Friday Night Book of War

Last weekend I had the good fortune of having my friend BostonQuad come down and visit me in Brooklyn. Although not traditionally a big RPG'er or wargamer, I've managed to suck him into miniature wargaming via Book of War, and he's been cooking up strategies to use against me for a few months now. We played several games over the course the weekend; in the first one, with Basic-only units (historical), he managed to craftily hold me off and beat me (with end game being pikes vs. cavalry to my disadvantage). In the second one I figured I'd shake things up with some fantasy units he hadn't considered before: namely, a big army of Goblins. As we saw on Monday, Goblins statistically are just as difficult to kill as any other 1HD unit type (even though in D&D they have a one-hit-point penalty, and also a Morale penalty from fighting in daylight). So here's how that played out:

Start -- 300 Points; Advanced Rules for Mass Units Only. At the top, BQ has selected a small group of powerful and expensive figures; starting with Pikes, Longbows, and Medium Cavalry, adding a group of Horse Archers, and on the extreme top-right: a single figure of Elite Cavalry (representing 10 level 3 fighters riding heavy warhorses in plate; costing 90 points just for the single figure). On top of that, he's also taken 3 figures of Elite Elves (3rd level fighter/magic-users; another 90 points for the group), who you don't see in the picture because they're allowed to start off invisibly anywhere on the table. At the bottom, I've got 32 Goblin Infantry, 16 Goblin Archers, and 10 Wolf Riders organized into various units, plus 1 Gnoll figure on the far right with the money I had left over (representing an army of almost 600 individual creatures, as usual). We've also rolled up quite a lot of heavy terrain -- three Woods and one Marsh tile -- which should serve to hamper each side's archery & cavalry. I'll be moving first.

Turn 2 -- Right on the first turn, I ran into trouble. I pushed all of my forces as far forward as I could (9" afoot, 12" on wolves), but with no attack possible. My opponent moved up his pikes & longbows group, getting a half-dice shot at my vanguard Goblin infantry, and managed to hit with all of his dice and rout me! Then the uncomfortable problem is that with so many units, and relatively little open space on my side, this group is liable to rout back into my own forces and trigger a domino-like series of routs throughout my army. Fortunately, I was able to right-face the archers behind them and clear off to the side (although I'll get no attacks from them this turn). Meanwhile, my left-hand archers returned withering fire, wiping out most of his pikes and routing the longbows. Other moves happen for my big Infantry unit into the far woods, and the smaller Wolf infantry wheeling into the center of the table. For some reason, that caused a long out-of-room discussion with the neutral on-site moderator. Hmm, wonder what that was about.

Turn 3 -- The opponent's last move was to charge his remaining Pikes at my Wolf Riders in the center of the board, but they scored no hits. (He's also maneuvering his cavalry around in the backfield.) Here I've pulled my wolves away (don't want to risk the hideous pike defense bonus attack), so that the archers can pivot towards the Pikes and shoot them all dead. Also, I've managed to un-rout my retreating infantry near the bottom (an unlikely roll!), and bring a big infantry unit to block his hesitating Elite Heavy Cavalry on the far-right board.

Turn 4 -- In the last two turns, my opponent used his Horse Archers to move-and-shoot at my archers in the center (after which I sent them into the woods for cover), followed by a move to the corner of the marsh, at the halfway point of which he scored some hits on my main Wolf pack. His Elite Cavalry charged into battle on the right, and since my Gnolls are threatening to get their back, the enemy Medium Cavalry has plunged into the woods as a counter. But the most important thing is this -- his invisible Elite Elves have finally appeared in the bottom left, behind my lines, and nearly massacred all my Archers on that side with longbow-fire. Ouch! But perhaps even more amazingly: I roll "double 6's" on the Morale check and those normally-panic-stricken Goblins don't even have the sense to run from this (they may be slow, cheap, and cowardly, but at least they're really stupid).

Turn 5 -- My big Wolf Rider unit does an about-face and heads back to try and deal with those Elite Elves. Here the Elves pour bowfire into the onrushing Wolves -- killing 2 figures, but again Morale stays good (fortunately for me). Elsewhere: My Goblins trade some shots with the Horse Archers across the Marsh, and on the far right Elite Cavalry battle with masses of Goblins, while others maneuver towards each other in the woods.

Turn 7 -- I manage to rather decisively crush the Elves. In the prior turn, my Wolves attacked and killed a figure (exactly 3 hits), and then the Elves routed; however, effectively surrounded, they had no choice but to stay and fight. On this turn I opted to pull my Wolves back out of melee and let the Archers mow down the enemy, finishing them off after some 16-dice rolls of fire. But the enemy has been more successful in other locations; my Archers near the marsh are now dead (because of the Horse Archers), and not one but two Goblin Infantry units have been met and routed on the right-hand side of the board. However, other goblin units are bearing down to press the attack in their place.

Turn 8 -- On the far right, the Elite Cavalry is harassed from both sides; here they're cutting down the Gnolls but at the same time being charged from the rear by Wolves. The big Goblin Infantry unit in the woods is starting to envelop and pull down Medium Cavalry, who are at a great disadvantage in the rough terrain. On the left, I'm sending Wolves & Archers against the Horse Archers, who have managed to shoot down some and (finally) rout the Wold Riders. They'll flee off the table next turn, but the action has given cover to my Archers to move into position for some deadly shots when they go next.

Turn 10 -- Wolves finally kill the Elite Cavalry! Elsewhere, the Medium Cavalry and Horse Archers have likewise been taken down by my forces. The fleeing infantry even managed to un-rout with another roll of "double 6's", and were coming back to apply more pressure if needed. Victory to the Goblin Army!

Commentary -- Although BostonQuad played very well and beat me in our first game of the weekend, there were a bunch of things happening here that possibly threw him off his game. One was my using Goblins against him, which he hadn't previously had time to analyze (partly I was really eager to make use of the awesome goblin army miniatures that I'd just recently acquired). Two was that he's a bit new to using some of the terrain, which was abundant here and tripped him up on a few occasions (like not realizing you could shoot over Marsh, or just how dreadful it is to get cavalry stuck in Woods). Three was that I just generally got spectacular dice-rolls, particular with the Goblin morale checks which should mostly fall quite quickly, but here kept them in the game much longer than normal (even un-routing twice, very unlikely).

But there were a few things here that we might take as object lessons. Like, I was thrilled to have his mighty Elite Cavalry figure get bottled up in the narrow channel on the extreme right of the board, where they could be kept isolated from the rest of his army and ultimately surrounded and overwhelmed. Likewise, his Horse Archers got bogged down on the extreme opposite side, allowing me to control the center and keep his army split. And the fact that his Elite Elves were forced to keep hiding right next to where I kept my main Wolf pack in reserve, not appearing until late in Turn 4, kept almost a third the value of his army off the board until after I'd already gained some advantage. I'm guessing that it won't be nearly this easy (such as it was) the next time I play him.

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