Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Lizards in the Land of the Beatles - a Dr Jake Report

A tournament report from the always brilliant Dr Jake - so (for a change, literally), without further ado, let’s get on with it!



The Mersey Meltdown – regularly rated by the wargaming media as one of the best events on the UK scene, so I thought I’d give it a go this year. The Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool is the venue, and I was told that playing in a nice hotel with rooms right upstairs and all the comforts to hand made for a great weekend away.


Sadly, I then got disorganised and only booked when there was already a healthy reserve list. I figured I’d still be ok getting in, but as it happens, the place only finally came free… the night before the event. Cue a scramble, and me staying in a B&B miles down the road. Ah well, still going to a tournament! [oh…. Should have stayed in the room I didn’t use at the venue… - Raf]


Mersey’s comp allows you to take what you like, but gives you bonus tournament points for taking soft choices – up to one each from characters, core, special, and rare, with +3,+6,+10 or +15 for taking 1 through 4 soft choices respectively. It means people bring filth, but also hold it back a little to fit in the soft units round the edges – and getting +15 can be quite expensive. Thankfully for me, the Lizards soft choices were all units I like using anyway.


I ran the following:


Slann Mage-Priest (General); Battle Standard; Soul of Stone; Harmonic Convergence; Obsidian Trinket; Channelling Staff; Lore of Death; 410

Saurus Oldblood; Light Armour; Enchanted Shield, Talisman of Preservation; Arabyan Carpet; 249

Saurus Oldblood; Cold One; Armour of Destiny; Great Weapon; Dawnstone; Other Trickster's Shard; 266

Saurus Scar-Veteran; Cold One; Light Armour; Great Weapon; Dragonhelm; Luckstone; 125

Skink Priest; Lore of Heavens; Dispel Scroll; 90

20 Skinks Cohort; 1 Kroxigor; Full Command; 180

20 Skinks Cohort; Full Command; 130

20 Skinks Cohort; Full Command; 130

10 Skink Skirmishers; Javelins and Shields; 70

10 Skink Skirmishers; Javelins and Shields; 70

10 Skink Skirmishers; Javelins and Shields; 70

5 Chameleon Skinks; 65

5 Chameleon Skinks; 65

4 Ripperdactyl Riders; 160

4 Ripperdactyl Riders; 160

2 Salamander Hunting Packs; 160

Army Total; 2400

Bonus Units:

1. Oldblood not on Cold One

2. 20+ Skinks with at least one Kroxigor

3. 4+ Ripperdactyl Riders

4. 2+ Salamander Hunting Packs


The idea behind the army is to play vs a lot of opponents as a pressure list; the flyblood and rippers, plus chameleons, create a huge threat that can swing round flanks or into gaps, and keep the opponent on the back foot while clearing up soft points and assassinating characters. While this is going on and my opponent scrambles to deal with the disruption, the skinks advance and shoot, and Death magic from midfield (ideally with a Slann now not under much pressure, but I have Arcane Vassal from the priest too) snipes out key targets or breaks the game open with Doom and Darkness. If on the defensive, I’ve loads of units to block stuff with, a hard as nails Oldblood to troubleshoot problems, and can still score points with Death and the Flyblood.


Let’s see how it works out…


Aside from the author: I was also hoping to see how the blog owner Raff got on with the list we co-wrote, as I was pretty proud of it. Strigoi themed Vampires with triple flying Ghoul Kings, and it was going to be hilarious and awesome. Sadly, he had to drop out (boo) – so I’m hoping the report helps with the living vicariously thing, rather than just causes an attack of the not-at-tournament blues. If we’re lucky, the list will return sometime! [am still gutted about this – was going to be so cool! Raf]


G1: Cai Bird (Meeting Engagement)

Fleetmaster, Ogre Blade, Enchanted Shield, possibly other stuff

BSB, Dawnstone, Dragonhelm, Halberd, mundane kit

Lv4 Death, Pegasus, Cloak of Twilight, Dispel Scroll (I’m guessing MR1 too)

24 Corsairs, Discipline

12 Witches

12 Darkshards

Hydra, Breath Weapon

Hydra, Breath Weapon

3 Bolt Throwers

2*5 Shades (one had a banner)


5 Warlocks


My initial pre game impression is that this is a favourable matchup, looking at armies alone. His characters can’t possibly be as capable as mine are, given the reduced magic item allowance on the Fleetmaster. There are loads of potential Ripper targets, the Flyblood if not bolt throwered to the face has the potential to clear up loads of points, and Spirit Leech on those Ld6 monsters is excellent. The main stuff I have to worry about is his shooting advantage, and Purple Sun. I’m basically aiming to clear up the shooting support early with my fast moving troops (and while shoving skinks across the table to pressure him), and then converge on the points with what remains, aiming to multicharge the Corsairs and score points. I just have to keep enough pressure and redundancy of threat in play that even if he kills some of it, there’s enough else there to finish the job, actually in range in time to work. This requires playing the Lizards rather more aggressively than some are used to.


The game started with some interesting dice rolls – he deployed first, keeping his main force a fair way back, obviously looking to use shooting to force me to engage. One Hydra and the Warlocks started off the table for him. Kharybdiss was looking left round a building (from my point of view) which had darkshards set up ready to walk into it, then corsairs to anchor the line (almost on the backline, though note the diagonal deployment), witches next to them, then the hydra. Two bolt throwers went on the right, the third centre left near the corsairs. A unit of shades went off to my left, another in some woods to block my ripperdactyl vanguard. Still looks solid, though the blocked vanguard is a pain.


