman, kobold D&D minis). I have some "real" dragons, but I've found that people get confused about the relative space and power compared to the 1:10 scale figures. Right after I took these pictures, I immediately placed an order for some Reaper mini-dragons that will look better in the future!

  4. I see your point about a figure representing one dragon vs. a figure representing 10 human/humanoids. Some of the D&D Minis hatchling or wyrmling dragons (whatever they're called) are small enough to fit in the same footprint as a humanoid figure, but more representational of the traditional, larger dragons. They were also repurposed and sold as a Heroscape booster pack.

  5. Exactly, what I just ordered were some baby dragons from Reaper, which should fit the bill (and can be re-purposed for my RPG games if needed). Now I just need a good solution for smaller-sized solo giants. :-)

  6. Maybe instead of the much larger D&D Minis prepaints, repainted 32mm or 40mm figures (cavemen for hill giants, vikings for frost giants, etc.) would work to represent solo giants on the BoW tabletop.