The Ninth Age Quickstarter Battle Report 3

Undying Dynasties vs Orcs & Goblins

I had a new opponent for this battle – Andy! Andy is an experienced ex-WFB player and more of a current miniature wargamer than I am (he plays a number of other games), and he’d also taken a look at The Ninth Age QS rules, so we were able to play this battle really quickly – even from unpacking models to setting up the terrain to the end was probably a bit under 3 hours. We also didn’t take too many photos this time, to keep things running quickly.

Andy set up the terrain and then we did a few shuffles to ensure the fixed size and formation QS units could actually manoeuvre okay around things, and then I got to pick the side I wanted to set up on. Andy had placed things pretty evenly really, but I decided on the lower board edge (in the photos below) as I had the only unit (Wolf Riders) that would be hindered by the woods, and both sides had places where they could potentially hide from shooting & magic too. In fact, I found it very frustrating that with UD, that woods are a 100% advantage to them, as the enemy cannot use them for cover, and steadfast is irrelevant to all of their units as they all have the “Undead” special rule. It seemed pretty strange that Undead really love forests under this rule system!

After rolling, Andy had to deploy and move first, which I felt, as I’ve thought before, was generally an advantage to me. Andy set up with Shabtis on my far left flank, his Necropolis Guards with the Death Cult Hierarch joined in the unit in the centre, and his Skeleton Archers on my right flank, partly behind a hill, but still with a reasonable line of sight to the centre of the board:

Looking at the lists, I realised a few things – it would be really risky for my characters to leave a unit if the Hierarch could get his “Fate’s Judgement” spell on them. This would probably kill my Witchdoctor in a single spell, and could even threaten my Chieftain a little bit. The UD list also had two decent combat units, but neither was as good as the Orc Eadbashers in a head-on fight. As I was resigned to have to put my characters into units, the extremely one-note OnG list and the QS rules for characters, meant I was left with basically no choice for my character deployment anyway. My general plan was to try to somehow get the Eadbasher unit into a 1 on 1 fight with a single UD unit and hopefully kill them off as quickly as possible. The concern for me was if they ended up fighting two units at once they could lose. The other concern was that both of my Goblin units wouldn’t do much against either of the UD combat units.

So looking at Andy’s set up, my plan was to try to screen or chaff his Shabtis in some manner to keep them away from the Eadbashers, and engage the Necropolis Guards as fast as possible in the centre whilst doing so.

The incredibly vulnerable Goblin Wolf Rider unit was already proving a liability during setup though, as it had to keep out of range or los of the Skeleton Archers or the Hierarch or potentially lose them in a single turn. So I positioned them back behind my lines a bit and behind the hill. The regular Goblin unit was positioned opposite the Shabtis to get a line of sight for the Witchdoctor to them.

We both practically ignored the right hand side of the table with this set up!

Undying Dynasties Turn 1

All of Andy’s units were within 12″ of his Hierarch, and so could march, and all of his units moved forwards, the Shabtis wheeling around the building so that they were angled towards the centre of the battlefield and the objective. He only moved his Archers a normal move though, sitting them behind the hill. In the Magic phase the Hierarch attempted to cast Fate’s Judgement on the Orc Eadbashers. Whilst I knew Andy had more dice in reserve & would probably try a Danse Macabre spell as well, I decided to try and dispel the Judgement spell, and it was successfully stopped. But Andy then used the Danse Macabre unopposed to move his Archers another 8″ (meaning they had moved a whopping 12″ and, as we understood it, were still able to shoot). Whilst I had predicted the Danse Macabre, I hadn’t seen fully this move coming as I didn’t realise they would still be able to shoot. However the odds were they would do less damage than a successful Fate’s Judgement anyway to the Orcs, so I wasn’t sure I had made the wrong decision particularly – but in the subsequent shooting phase, on a ridiculously high set of dice rolls, they killed 4 Eadbashers! I was glad this wasn’t enough for a panic test, but already the battle wasn’t looking too good for me.