My turn to deploy… and the Slann with his skirmish unit starts off the table. That is far from ideal… especially with him going first. (Rules change for the event let you roll for a character and their unit together). Another skirmish unit, my salamanders, and a chameleon unit also started off.


Anyway, I’m forced to deploy a little way from his forces, but also enough onto the board that panic in the first turn won’t sent units off the table. Rippers are set to flank round to the right, hopefully chewing up his bolt throwers then coming round to engage the flank of the corsairs. I’ve still got my pressure elements, except the Salamanders, and have good angles with the building to sort Oldblood into stuff (I’ll either try to root the Darkshards out of the building with Doom+Darkness, and an oblique angle so I still threaten the centre with charges, or go hunting hydras or bolt throwers). Chameleons are set up to get a shot at his centre bolt thrower – also means Doom+Darkness becomes a must-stop for him early on, giving me good odds of drawing the scroll early so I can go to work on the monsters.


I must warn that my memory of the details of this game is a little faded, as I got up at 0430 to get my train to the event – not exactly my idea of fun!


I did say it started with interesting dice rolls – my Slann being off table nicely got balanced out when I stole the first turn with the needed 6. Whew.


I push round on the flanks, aiming to envelop, clear the shooting, then crunch in on the centre later in the game, hopefully now weakened by Death magic. I also figured that he had little to stop my Saurus characters in combat, should they survive bolt throwers and Death.


I did say the early game had some interesting stuff happen - turn 1 I get Doom and Darkness off on his Corsairs with all 3 characters in – he doesn’t scroll it! Ld7 with a reroll, but still – I’m able to kill something near them, and Cai has a shaky test to make. Thankfully for him, he passes. I’d have scrolled that every time, but he felt he’d need it later and just had to take the risk.


My pressure early on didn’t do as much as I’d have liked, as my flyblood on the left failed a charge I think. On the right, my forces sent after his bolt thrower failed until late game, with the shades and hydra over there being an utter pain to get rid of. (I kept trying to panic stuff to no avail – and a good round of shooting took rippers down to one wounded model, who got killed by the crew in combat). It finally took until turn 5 for my salamanders to make it there and do the job. In the centre, after some movement by him, I spotted a gap to engage the witches with my mounted oldblood – but again, failed the charge, and had to sacrifice a cohort to keep him safe.


Thankfully, the bolt throwers were kept occupied by this, and the darkshards mainly targeted my characters with T5 and excellent saves, which helped me a lot.


Midgame, I kept trying to pressure – flyblood came round, charging the flank of a hydra next to his corsairs, taking the overrun into the unit, hoping to pin them down until my main force could arrive.  Sadly, it doesn’t work – I break, he pursues, goes off table due to how wide his pivot is. Flyblood thankfully escapes. (I figured I had flank+charge, he had 2-3 ranks, bsb, banner; I was over 50-50 to stay, which breaks the game wide open, and have solid odds to get away if not.)


He keeps trying for Purple Sun, eventually gets it, takes off my mounted oldblood. My magic is mainly aimed at trying for the monsters/playing for panics with Doom and Darkness, but is mostly contained or he passes the tests until later on, when I one-shot a kharybdiss with Spirit Leech (and finally shoot the right hand hydra in the same turn, after several turns of trying). I do manage to shoot down the Witches at some point, I think.


When the Corsairs come back on, I’m waiting, and get rippers in the flank, flyblood and a vet in the front (I’m aiming to get a bunch of combat res and try for killing blow on his bsb, then see if one of my characters can kill his fleetmaster over two turns). He can’t afford to let Doom and Darkness off, so I can get Soulblight to make my job easier. This then goes horribly wrong – he does 5w to the flanking rippers before they even attack, then they fail to killing blow his BSB, or really kill much at all. Other characters also fluff epically – I get 1 hit on his fleetmaster with my scarvet, and it is saved. Urgh…


Second round he’s able to get support in, kill my remaining rippers, and break the flyblood, who goes off the table. Vet does at least do 2 wounds to the fleetmaster, which probably isn’t enough unless my Death magic comes through right at the end of the game.


As it happens, though, my luck takes a massive swing for the better right at the end. The vet double-1s his break test, and then the Fleetmaster fails to kill him, allowing him to chop his head off and claim me the general kill. (OK, expected it a turn earlier, but double-1 was pretty lucky).


I also get the Salamanders into the bolt throwers in my last turn, and set up some shooting. A depleted cohort kills 2 warlocks, who fail their Ld8 with reroll and flee off the table. I then have another 20 skink shots on his Lv4 on peg, who is wounded from an earlier miscast, and only in range due to trying for Purple Sun to rescue the Fleetmaster earlier. 20 shots, 4 wounds… 2 failed saves gets me the kill.


Huge, huge points swing in the last turn gives me the 16-4 win. Brilliant fun game – I was up against it early on as my charges kept failing, but the general plan of envelop, clear off shooting and support, then play for the characters seemed to work, and my dice came through right at the end to pull it off. I think I was still on for 12-14 with slightly more average dice in the last couple of turns – 16 was a slight anomaly. Could also have been big early if he’d failed that panic test, mind!


One slight sadness here is that we both played a very slow deliberate game, so were rushed for time at the end. Discussing it afterward, when we talked about whether we’d get enough turns in, I think he was meaning end on turn 4, where I assumed we’d got time to go to 5 and were talking about not playing turn 6. Anyway, we rushed through and did get that 5th turn in, and I got a huge points swing out of it. I know I’m usually slow, in this case so was he a bit early on, but when the game got past the crunch point of early turns, it sped up – and in my head I knew we’d got time for 5, but 6 would be difficult. (I’d expected to clean up the relevant points in t4 to be honest anyway – wasn’t expecting to get the Pegasus, or the Warlocks, and had good odds to kill the Hydra before then). As it was, I got a big advantage out of our not ending on turn 4, so I feel a bit guilty – opponent was incredibly nice about it.


