Un-Mastering Luck: My First Warhammer Fantasy Battles Games

Napoleon once said that genius was the mastering of luck.  Anyone who plays miniature wargames knows just how difficult mastering luck is…

I played my first Warhammer Fantasy Battles games over the past weekend and saw just how difficult luck really is to master. As I said in the last post I prepared a small ogre army for an escalation league at my local Games Workshop store.  I’d never before played Fantasy except for a few little games using the store sets of Island of Blood that weren’t designed to be competitive. My Games Workshop store is surprisingly fresh.  A lot of new players are there so it was nice to go in to this without some of the more negative kinds of players (or the know-it-all, “hurr hurr, look at the noob” types) and it was a really positive experience.  I invited friends to come watch me lose and I thought I’d share the experience.

I showed up on a Friday night and only a couple people were there.  The other player present was also new, and he brought his Skaven army.  The store manager got his rule book out and we played our tiny 250 point game.  I used 8 ogres in two 4-group units, all with additional hand weapons.  This put me at 248 points and lots of attacks.  My opponent took a big block of clanrats with shields and spears, and two bases of rat swarms.  He went first (whew….brought them closer into my charge range!) and I did as expected and charged right into those clanrats.   Ogres on a charge are brutal, impact hits, sixteen attacks, and four stomps.  It was a close round of combat but the ogres won through the weight of their charge.  Because of his “strength in numbers” special rule he had a mighty leadership TEN.  Now I should say I have a history and tendency to roll like crap (you’ll see that in my battle the next day) but I think my lack of luck was catching.  He rolled two sixes!  Failing his leadership test.  He then proceeded to run away 5 inches.  I chose to pursue, rolling a six, catching and eliminating the only viable unit on the field.  I definitely did NOT out play him in my first game.  With only 250 points very few tactical choices are there.  But through pure luck the first game was a win.  And a nice intro to the game mechanics.

I then played the manager’s dark elves, him playing as an NPC.  Though I smashed his witches (even though I’d received their crazy charge) but ran into a wall on his executioners.  I did enough damage on them that even he said he got a bit nervous, but all their elf rules did me in.

The next day I returned for his zombie tarpit challenge.  80 zombies versus my 250 points of ogres.  I chose to make one big unit and smashed into the zombies.  I ended up taking them out in 5 turns, but only had three ogres left by the end.  I realized I would have been smarter to leave them in two units, hitting the zombies on their flank with the second group.  I would have had one extra attack per ogre.  Four extra impact hits (at least…I COULD have rolled a 10+ on my charge) and four additional stomps.  It may have been over in 3 turns…

Later that day I played a kid who had dwarves.  A unit of warriors and a unit of longbeards.  I needed an 8 to make my first charge against the warriors…and rolled two TWOS.  So I received the charge instead.  I made my charge against his longbeards, and surprisingly crushed them into flight.  Here’s where I made tactical errors.  There was only one longbeard left, his standard bearer.  I chose to run them down, which I shouldn’t have done.  I ran them down and moved 9 inches away from my beleaguered other unit.  My other unit of ogres, having lost the combat with the dwarf warriors and fleeing, fled an epic 11 inches.  Then failed their next leadership by rolling a TEN.  My epic bad rolling coming to light again.  His dwarf warriors turned to my unbroken unit and I chose to march them up a hill rather than reform.  I really should’ve reformed, as his next turn would’ve brought them easily into charge range and probably a quick combat after all the impacts, attacks, and stomps.  Since I moved them away, they had their backs to his dwarves and received a flank charge.  Despite this I still killed four dwarves and received zero wounds.  

Unfortunately for me, due to combat resolution math, we tied and his musician broke the tie.  Once again I failed my leadership test (because I’m awesome like that) and fled only to be caught and destroyed!  Him won a clean victory.  All my dice throwing proving just how little of luck I had mastered… my inexperience and the good thinking of my opponents proving to be a deciding factor.

It was a blast to play, win or lose, and I learned some good lessons.

1) Ogres…don’t forget your fear check.  I never had anyone roll for fear ever.  It’s a long shot against elves or dwarves but better to try than not to try.

2) Don’t forget impact his and stomps.  Even with only four ogres in the rank that’s at least four impact hits (D3 per ogre due to the ogre charge rule if you roll a natural 10+) and stomps are four additional attacks.  

3) Ogres are attacking beasts and can soak up lots of damage. Even at speed six it’s best to try to get the ogres back into combat as soon as possible.  Maneuvering with Skaven or Beastmen might be a good choice, but with just three ogres it is always best to try and get them back into doing damage.  It’s what they do best!

I’ve heard that GW is planning to drastically change the landscape of Warhammer Fantasy Battles due to its flagging sales.  Just getting into it now, this makes me quite sad.  I love the complex simplicity of it.  The small rules that turn into big results, and the great fun of throwing gobs of dice and taking off scores of models.  As much as I love 40k, it’s a very different kind of wargame and I’m hoping, no matter the changes they make, the game play will always be welcome on gaming tables.

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