Orcs & Goblins Turn 1

Like Andy I advanced all of my units forward. I dithered a LOT with my positioning of my two Goblin units as I wasn’t sure what to do with them. I partly wanted to keep the Wolf Riders back behind the hill, but I also wanted to threaten to chaff or charge the Shabti with them (if they exposed a flank anyway). The normal Goblin unit wanted to do the same, but of course didn’t really have the speed to get into position. I also didn’t want to leave an easy charge for the Shabtis to make vs either unit, and with the Shabtis good movement speed, it was quite hard to get a safe positioning. In the end I settled with putting them both on the hill. If the Raiders did get targeted with magic and shooting, I would just have to hope I got lucky. The Orc Eadbashers were positioned with 10″ of the Necropolis Guards, which we marked with a green die as a reminder as we knew this distance could be important in the next turn. I really liked in T9A we were able to play with clear measurements and a “rule of intent” as Andy described it from another wargame he played.

My luck with magic continued, as the Goblin Witchdoctor managed to successfully cast both a Fireball at the Necropolis Guards in the centre, killing 1, and more importantly, also managed to cast “The Evil Eye” on the Shabtis, slowing them down, which was a big part of my plan to disrupt them from also piling in on the Eadbasher unit. My Goblin Wolfriders also shot at the Necropolis Guards, but of course, did no damage whatsoever.

Undying Dynasties Turn 2

Unhappy about the Evil Eye spell messing up his movement, the Shabtis shuffled sideways to get away from the building and prevent any unit from flanking them by being within an inch or so of the side of the board. With a huge advantage in shooting, Andy didn’t see any need to engage right away, so his Necropolis Guards actually moved backwards a couple of inches to increase the distance between themselves and the Orcs. The Archers in turn shuffled sideways to keep a bit further away from the Eadbashers and put their flank against the hut on the hill. The Goblin Witchdoctor maintained his amazing dispelling form however, stopping any damage spells that the Hierarch tried to cast. But the Skeleton Archer shooting was once again slightly over the odds, and killed another 2 Eadbashers.

Orcs & Goblins Turn 2

I started the turn by declaring a charge with my Eadbashers. Even though I needed I think a 9 (or maybe even a 10) to make it, I thought it was worth a shot, because if I made the charge, I would engage the Necropolis Guards and actually be outside the charge arc of the Shabtis too. I figured I’d at least advance a fair bit closer anyway, and if things went wrong with the final positioning of the Orcs position, I could move forward the Wolves to completely block the Shabtis charge if I had to. However I rolled a ridiculously low 3, which meant the Eadbashers moved forward only a paltry 2″. They were now close enough to the objective to be scoring, but were still only back to about 10″ away from the Guards again. I was losing Orc numbers fast to the Skeleton shooting and I didn’t have any way to safely engage. Pushing forward with my Goblins was also pretty pointless now, as it would just mean the Shabtis could easily charge and beat them, so instead they sat still, my whole plan stymied by this bad dice roll. Andy was also able to dispel my attempt at a Fireball, but once again, despite him putting as much dispel dice as he could into it, the Witchdoctor again cast the very frustrating Evil Eye onto the Shabtis.

Now THAT was a shot!

In perhaps the most momentous moment of all of my short T9A gaming career to date, the Wolf Riders bows miraculously managed to down a Necropolis Guard too in the shooting phase!

Undying Dynasties Turn 3

Realising that the turn limit was closing in and he’d have to engage at some point to get to the objective victory condition, Andy moved his Necropolis unit into range of the objective marker, but this also meant they were closer to the Orc Eadbashers. They were only 9″ apart now. Likewise his Skeleton Archers wheeled slightly forward. Impaired by the Evil Eye, his Shabtis decided not to try a long charge vs the Goblin Spearmen and also moved forward and wheeled around slightly facing more towards the centre of the board. In the Magic phase, Andy managed to cast ‘Death is Only the Beginning’ on the Necropolis Guards, raising them back to their previous strength, although he did also roll a miscast and his Hierarch suffered a wound in the process of casting. His other spell attempts were once again dispelled. The Skeleton Archers rolled a bit under average this turn, and only killed one more Orc Eadbasher.

Orcs & Goblin Turns 3

Now only needing a 5 to make the charge, I once again declared a charge with the Orc Eadbashers towards the Necropolis Guards. My plan was to kill as many as possible of course – but also target as many attacks as I could at their Hierarch, to kill him and prevent him raising any back in their last turn. This would mean I could potentially wipe out their unit in the last few combat phases – which I would need to do to get them not to count towards the victory condition, as they would not run away, being Undead. If I could keep the Shabtis from their flank, it looked like my original plan might work…

So of course this time I rolled a 4 on the 2D6:

I’m beginning to wonder if I like these charging rules…

This meant the Orc Eadbashers trundled forward only 3″ this time, siting themselves right on top of the objective marker & in a perfect position to be sandwiched by all 3 Undead units.

