Highborn Elves vs Empire of Sonnstahl
After we’d played very slowly and casually through our last battle, we realised we could probably get another game in that same day if we were quick. Rob had brought some of his old GW High Elves models along, and had all the models we needed to put together a Highborn Elves T9A Quickstarter force, so he wanted to try them out.
Rob setup the terrain this time, but I said I wouldn’t tell him which of my two armies I was going to play until after he’d done so. In the end we had to make a few adjustments as it looked like most layouts would have a significant advantage on one side of the table, and we ended up mutually agreeing on an almost mirrored battlefield. As I’d never played anything other than Orcs & Goblins for so long, I decided I’d try the Empire of Sonnstahl out, just for something different.
We were eating pizza whilst playing, and trying to play as quickly as we could to make sure we could get this battle finished before Rob had to leave. I had only glanced at the Highborn Elves QS army before playing this game and hadn’t really thought very much tactically about how it would go, so I was trying to figure it out as we went.
Deployment and Highborn Elves Turn 1
The Elves rolled to deploy first and move first. Completely different to the Orc army though, with their long range shooting and magic & high movement speed, I felt the Elves could potentially take great advantage of going first – even if overall it was probably still a disadvantage.
The Elves deployed with their cavalry unit on their far left flank, their archers to the right of the Knights just standing on a left-flanking hill, along with their Mage General behind the hill. Their Spearmen deployed on the right flank behind some woods, ready to push forward to the central objective.
I decided to deploy with my Knights in the open ground right in front of the objective. With their ridiculous armour, I wasn’t really scared of any of the High Elf missile fire. So my plan was to sit them there and charge anything that came near the objective. My Handgunners were opposite the High Elf archers, but I thought they would easily lose in a straight up shooting war given the greater range and accuracy of the Elves so I wasn’t quite sure that was a great idea. My Halberd block was behind the hill roughly opposite the HE Spears, and my Generally was placed centrally to offer his Discipline to my whole army if necessary.
RULES QUESTIONS: We quickly ran into slightly confusing rules regarding the Elf Archers on the hill. Could they see over the woods and fire without cover penalty, and could they see over the Handgunner unit and directly target my Wizard if I placed him behind them. The way the “Elevated position” rule is worded is: “When drawing Line of Sight or determining Cover to or from models on a Hill, ignore all intervening models which are not on a Hill themselves.” so it clearly read that that they couldn’t see over the Woods, but it was a little bit more vague with regards to targeting a character behind a unit. This also then led us into my rules question from the last battle – if the Wizard joined the Handgunners, would they have one less shot? (I still thought so, even though that was to my disadvantage in this situation) In the end we agreed that on a hill would not be able to also see over other units, even if technically the rule seemed to be worded that, it just felt and looked silly.
And so I set up my Wizard behind the Handgunners. I planned to move him forwards to get his spells off on any Elf units that moved towards the objective.
On Turn 1 movement the High Elves realised they were rather out-manoeuvred by the Empire deployment. Their cavalry couldn’t even effectively wheel around their archers & their Mage without them also moving forwards, so Rob’s plan to leave his archers in place would essentially force only a single movement path for his Knights down the left flank. So he was forced to move both the Archers and Mage forwards, and swing back around behind them. Their huge movement marching distance enabled them to re-adjust quite quickly but it was still less than ideal. Rob was very concerned and said he thought he’d made a big mistake with his positioning. The Spearmen pressed forward though through the wood towards the objective. On this the Elf archers were still able to kill one handgunner with their bow shots, despite moving and shooting through cover.
Empire Turn 1
I’d planned to sit back more during my deployment, but seeing the High Elves so disorganised I decided to press forward a lot more. The Handgunners marched forwards to get within range of the High Elf archers next turn. I also moved my cavalry forward to threaten to charge his Archers. Out of much shooting threat, the Halberdiers also pressed forward, as did my General and Wizard behind my front units.
I managed to move my Wizard within 18″ of the High Elf archers and managed to successfully cast a Scorching Salvo onto them, killing two of them.
Unfortunately for me, as we we playing quickly I completely forgot about quite a few things in my keenness to take advantage of the situation. Falling back on my Warhammer instincts, I was sure that my Knights were well out of 10″ ‘charge range’ of both of the High Elf infantry units, but I didn’t actually measure anything out… I also forgot my Wizard didn’t get any protection from being near to an infantry unit (he would’ve had to join them), and I forgot to check any lines of sight too. We only on this turn also realised how the cover from the woods didn’t apply if you were shooting out from them – because that is only mentioned later in the QS shooting rules and not in the terrain section.