Basically I’m a naturally methodical player, and tend to set up a plan and need to get it right early, then let things take their course / fight fires as they appear. While this is not badly intentioned, in practice it sometimes (not nearly as often these days, but sometimes) manifests in me taking a while over the early turns, then opponent being under time pressure when they need to get out of the hole I’ve put them in. It’s not really fair on them, so I need to get better at doing my planning stages quicker. Sorry Cai – and thank you again for being such a good sport.


G2: Dave Pyle (Dawn Attack)


Dreadlord on foot – mundane kit, sword of antiheroes, enchanted shield, dawnstone (I think)

BSB on foot – I know he had a 5+ ward, not sure what else

Lv4 Shadow


19 dreadspears, full command

2*5 dark riders, musicians, crossbows, shields

15 witches, standard, musician, flaming


28 or so Swordmasters, full command

3 repeater bolt throwers

2*5 warlocks



Game 2 saw a rematch vs Dave Pyle. Last time I played him I diced him off the table – would his luck improve this time round?


Deployment saw him roll “centre” with most of his army, and hence be quite bunched up. Bolt throwers mostly went on a hill to the far left. I was a little more spread – Slann went off to the right, which wasn’t entirely ideal, but at least did have a nicely situated building to help protect it as I recall.


I figured he’d be going into the building with his spears+bsb and lv4, so I wasn’t likely to be able to pick up those relatively soft points with my Rippers or characters – I’d have to rely on Death magic working, depending how good his magic defence was. (In my experience, an awful lot of people have stopped taking as much magic resistance as was common a year or two back when Death was even more popular than it is now). The Swordmasters+Dreadlord I can’t engage straight off, but will probably be able to shoot a lot of if I can remove their support. As such, my initial play has to be to try to clear the light stuff – warlocks, dark riders, bolt throwers, kharybdiss – to let me concentrate fire on my biggest source of points. I can afford to sacrifice a few things to do that, as if we end up trading support on the flanks, and even if I lose the odd character, I should make those points up in the centre. If the flanks go well for me, it turns into a big win. I get an extra opening when my opponent chooses Pit over Mindrazor, letting my characters play a bit more aggressively.


This is basically how it plays out – his Dark Riders on the right engage my Rippers, who I left in range of a turn 1 charge if he didn’t vanguard, and bounce off. I expected that combat to last 2 turns, but my dice were hot and I obliterated the dark riders in a single round – nice. On the left, I fail a charge or two, which slows me down, but I am still able to clear up the Dark Riders with Rippers, and my Flyblood eats his Warlocks after he charges chameleons and can’t get out of my arc. Right hand Warlocks should still be a pain, except they can’t pass a casting roll for Doombolt basically all game – Dave’s dice are basically awful all round. I can’t make charge rolls, but it doesn’t matter, the luck is otherwise with me and the flanks clear up nicely, making space for the main plan. I’m able to get saurus characters (plus rippers due to frenzy, who died, but it didn’t matter) into the witches and burn through them (though I at some point lose the flyblood to Pit), and my shooting obliterates the Swordmasters – they came a shade too far forward and my Salamanders got 15 in one volley, nice! The Dreadlord bails, but can’t escape far enough, and I decide the odds are in my Oldblood’s favour and I go in. (I’m worried about the Cloak of Twilight, or Giant Blade builds, but neither can get the other trickster’s shard so I’m probably ok). It takes a couple of rounds, but I finish him off. In the meantime, Death magic has slowly cleared up the BSB and Kharybdiss.


Thanks to a timely Doom and Darkness, I can then panic the spears out of the building. They fail to rally, go off the table, and that’s game – the dice all came together to make my plan work better than expected, Dave couldn’t catch a break, and I won 17-3 (as I had to sacrifice a few units and lost characters to Pit).


G3: Steve Wren (modified Blood and Glory)


General of the Empire, Obsidian Lodestone, possibly some other stuff


Lv4 Metal, Scroll

Lv4 Light, Power Stone


10 Inner Circle Knights, FC

5 Knights, Standard, Great Weapons

30-40ish Spearmen, Full Command


3 Demis, Banner

4 Demis, Banner (presumably both had musicians too, I imagine)



Steam Tank




Steve’s Empire army is actually intimidating to me – the cannon fire is worrying, and if he can shoot off my saurus characters, I don’t have much to take the demis on with. This said, the characters are quite vulnerable if I can get Rippers in, and the whole army is extremely vulnerable to Death magic. My approach here is to identify weak spots and try to get the Rippers into them, to break up his formation, score points, and try to get at the characters. In the meantime I tie up the demis in the centre and throw Death magic at key characters – BSB first, given how important the Ld reroll is to the game, and then general for fortitude/bonus tournament points. I’m basically aiming to swing a flank, disrupt him, and see if this opens up an opportunity to get stuff into his characters, scoring points and shutting down his magic. (Doom and Darkness can rapidly turn this into a big swing.)


Steve’s setup plays into my hands slightly – he has inner circle knights on the right, then hurricanum, then a tight castle with cannons, demis, and the spearmen character bunker. Steam tank is on the left, in a place which to my view relegates it to use as a cannon for most of the game – I can swing round the right, go through the Inner Circles and push into his centre.