I did the best I could to mitigate this. The Goblin Witchdoctor rushed out of his unit and put himself in an incredibly awkward position in front of the Shabtis to attempt to block them. I apologised to Andy for such a “dick move” but he was at least familiar with this kind of thing, and he didn’t seem to mind it. I wheeled the Goblin Infantry around behind them too, so that they could make sure they could reach the central objective next turn. I had to read the exact rules for charging and alignment etc to try and get my character into the perfect position to block the Shabtis movement, and also make sure they could not contact him in such a way that they could potentially pursue into the Goblin infantry behind him either. We believed this position below worked, because if they charged him, the Shabti would have to try to position at least the left-most 2 models into the front arc of the Witchdoctor (as the majority of their unit was in the front arc of him):

Viktor the Goblin Witchdoctor becomes DICKtor the Goblin Rules-Cheese Doctor… (I really don’t like that this is even “a thing” in T9A)

Andy didn’t seem too bothered about all of this however, so I figured he had some other plan up his sleeve. There was still a lot that could go wrong anyway – the Witchdoctor could possibly be killed by magic now he was in the open away from his unit, or he could die or flee and panic the Goblins too, but it was a chance I felt I had to take to try to win the game.

To enable the Goblin Infantry to move as necessary, and because they had little else to do, I actually backed up the Goblin Wolf Riders. This placed them behind the hill and might perhaps keep a few of the Skeleton Archers from being able to see them, especially if Andy decided to move them forward to within 6″ of the objective, and moved them off the hill. It also kept the Raiders well within their own 18″ march range of getting to the objective in my last turn. In the magic phase, the Goblin shaman managed to fireball the Guards again successfully, killing, or re-killing, or re-re-killing one of them, depending on how you perceive their undead “lives”!

Undying Dynasties Turn 4

It was the final turn for UD. Andy declared charges with both the Necropolis Guard and the Skeleton Archers. The Skeleton Archers would hit them in the flank due to the Eadbashers second failed charge the previous turn positioning them almost perfectly for this. This didn’t look exactly great for me, especially since as I only had 10 Eadbashers left plus the Chief, however if I fled, I thought I would probably lose the game anyway, so I decided to take the charge and see if I could get lucky. (I’ll come back to this moment later as in retrospect, this was a much less clear decision than it seemed at the time!).

Andy then surprised me by doing a sideways move with his Shabtis to get away from the Goblin Witchdoctor. I then realised what he was up to, and he was going to attempt to use his Magic spell to move them towards the objective. The flux card was picked and it was a 5 dice cast vs 5 dice dispel, and once again my remarkable luck with the magic phase held, and his Shabti were stuck out of position on the last turn (to be fair, the ‘dispeller’ has a slight advantage here as a tie means a dispel too, which becomes slightly more likely with the more dice that are rolled, but I’d rolled higher than Andy had anyway).

With nothing else left to cast on his one remaining magic die, it was onto the first melee phase of the battle. Whilst the rules for character placement within the units during combat isn’t very clear in the draft T9A QS playtest rulebook, it’s been clarified on the T9A forum that the active player positions characters first, then the reactive player (and they cannot move out of their front rank), so if I’d wanted to, as it was Andy’s turn, his Hierarch could not escape positioning next to my Chieftain. However as his final Magic phase had passed anyway, I instead chose to try and kill some Skeleton Archers with my hero instead. The Chieftain and the Guards attacked at Agility step 3, and 2 Archers were killed by the boss man – but this would not prevent any of their attacks back as there were plenty more of them of course.

RULES DISCUSSION: I think I made a slight mistake here by not targeting a few attacks from the Eadbashers or possibly the Chieftain at the Hierarch because he was actually the easier to hit and to damage than the Necropolis Guards for the Eadbashers that could target him, and likewise, there was a chance that the Chieftain could’ve stopped his later Agility step attack back if he’d killed him. However I wasn’t as familiar with T9A melee rules as I am now, and I was a bit worried to allocate too many attacks to the Hierarch and therefore ‘wasting’ them, as I felt I had to get pretty lucky to win this combat anyway eg: if the Chieftain had done 3 damage, I would’ve lost that extra point of damage if I’d targeted them all at the now 2 HP Hierarch, at least I think that’s how it works!