Highborn Elves Turn 2
To my surprise Rob declared a charge with his Spearmen vs my Knights. I was shocked by this, thinking they were well out of range – as noted above, I’d momentarily totally forgotten in T9A they would charge 2D6 + 5″ rather than a 10″ charge range, and that they could see and charge out of the woods without any hindrance at all.
Thrown off by this, I decided to Hold and hoped to get lucky, when in hindsight, I definitely should have fled this charge! I was also feeling carried away as for the first time I was able to play with Heavy Knights and in decades of play with Orcs & Goblins I’d never had such hard-to-kill troops ever at my disposal, so I was feeling like they were rather more invulnerable than they really were – which had also made me think Rob wouldn’t have attempted this.
Rob rolled a massive charge distance on his Spearmen as it happened and could easily make the charge, and could even wheel enough to position his spearmen block wherever they wanted to be along the Knights frontage. Rob chose to align himself far across to their right, meaning he could leave an open area of the unit potentially ‘chargeable’ next turn by his Knights, who wheeled around in support behind the Spearmen. His Wizard rushed forward into the wood vacated by the Spearmen’s charge and was within 18″ of almost all of the Empire force now for his own spells (again, playing quickly. I’d completely forgotten I could’ve measured all this out on my own turn).
In the Magic phase the High Elf Mage managed to cast an un-dispelled Scorching Salvo. Despite being so worried about this spell in the last game, I really hadn’t thought about it’s effect much on the Empire army list and who was vulnerable to it or not. As it happened, it hit my whole army bar the Knights who were immune to targeting due to being in melee combat already. One Halberdier died. The Empire Marshal was protected by his armour and was fine, and only one Handgunner died too, however the Empire Wizard was hit with a good roll and lost 2 hitpoints from the Salvo. The Mage also successfully cast “Know Thy Enemy” onto the spearmen, although it would only make only a marginal difference to their combat rolls vs the Empire Knights anyway.
Things went further south from there for the Empire, as I’d not bothered to check in the last turn, I’d positioned my Wizard where half the High Elf archers unit could actually see him. Despite the cover and long range, they hadn’t moved, and got pretty decent dice rolls and finished him off. Fortunately my Marshal, Knights or the Handgunners didn’t panic from this. But seeing how much my Goblin Witchdoctor had managed to affect the battle last game, with his disastrous turn of events, I thought I was already pretty doomed without a Wizard for the rest of the battle. However in the melee phase things went from bad to worse. As I’d expected, the High Elf Spearmen weren’t able to do any damage to the Empire Knights. But with a slightly under average roll, the Knights also only killed a single Elf Spearman. With their rank and and charge bonuses, this meant the Elves won the combat by 3 points, and I had to make a Discipline 6 check or probably lose the game already…
It wasn’t to be, and the Knights broke from combat. Of course the Spearmen rolled higher pursuit than the Knights flee roll too, and due to my rushed complete lack of forethought during the previous turn, they even pursued into the flank of the Empire Marshal.
Empire Turn 2
With the battle already essentially lost with one good spell and one very good combat for the Elves – caused by my own bad positioning, the only chance I had to turn things around was some huge luck. To give my General much chance of survival I had to counteract both the rank and the flank bonus from the Elf Spears, I decided to charge both of my infantry units into the combat. The Halberdiers would give their ranks to the fight, and the Handgunners would get a rear charge.
As mentioned, the Spearman had “Know Thy Enemy” cast onto them in the previous phase, but due to the differences in stats it still didn’t affect much – it only really made it a little harder for the Empire General to land hits on them. But a bunch of terrible rolls awaited me regardless, as I only killed 2 High Elf Spearmen despite 17 attacks of varying power against the unit. Similarly, with their 15 distributed attacks they only did a couple of wounds back to the Empire Halberds too, and no damage to the Handgunners or the Marshall. But this wasn’t anywhere near the luck I would’ve needed to have any chance in the game, and this left this melee combat phase a draw. At least I was able to post-combat reform to turn my Marshal to face the Spearmen now. But I knew it wouldn’t make much difference…
Highborn Elves Turn 3
The Elves declared a charge with their Knights of Ryma, and with nothing left to shoot that wasn’t in combat – also with their Archers too. Both rolled enough distance to make it into the melee. And getting out some arc templates, the Knights were also JUST into the flank of the Halberdiers, as were the Archers into the Handgunners.