Basically, early on Steve’s cannons took a fearsome toll – I lost my oldblood, and the flyblood was wounded, before I got them actually into anything. Equally, my first Caress of Laniph took off his BSB, so hey, we’re both losing characters.


I made a trade on the right – got Rippers into his Inner Circle knights and broke them, needing a 9 to go off the board on the pursue, but got 8 and over two turns got broken, escaped, and then got killed on a second charge from the hurricanum (which I eventually shot with my chameleons). I left them a long charge here, which they failed, but even if they got it one of my characters can then kill the inner circle knights to get points and pressure back. If they fail that charge, they get eaten by Rippers, and they didn’t really have room to back away – deployment error I feel. Got to take the odd risk (calculated and in your favour) to break open games for big results.


The other Rippers managed to find a sweet spot to get round toward his bunker, along with the wounded Flyblood, who had been cannon hunting beforehand. I then get Doom and Darkness on the unit, which has no BSB in anymore; this could be very painful for Steve. In practice, I do get the general (I forget if a ripper actually did it, or if this happened later), but the unit doesn’t break and sticks around, and my Rippers die. The flyblood still has some chance to win combat here and there, but I keep failing to do so, rendering my spam of Doom+Darkness meaningless. At least my Slann is well out of danger, and the flyblood has already eaten one of the Lv4s…


Finally, late game, the flyblood breaks, but I get Salamanders for a flank shot on the bunker, and with Doom+Darkness panic it off the table for a big points swing. Steve is just left with two units of demis and the tank, and with the 600vp bonus for breaking the opponent, I get the 19-1 win.


G4: Luke Morton


Chaos Lord on Disc (3+ ward with third eye, stubborn grown, great weapon, breath weapon – horrid)

Doombull with flying carpet and 3+ ward

Exalted BSB on daemonic mount with 4+ ward

10 hounds

2* chaos chariots

2*10 horrors with banners

5 blight kings with banner, musician


2 Skull Cannons


Luke and I play regularly(ish) for practice, and we’ve actually played with these exact lists twice already. First time round he didn’t know the matchup and I pulled off a 12-8 win; second time I tried something stupid that didn’t work and went down 20 (not helped by his bsb killing a skink champion in 2nd round of combat, then turning into a daemon prince and hence having an easy charge on my Slann). He’s at the top of the pile in the UK for a reason, very good player, and was sitting on a perfect score so far. Nonetheless, I have a chance – I’m on good form with the Lizards recently, and I do have some of the tools needed to scare him a bit (the cold one Oldblood in particular, and Death magic is great in the matchup). I spent a moment having a brainfail, then got over it, worked out a plan, and figured I had a chance.


Part of this is how he and I play – I’m an analyst, I plan matchup and work out an approach and then put it into practice, meaning given a bit of time to think I can play an unknown game and have decent odds. I get better with practice, but use it to inform the analysis rather than as my main learning method. Luke on the other hand tends to learn faster by doing and making mistakes (my risk averse playstyle often prevents me from getting as much out of that approach). It’s why I won the first game and he won the second.


What this means is, I need a plan that’s different from how I did it last time, so I can throw him off and put the game back in my advantage. (Something you might notice from these reports – I spend a lot of time talking about the pregame planning and deployment, and then the rest of it is just how the game plays out different to the plan. This is key to how I approach the game – and the opponents themselves are just as much a part of this as their army. It’s a pressure list, with fast intimidating flying threats, Death magic and loads of shooting, and I like to put people on the back foot to push them into mistakes.)


In the end, my plan settles down: I’m going to toad the disclord, as I know Luke is sat on 60 and doesn’t need to risk putting the Lord anywhere near that much killing blow. (I figure an average breath weapon does just over 3 wounds, so most of the time 3 rippers get to attack, for 15 attacks, about 8 hits after rerolls, so about 1.35 killing blows, and he’ll have a 3+ ward rerolling 1s. Means the expected number of killing blows is 0.3 – not high odds, but high enough he has no good reason to risk it in this game. This means I can control the disc lord’s movement relatively effectively.


I can then throw my other toad on one of the skullcannons, and go cannon hunting with them, the chameleons, and one or both of the vet and the flying oldblood. Luke is going to play it tight if he can, not taking big risks (based on my assessment of how he plays, and his own comments overnight). No reason to risk his lead. I, on the other hand, want to break the game open for a big result, to get me a shot at the tournament win. If he sits off and I don’t press him, he can just cannon off the oldblood that is actually a threat to his doombull, then push it and some of the characters/chariots into my army, and/or just claim a small win with the points scored by that and Reign of Chaos. I need those cannons either dead or at least in trouble. If I can create the space to do so, I can also use my skink priest and Arcane Vassal to use Spirit Leech to bully them. The flyblood has a dual role – he also wants to keep Luke from just pushing all 4 chariots at me along with the characters, and overwhelming my defences. It’s all about controlling space.


A further advantage to pressing into that backfield area is that I might get some points out of the Horrors. In the meantime, the rest of my army is on delaying tactics, looking scary and not leaving any gaps in the formation for him to get in. If he does close up, he risks getting charged by characters, units or both; or getting stuck on champions and countercharged – and given my huge magic advantage, I can almost always force Doom and Darkness through, and break his expensive characters, either removing his pressure or outright killing them for lots of points.


That’s the plan, anyway. No plan ever quite survives contact with the enemy, but I hope my aggressive approach will pay off by confusing him and making his prior experience against my list less valid.