The Necropolis Guard also killed a few Orcs, preventing them from striking back with their full number as their numbers were so few, there were no more models to “step up” into combat.

Onto Agility Step 2 and it was Eadbashing time! The Eadbashers did pretty well for themselves, killing 5 Guards and an additional Archer. The Archers also killed yet more Eadbashers, and finally the Hierarch himself (or herself, going by the model Andy was using) managed to very luckily kill a final Eadbasher with it’s single attack.

This left just 4 Eadbashers and the Chief. But with 8 Skeletons killed back, this left the Combat Score at 10 to the UD side (6 damage, +1 charge +1 rank +2 flank) and 8 to the Eadbashers. They had to pass a Discipline 6 check or rout, and I rolled a 7.

One remarkable thing about this combat though was that the very final Eadbasher to die, having to be removed from the front and final rank, also reduced the unit’s footprint just enough, that the Goblin infantry were now out of 6″ range of the remaining Eadbashers, and so did not need to take a Panic test. I’m not sure if this is intended, and it seems pretty silly, but I can’t see any reason the rules don’t work like this.

However whilst that part seemed clear, the multiple combat meant more reading of the rules for us to try to resolve all of this correctly! For the direction of flight, it was pretty clear, Andy could choose which of his two units the Eadbashers would run from. He chose to make them flee from the Archers. We weren’t sure if it would matter in which order he declared they pursued, or if their positioning meant that the Guards who would now be much close to the fleeing Eadbashers. But looking at the diagrams and the wording of the rules, it seemed clear that the dice roles would solely determine IF the Eadbashers would be caught and run-down or not, and the positioning of Andy’s units would then be back from (or in front of) the point the Eadbashers ran “to” as it were – their exact positioning at the start of their pursuit was irrelevant. This all mattered quite a lot given the proximity of other units, and the objective marker too! Andy decided to pursue with both his units, Archers “first” and then Guards, should it matter. I rolled a 9 for flee distance for the Eadbashers, and Andy rolled an 8 for his Archers, and a 7 for his Guard:

So we drew the ‘start line’ where the Eadbashers and Archers were in contact, and moved the Eadbashers by the 9″ amount from there, and lined up Andy’s units directly behind them as best we could fit, 1″ and 2″ back from where the Orcs were respectively. As in my 2nd battle report, we were fortunate that this did not end up with any units completely overlapping each other (at least assuming we had the rules right for their positioning after the dice rolls!):

This is roughly where they should end up we thought. The Necropolis Guards actually touching the Archers (although the movement trays & hill prevented some of the exact positioning of the models for practical reasons)

Orcs and Goblins Turn 4

This left this pretty odd situation at the start of my last turn:

As the fleeing Orcs had effectively blocked my Goblin infantry now, and Andy’s pursuit rolls hadn’t taken his units too far from the objective, he’d got the exact result he needed, and the battle was already lost now. Just for fun though, I played out most of my final turn and declared charges with both units into the Skeleton Archers:

RULES NOTES: Re-reading the QS rules whilst writing this batrep, I realise that this isn’t actually a legal charge to even declare with the Goblin spearmen. Whilst they can see them, courtesy of being on the hill, but they have to wheel to clear the fleeing Orc unit, and then back again to get into alignment with the front arc of the archers, and the rules state that units are only allowed to wheel once. This is the kind of “complex charge” example diagram that I feel would be useful in the T9A QS rules (even if in an appendix or something). As we played it, we measured the rough double wheel distance and then the remaining straight line distance, and though they needed about 14″ to make it – ie: roll a 10. In the end they didn’t make it anyway, so I did not make a single successful charge all game that I had to roll for.

The Orc Eadbashers & the Chieftain then rallied, but despite being able to turn to face any direction, there wasn’t enough space for them to push close enough to be within the objective range.

The Wolf Riders killed an archer (and then a few more due to their Undead rule as they lost the combat by being flanked), and perhaps the Witchdoctor cast another spell, but it was all irrelevant to the actual objective anyway:

The tape measure is actually set to 7″ from the central point line of the objective in the above shot, so you can see how the pursuit rolls put Andy’s units in just the right blocking position needed, yet remaining within the range necessary.