This created one enormous melee combat around the objective, with an enormous statistical advantage to the Elves of course. The Elf Mage also cast Know Thy Enemy onto the Knights of Ryma.
In the melee phase, the Elves backed their statistical advantage with far more lucky dice rolls than the Empire too. Only two more Elf Spearmen died, whereas the Halberdiers and Handgunners were almost wiped out. This led to every remaining Empire unit auto-breaking from combat and the Elves had won the battle:
Battle Result: Highborn Elves WIN
Conclusions and thoughts:
Clearly I knew I made a HUGE mistake by trying to press forward and not sitting back with my Knights as had been my original plan, and allowing them to get charged. I compounded this error by not fleeing, despite their iffy odds in the melee phase. Realising too late how shooting FROM a wood worked was also a big problem – as if I’d realised that, I would have realised the Handgunners would’ve actually been alright statistically in a ‘missile match’ with the Elf Archers, which would’ve made me realise even more how sitting back would’ve worked to my advantage. I hadn’t realised how vulnerable my Wizard was to the Scorching Salvo spell either, he really should have joined a unit to protect him from that.
What I liked?
It was still quite a fun game despite it all being over so quickly. I actually liked the fact we had a quick resolution to the battle and one mistake could swing the game like this.
What I didn’t like?
Although they weren’t decisive at all in this game due to being badly positioned at first, the Highborn Elves Knights of Ryma seem totally overpowered vs either the Orcs or the Empire lists! With their enormous charge range and charging bonuses, with reasonable luck they will be able to win the charge vs any other unit in these lists, and easily win the combat with 10 Offensive Skill 5, Strength 6, AP 3 attacks. Their ‘threat range’ is simply enormous on paper, and only careful manoeuvring and avoidance/chaffing tactics would give you a chance against them – only the Orc Eadbasher unit might have a chance vs them – but the Empire have nothing that can fight them at all. To add to this the Highborn Elf list just seemed rather better than the Empire list too, as every one of their units seems to be strictly superior to the Empire equivalent – and the Empire hero doesn’t seem to be enough of a difference maker against the Elves either. I was actually really shocked that the Highborn Elves only get 1 less model on the table than the Empire do too, despite their almost all-round better stats. Unlike the previous game, we saw in this game what a decent Scorching Salvo could do. Again, I really dislike it’s effect on these small QS games and how it forces vulnerable units or characters to completely play around it or pay the cost I paid here – if it at least needed line of sight (or could only target one thing) it would have more counterplay I feel.
As per the last battle report though, I do realise I’m a complete newbie to T9A QS, so I will take all of my own critiques with a pinch of salt too at this point. But I’m interested to see as I learn more and read/watch more battle reports from the QS as to how other people found these lists and matchups.
RULES QUERY: Although it wasn’t especially relevant, as we still had enough time to do so, we played out the complex “multi-break” from multi-combat scenario and checked all the rules we could to see how to do it. I think we got it all right, so this is more to check out how it should work, as there were still a few oddities.
The way we read the rules, each Elf unit first declared which of it’s enemies it wanted to pursue, out of the units it was actually fighting. So the Elf Spearmen were the only unit that could choose as such. This would determine how the pursue/flee rolls were compared, and would also set the directions of flee and pursuit. Rob chose to pursue the Empire Marshall with his Spearmen, so each one of his units was pursuing one of the Empire units along the directions shown by the Panic arrows above ^
The Elves rolled higher than Empire for each pursuit. The distances to move are shown above. For the Archers it was simple, they just moved forward 7″ . But the Spearman and the Cavalry were running across each other.
As it happened, both of the units could move their “correct” distance without actually overlapping each other, so that is what we did, as pictured above. However with different dice rolls for distance it could have got a lot more confusing. Firstly what would happen if the Spearman and Knights had ended up in the same position on the table? In what order would they move too? The fleeing section notes that fleeing units move in the order their distance rolls were made, but the pursuit section (page 26) does not cover this. Also if either the Empire Marshall or Halberdiers had fled further than the pursuing unit, what would have happened if the other Elf unit then touched them on their pursuit movement and they would end up overlapping too?