We set up – he has characters quite spread, obviously aiming to push Doombull down the right flank and keep Chaos Lord pressuring me on the left. There’s a building he can maybe sort of hide behind to get a staging point into my lines, so I need to deny that space, and set Rippers aside for that job with their vanguard to cover the blind spot. I figure skrox can hold the doombull up a bit on the left, and if he goes in and I hold, I might be able to countercharge with something, Doom+Darkness or Iceshard, and break him. His soft points (and cannons) are in the corners, so I figure flyblood and the other ripper unit can start to pressure them with careful movement, which may also force his characters to come back to rescue. I’ve got my own building staging point to reduce the damage output from his army.


Sadly, he rolled a 1 on one of the Horror units, which means a Treason threat – but not much I can do about it, and he’ll need the irresistible to really resolve it against my huge magic advantage. I got Doom and Darkness, which is the only spell I really need (ok, Iceshard, but I can default to that).


I scout, we stand about chatting for a moment. He says “roll your dice then”, I without thinking pick it up and roll a 1, to give him first turn. Do you spot the mistake? [#BadTimes – Raf]


Yeah, I hadn’t Vanguarded yet. I’m sure he meant it in good faith, but having been asked to roll my dice, I did it without thinking. I knew exactly where both vanguards were going, I’d just gotten distracted by the conversation. Anyway, there is now a blind spot where he may be able to get into my lines. I also lose a lot of my pressure on the right. I’m a bit thrown, but rapidly replan and think I still have a chance – can still play the same style, just a bit delayed and more reactive, and may be able to draw characters into traps.


Anyway, he pushes disclord into that spot – but we then have another foulup, when he asks if “those characters” can see them, so I take a careful look, and report that my flyblood and mounted oldblood cannot (as these are the ones I thought he was pointing at, and the ones I thought to look at). I clearly got down and looked from them. Neither of us at this stage seemed to have considered that my other vet, further left, might be able to see – and it turns out he could. Anyway, failure of communication – we both thought we were agreeing on different things. As you can see, it’s a pretty important distinction – but I’m not sure what you can realistically do about it.


His doombull comes down the right flank, and his bsb moves nearby, a bit of a more measured advance. Cannons line up to shoot stuff, one chariot moves up a bit, the other slightly further back, and in general he makes an advance but not a flatout rush at me. Cannons don’t do much this turn as I recall. I think one misfires and can’t shoot this turn or next.


Anyway, my turn, and we encounter the above situation. Well, we encounter it, look, it can see, and I don’t think twice as he doesn’t actually say he thought we’d agreed it wasn’t possible – so I assume I’m capitalising on an entirely legitimate mistake. I also then charge a 20-strong cohort in the front. I figure unless he does loads of wounds, I’m very likely to win combat, and with doom and darkness have a good shot at the general kill turn 1. It’s a tight charge, hard to tell if the skinks can wheel past the other building or not, but Marcus the TO is stood right by the table so we ask him to sort it out rather than be unsure, and it is a legal charge. Both make it in. Otherwise, I basically mainly shuffle – my rippers and oldblood go to the left round building so if I don’t break the disclord, in second round his blightkings and chariot have the option to charge, but he’ll only be able to get blightkings into my vet, who can challenge in round 2 (champion takes round 1) – so skinks will be steadfast vs chariot and pin most of it, and he won’t have room to reform so I can then get hard stuff in their flanks and take off blightkings, lord and chariot – win win situation for me. He has no real ability to block any of this due to the distances involved. Salamanders on the far right duck out of the Doombull’s arc.


(You know, looking back, maybe I didn’t need Doom and Darkness round 1 – maybe I prefer him to hold so I can block him up/mess up his entire left more, rather than risk him getting away. Good, a learning point for next time.)


(Equally, Luke should have fled. Sure, it leaves my vet on approximately a double 6 to catch him, but better odds for him I feel, and fits with the kind of game he needs to play – ie not taking risks).


(It’s at somewhere around this stage he points out we’d agreed I couldn’t see him. I am bemused, since I thought we agreed such a thing only for the two other characters. Anyway, we’ve already moved it and I’ve gotten on with other movement, and given the vanguard thing, I don’t feel minded to take it back – but maybe, looking back, I should have. Hindsight and all that – I need to work on being more accommodating, but it was a failure to communicate on both sides.)

[not at all a mistake – if he had meant that Vet he would have mentioned it when you declared the charge…. - Raf]

Rippers on the right got badly hurt by Reign of Chaos in his turn, which reduces my ability to pressure the cannons. I can’t recall what part they play in the game – I think I lose them to an irresistible blue fire before my hunting plan can work. Ah well. Flyblood is still floating about being threatening. My vet on the left is pressuring skullcannon – if it comes in, it might not kill me, and might be exposed to other stuff, and isn’t shooting my oldblood. I’m happy with that situation.


In practice, I get the Doom off, and Iceshard too, and do break the Disc. However, he escapes both pursuers. Ah well L  It has still taken a lot of the pressure over there off, and he’s only Ld5 to rally, too.


He fails to rally, and heads for the board edge – but rolls a 12, and escapes my scarvet’s arc for charging him off. Ah well. Puts him near the board edge – if I can get the same off again I may still get the kill, decentish odds. He’s lost a lot of pressure here.


He then throws the Doombull into my skrox, who hold, lose combat, and pass leadership. All good so far. (I don’t bother challenging, as he doesn’t go into btb with my kroxigor – a mistake, to my view, as he can kill my Ld7 and give me a decent chance of breaking if he kills it. It won’t do much damage past a 3+ ward.) BSB moves across more central, as disclord has otherwise left that side open – chariots similarly readjust to keep a broad front of pressure.