Battle Result: Undying Dynasties WIN

What I liked?
I enjoyed the thought processes of playing T9A QS a lot and the things you have to consider each phase. As I’ve mentioned before, I think it does a great job of being an introduction to the T9A system. I love how the stats and spells etc for each army are streamlined onto a single page and there aren’t lots of special rules to have to look up to understand how each unit performs.

Playing with Andy was also a lot of fun. It was a relaxed and enjoyable game, despite the fact we were both trying to win.

I feel if he had realised how easily his Shabti could beat up either of my Goblin units (even if they charged them) Andy could’ve done much better though. After the game, Andy said he thought I should have tried to charge his Shabti like this photo below, to attempt to prevent the Goblin Infantry from “getting mulched” by the Shabti:

But I showed him the stats of these units and the maths meant that even doing this kind of “corner charge” with the Goblin infantry didn’t do much in my favour at all, as Shabti could kill the Wolf Riders almost as easily with their high AP stat. I’d still be losing 5-6 Goblins on average and at best winning the combat by 1 point on the charge (but more likely still losing it & running away).

What I disliked?
I’ve already mentioned that UD’s advantage in woods seems odd and spectacularly out of flavour too. The whole “fixed to hit roll” rule seems incredibly bizarre to me too. It doesn’t make any sense and just seems to circumvent a lot of the shooting rules that make terrain and positioning and ranges more interesting.

In this game my failed charge rolls were pretty horrible and totally swung the game, but I don’t mind that too much as this is always going to be the nature of these tiny QS games. A couple of different Discipline or pursuit rolls on the last turn and this could have easily been an OnG victory or a draw, it was extremely close.

Orcs with Paired Weapons / Morax
This unit is just too stronk for the list’s own good!

I still really dislike the Orc & Goblin QS list for the reasons mentioned in my first QS battle report and just going from my old WFB knowledge and the kind of OnG lists I see for T9A, I also feel it’s not very indicative of how OnG usually play either. I discussed this with Andy and he agreed with my complaints about the list, with the Eadbashers being the all-important and really powerful strangely “elite” unit, but the Wolf Riders being next to useless. The Raiders especially suffer since you can’t afford to use them as a ‘throwaway’ unit as they are a key part of the victory condition. We agreed that the Wolf Riders should in theory be used as “flankers” – but without a numerical unit advantage that OnG (Goblins especially!) historically enjoy, and without any “fast cavalry” (“Light Troops” in T9A full book) rules to help them, and with most of the QS missile fire and magic zoning them so well, it’s actually very difficult to ever get them in an effective flanking position when you play real games with them it seems. I’m not sure what the restrictions are on the QS lists, but I would much prefer the main Orc unit to be weakened and the other units in the list be more powerful in some way – I’d prefer a unit of Goblin archers rather than (or as well as!) the Wolf Riders to give some more options, for example at least one of the characters would have a choice of which unit to deploy with then…

Likewise with the “Scorching Salvo” spell in the Highborn Elf and Empire of Sonnstahl lists, I also strongly dislike the inclusion of spells that severely limit the opponent’s already limited options in the QS lists, especially with regard to character deployment – the UD “Fate’s Judgement” spell is another big offender for this in my book.

Andy commented he didn’t like the binary “in or out” objective distance rules and has noticed this tends towards these very silly ‘gamey’ kind of last turn situations in other wargames he’s played too. He also found the very messy pursuit distance and direction rules reminded him of all the things he disliked about WFB (I agree!). Which brings me back to something on his last turn, IF I had fled with my Eadbashers and got reasonable rolls (& maybe a subsequent rally) I might have actually had a much better chance of winning the game than I did by actually engaging in combat at all:

So whilst the Eadbashers were quite close to the Skeleton units, with average rolls, there is a good chance they would have not been caught by their charges had they fled in this situation. There would have been probably been space for both Goblin units to move up near to the objective too, and if the Eadbashers rallied (and potentially rotated) and stayed within range of the Objective too, then the OnG would’ve won the battle 3-2 on the objective. Of course, had the Eadbashers fled, Andy might have then declared a charge vs the Goblin Witchdoctor to force a panic check on the Goblin Infantry, so it still might have come down to a key Discipline 6 check. So even with hindsight here, I suspect the odds were pretty similar either way around, but it’s interesting food for thought nonetheless.

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