I notice my salamanders have a midrange charge into the flank of the Doombull at this point, so take it – I figure with 7A, and me having static res of 5, he is odds on to lose combat, and is testing on Ld7 or losing his expensive combat character. Even if not, if he loses, he loses Frenzy and may lose future rounds of combat. I may also be able to get an Iceshard off if the magic dice situation permits after the critical Doom and Darkness. Salamanders make it in.


(In retrospect: should I have gone all out for the Doombull and left the Disclord to rally some distance away? I’m not sure. The Disc is a lot harder for me to deal with than the Doombull.)


My memory of which turn is which gets more confused from here on in. At this stage of the game, I’m looking good – decent odds to mitigate and/or kill his Doombull, his Disclord is out of the game for a turn or two and may well die if the magic/rally test work out right, and he is lacking pressure in the centre. I’m standing to lose my skink cohort to blight kings, but that’s not the end of the world. I also manage to push the more central chariot back with something, and it fails to rally and goes off table.


Here, however, is where the dream all starts to come apart. Firstly, I roll a 7-5 magic phase, fail to channel, and he channels once. I then 6-dice Doom, and get something like 4,3,2,2,1,1. He dispels. Disclord rallies. There goes that chance… I can’t even get Iceshard on the Doombull either. The Doombull passes its leadership. Not the end of the world – but it passes next turn too, which removes my chance at the kill or even at holding it up much longer. (I throw chameleons in the way of bsb and chariot to buy another turn, and Iceshard him – and it *still* doesn’t work.)


Then, he puts cannon into my scarvet. I don’t die, flee, get away, and countercharge with rippers (failed frenzy) and oldblood, and kill it – but the other cannon kills the Oldblood in one shot. Ouch.


This would be ok, if he didn’t also get a 3 dice to 2 magic phase, then irresistible Treason on my Slann, who flees out of his building in panic when the Oldblood gets shot [ouch! – Raf]. Thankfully I rally (very nervous roll!), but he is now in an awful position as the bsb (fresh from rescuing Doombull) and now back in the game disclord are on either side of his cohort. It’d be fine, I’d have room to escape probably – except he double 6es a magic phase and puts 13 plaguebearers in my only escape spot. Eep.


(Learning point: take gleaming pennant on my slann! Only 5pts…) [lol! Most situational “learning point” ever :) That being said… it’s a fair point! – Raf]



I’m still able to wrangle a spot for the Slann that he can’t charge, but now have to sacrifice my cohort, and the Slann is out on his own for a turn. (Within 3 of a unit at least). I’ve also killed almost no points, as my shots at the characters have all failed. (I haven’t mentioned two Fate of Bjunas on the BSB that both did 0 wounds each).


What happens now? The one cannon shot needs to hit, then to wound, then to get past a 4+ look out sir, then to get past a 4+ ward, then to do 5 wounds, and has one shot – and does it. Dead Slann. [There is a reason Luke is reigning supreme… yup, that’s it, luck ;) –Raf]


It’s game over from there, I survive with some skinks, my priest, and my flyblood who was off eating Horrors as it was his only decent option at that stage, and lose 20-0.




Frustrating, given how well it went at the start. Not really sure what else I could have done either – some very minor errors, but I had a good plan, then a good adapted plan when it failed, and took excellent shots at points and at removing his pressure – and none of it worked. It was a very fun game, and friendly (despite the disputes – we’re both mates and worked them out in a relaxed way), but I just don’t know quite how it happened. Can’t plan for stuff like that really.


I’ve identified a couple of possible errors now, but I still feel I played it extremely well, and my opponent also made larger errors, and I still lost 20. My mind is racing looking for room to improvement, and keeps coming up with “roll better dice”, and I hate it – I hate blaming losses on dice, there’s always something you can do better. And yet… I can’t escape that the game shouldn’t have gone down 20. Even if only some chances work, I score some points, make him work for it, keep the Slann safe, and even if he gets loads of other stuff go his way I still only lose small I think.


Eh, that’s life. Still got things to learn, and he is at the top of the UK pile for good reason J [yes, luck and Daemons. We all know this :) – Raf (love you really Luke (you lucky git)]



G5: Matt Watkinson


Necromancer Lord, Lv4 Death

Liche Priest, Light, Scroll

Liche Priest, Light

Liche Priest, Light

Vampire, Light

2*30-40ish Zombies, std mus

2*20 tomb king archers, full command

2*10 tomb king archers

8 crypt horrors

2*4 vargheists

2*2 fell bats

3 spirit hosts (one unit)

2* screaming skull catapult

Casket of Souls


It has been a very long time since I last played Matty, but we speak at most tournaments we’re both at, and I know this is going to be a fun, relaxed, but very challenging game – he’s an excellent player. The army, though, is good for me – he has relatively few answers to my characters, and a lot of vulnerable points. This impression is reinforced in the pregame rolls – neither of us roll Purple Sun, but that’s in my favour as I have other answers to the Crypt Horrors. He then swaps Net for Shem’s, and doesn’t roll Banishment – this is a huge break, given any one of those three spells I have to consider stopping, and then there’s the Casket, which can be horrible to me. Now, I only have to stop the Casket, which is huge.


Looking at the matchup, he has more deployment drops than me, so I’m going to be deploying fairly evenly balanced in the centre, with a ripper unit on either flank so I can pincer round if he leaves me any gaps, and my characters centralish so they can shoot to either side and support a push round a flank to break in to his characters. I figure the main threats combat wise from him are the vargheists, the spirit hosts, and the crypt horrors. I can use a vet to control space on at least one side, and redirect/frenzy bait other stuff; on the other flank, my main push should clear the space for me anyway, so the Slann can drift in that direction to avoid his flanking. I am planning a revolving engagement, but with my side swinging faster round than his – I feel I have the units to do this. (I should be clear – there’s a building right in the centre splitting the game into two halves, which is why this plan is in operation). Skink priest with Arcane Vassal means I can get Death magic range on his characters/artillery pretty easily, and he’ll have bigger targets to go after so it should be fairly safe.


I then catch another huge break – worried about frenzy baiting and shooting, he deploys both Vargheist units on his backline, facing away from me [he always does this, silly Matty – Raf]. Suddenly, he can’t control space very well anymore, and I’m going to gain at least a turn in my attempt to break through to his characters.


To be clear: his deployment is tightly packed, due to so many units. Vargheists and fellbats on the back line, catapults in the centre just in front of them, a unit of 20 archers just left of centre (next to catapults) with the combat-spell Liche Priests in, the other unit on the right with general, vampire and another priest, the 10s wide on the wings, casket to the left, zombies right of the building and crypt horrors left of it on the front line. Another error I think here – I’m odds on to go first, and his Zombies are both facing forward. I can vanguard my Rippers then fly them right of the Zombies and get outside their arc, with only really a round of shooting to stop them before they go into something vulnerable.


Anyway, what this serves as, I think, is a classic example of how in some matchups it is perfectly possible to lose a game in deployment. A few details (facing of zombies, position of vargheists, swapping Net for signature) can put you massively behind and playing catchup all game, despite looking like relatively minor decisions.


I get first turn, and put plan into motion. Rippers go round the flanks (on the left they have to go 1-deep 4-wide facing into his lines to fit in the gap). Characters all move over to the right, able to reach staging points to get into his backfield proper on turn 2-3. Skinks on that side move up (skrox going a bit deeper than usual, so as to better fight if zombies make a long charge). Slann drifts round right, skink priest goes into range of his main bunker. On the left I keep a few units ready to interdict the spirit hosts and crypt horrors. Magic wise, I get a Spirit Leech through and kill his Vampire – nice start there.


His turn 1, by contrast to his deployment, is extremely well executed. On the left, fellbats and vargheists and so on all move so that I have no room to land if I want to charge anything other than his vargheists, or a long charge against the zombies over to the right (20”). This takes quite a bit of careful positioning to pull off – if I fail Frenzy, I now lose my Rippers to his Vargheists. His zombies fail their own long charge. On the right, he tries the same by putting Vargheists in front of his bunker, but he doesn’t have enough stuff to prevent the charge into the catapults that’ll be able to run over them both. Magically, I have to stop the Casket, so he can put soulblight and a small Shem’s on my right hand Rippers, doing a couple of wounds. His shooting then unloads – I’m expecting to have 3w or so of Rippers left, but roll awfully for saves and end up with one wounded model. That wasn’t in the plan.


Ah well – what my opponent hasn’t seen is that as his Vargheists are angled, now I don’t have a full unit of Rippers, I actually have room to land against his bunker – and touch his general, too, on the corner. (It was fairly close – after a look and neither of us being sure, we 4+ed it, and I could.) I also have Chameleons in the flank of the unit, who can try an assassination run against the Liche on the end.


My turn, and ripper and camos go into his archer bunker (another line of thought is it pins him so my characters can get in if the first wave don’t do the job). The rippers on the left (now 3 models due to shooting) will have to charge the vargheists if I fail Frenzy, which loses me loads of time and pressure on that flank. I decide my right flank is the key to this game, so my Rippers on the left take the long charge on zombies – if I pass, I gain loads, if I fail, he then has to charge me in his turn, and due to positioning, I’ll have to close the door to him to get in, with only 2 models each, so he’ll probably fail to kill me and be forced to pursue off at an angle out of the game – buying me the time I need. (Especially since he brought his Spirit Hosts back as part of the blocking move). I then move both my oldbloods round his Zombies, daring his Vargheists to charge; and put skrox in a midrange charge from the zombies to see if he goes for it, and give my characters time to eat his backfield.


As always, memory breaks down on the precise ordering of things after the early game – my plan is in operation, it’s just time to see if it works, and cope with any upsets. The main, key one is my Ripper getting the killing blow on his general – it dies next round, but its work is done. The camos kill their character too, and hold the archers for a couple of turns before dying. The Casket nearly pulls the game back for him – irresistibly cast I think 3 or 4 times over the game, killing my Salamanders outright (after they + skrox had beaten up one of the Zombie units, and stopping me cleaning up the final right hand archers before end game), and doing 2 wounds to each of my Oldbloods. That said, his Vargheists bounce off my flyblood, and I’m then able to eat the catapults and also chew through his secondary bunker (plus snipe another Liche with Death). His swing round the left is – as in my pre game plan – held up by my disruption units, and ends up just killing a cohort (which went in the building to frenzy bait Vargheists and shoot stuff), and maybe a skirmish unit. In the meantime, my skink shooting is on fire and eventually wipes out the Crypt Horrors. The Vargheists are reduced to one model with one wound left and dive for the board edge turn 6; I throw an Iceshard after them, but fail to wound.


That’s basically the game really – I ate his entire right flank bar the depleted ex-character-bunker, and then chew up the middle, while delaying and shooting on the left, sacrificing as little as possible and trying to get him to make hard decisions and split his forces.


It must be said, I got the luck in this game. The way I play Lizards is a mix of pressure and calculated risk taking – over a game I take loads of little calculated risks, all of which have good results for me if they work, and don’t lose me much if they go wrong, and I wait for enough of them to work to break the game open, then capitalise for the big win. If they all work, the game tends to be a walkover, like this one was. If none of them work (very rare), it’s a pain – see versus Luke the game before. If a few of them work, I still on balance of odds gain an advantage, and create enough pressure and board position advantage that my opponent can’t get that many points of me, and tend to get a drawish result to a small/medium win depending how bad my dice are and how tightly my opponent plays it. In this game, most of my chances worked – but I’d have had less of them available were it not for the errors in deployment. After that, Matty was scrambling – he did an extremely good job of it, but it just wasn’t enough, especially not with the dice on my side, and a matchup advantage for my army. Nonetheless, I do feel I have to record my respect for his play in trying to pull the game back – the only real mistakes were before the first turn even began.


The Results


I’ve got the full +15 bonus for comp, which only some of the people near the top have [Really? Would have expected everyone to have gone for the 15 – Raf], and I have most of the painting points, so I’m going to be gaining a bit of position on that. I also got a big win last round, but on table 7 – probably too far down to get the podium, unless several people above me get draws – and I know the person on table 6 got 20 and has +15. (Table 8 also got 20, but had less comp than me, so I’m safe there). Tables 5 through 2 I don’t know about, and I know table 1 was a 15-5 to Luke, so he has won the event, it’s just a question of whether I’ve jumped past his opponent. (I’m guessing probably.) So… I know of two people above me, and there are four tables left which could get the 3rd in my place. I then go check out best Lizard – Matt Hinton was on one of those tables, as it turns out, but lost 11-9. Hmmm – it’ll be close, but I might have top Lizard, and now only tables 2,3 and 5 might have got 3rd instead of me. Fair odds of that, even with the comp issue, but it’s possible. We’ll see.


Best Lizard gets called…


And I got it! Whew…


So, the critical 3rd place is called. And…


My name is called. Wow, I wasn’t quite expecting that! Very very happy with my first podium since Raze and Ruin, and at a big event with a field as strong as this one. Shiny silverware for me!

[Well done sir! – Raf]


Chris Legg came in 2nd, and Luke of course took out the now expected 1st.


Event Overview


I had a brilliant time, event entirely lived up to its reputation for an excellent atmosphere.


The venue was excellent – spacious, airy, and lent proceedings a very relaxed, holiday atmosphere. Not the usual crowded dark room of most tournaments I’m used to. The high ceilings make a huge difference. I can’t say I was complaining at £1.70 a pint either…


The organisation was solid, kept things running smoothly and the organisers kept up the spirit of the event by being very approachable and adding a touch of humour to proceedings as it went along.


The comp pack worked somewhat in encouraging people to bring less usual choices. A few details could do with tweaking – the Host of Aestyrion has been mentioned many times, and a few armies had better or worse bonus options, I felt my own Lizards got away with it rather – but the ethos of it seemed pretty good.


Next year I definitely intend to book early enough to get a room at the actual hotel – think it’d add even more to the laid back feel of the event.


My Army, Play, and Learning Points

In general, I felt the army was solid – but then, I got a run of favourable matchups, if I’m honest. There was some utter filth out there, and I didn’t run into it; there were also a *lot* of ETC players, and I didn’t play any of them (though I did still have some tough opponents!) Unsure how it’d have fared against things that weren’t vulnerable to Ripperdactyls. I do think the Mersey comp gave me openings – lots of people taking stuff I could get my teeth into due to the bonus points.


The ethos of the army – fast hard hitting pressure, a troubleshooting Oldblood, Death magic to do damage and force open opportunities from midfield while the opponent dealt with my main assault, and the usual cloud of skink shooting and redirecting/blocking units – worked well, nonetheless.

I’m starting to be convinced by other players that the time of the all-shooting-cloud Skink core is fading, and that I need a little bit more combat – perhaps a full size Skrox unit. It’d just let me add a bit more pressure, and have an extra thing to tie hard characters down with/threaten with when playing against armies that actually put me on the back foot. The Salamanders are hard to use – they worked well in several matches, but whether I could have used the points better elsewhere I’m unsure. The Rippers were amazing in several places, but also swingy on dice and very fragile, and in some matchups they can be a lot less useful, so they may well not be the “optimal” approach. I do wonder if Matt Hinton is right and 3 units is way better than 2; but in that instance, I’d need to find the points. OK, so it’s a straight swap for the Salamanders, but then I can’t use those points to have Skrox. A minor tweak I’ll run from now on is Dragonbane Gem and either Gleaming Pennant or Banner of Discipline on the Slann, to reduce my vulnerability to Treason and Skullcannons. A question still hanging in my mind is magic – Death was brilliant, but I did rather miss having any kind of magic missile to clear out troublesome units. Not sure on how to get round that one yet – points are pretty tight.


(I might also tweak the gear on the oldbloods – S5 isn’t quite enough on the Flyblood in some matchups).

My play was on decent all weekend, but as mentioned game 1, I need to speed up even more, it just isn’t fair on my opponents otherwise. One thing is practice – and in fairness, the reason I did better in the game results here than I did at the Sheffield Slaughter was knowing my army, and hence being able to play it in such a planned way while saving time by knowing a lot of the details already from prior experience. Cuts down the amount of thinking needed. Just need to play more games, with a focus on speeding up, and I’ll be ok.

One thing of interest is that I’m definitely spotting more mistakes writing this than I identified at the time – it’s a brilliant learning experience and I’d encourage others to do it. (Also means more battle reports for everyone to read).

Overall, I had a great time, and intend to book as soon as it opens next year! :-D
[I would say I am too… but think the gods have decided I’m not allowed to attend! – Raf]
Until next time!

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