Well, this is something completely new for me, so first let me explain why that is! You may recall my previous ‘9th Age Quickstarter’ battle reports (here‘s the last one I did), well, this is something similar, but different. First of all, Essence of War is the re-done and re-branded ‘quick play’ variant for The 9th Age tabletop fantasy battles system, now in it’s “alpha” release stage. T9A, if you’ve not heard of it before, is a community written & completely free ‘ranks and flanks’ fantasy battles rules system that I highly recommend you check out! As it’s name hints at, The 9th Age started life when GW killed off Warhammer Fantasy Battle after it’s 8th edition & a bunch of community members decided they would write their own rules, armies & background instead – which, having never been a fan of GW’s rules-writing, has turned out to be a rather good thing in my opinion! Like any massive volunteer project like this, as you can imagine, it is still being written and updated over time, and a part of that is Essence of War – a system designed for both newer players and for quicker streamlined games of T9A – and I am now actually part of the team writing it! (And it’s a lot of fun, if a lot of work at times :D). The reason EoW exists for the 9th Age is because the main “Fantasy Battles” full rule system is really quite complex and can also require a lot of miniatures (& time) to play out a full battle – so I really love the concept of Essence of War and I think it’s a really important thing for the system overall. As I mention, it’s only in alpha release right now and so it’s still under a large amount of development and, as you would expect, playtesting, to see how well it all works. But you can download it now and play games with some of the factions already in fact!
Naturally, as part of team working on this, I would love to be playing a game with real miniatures on a tabletop to get involved in the playtesting – as well as be able to meet up and share the experience with friends in person at the same time… however the state of the world (especially in the shambolically governed UK) for 2020 has not exactly been conducive to that! So despite me having waxed lyrical in the past about how a big part of my reason for getting back into tabletop gaming was to be able to move AWAY from my usual digital games at times, and relish the fun of painting models and making terrain… The fact I’ve not being able to actually meet up and play a game with anyone all year (despite finishing off my number one painting goal in March!) was really starting to grate on me! So, eventually, and especially due to wanting to help out playtesting to do my part on the Essence of War team, I cracked and bought Tabletop Simulator in one of those oh-so-frequent Steam sales. The reason to get ‘TTS’ rather than something else to play online, is that Piteglio, the head of the EoW team, has also been developing a mod to play T9A battles within TTS. You can already get a public mod he’s made for “The Breach” and “The Arena” which you can download for TTS right here for free, or read (& watch!) more of my thoughts about The Breach here. But he’s also working on a (currently private) mod to be able to play full scale T9A Fantasy Battles in TTS – but much like an actual new player to such a kind of wargaming, he’s actually started out by working on getting Essence of War to run first in that mod. All of these mods will be eventually released publicly for free too – and if you want to support his work on them directly, you can contribute to his Patreon here. If you want to get involved in playing battles on TTS though, that’s even easier, just get in touch and let us know – the more the merrier!
So that’s the long explanation as to how I have ended up playtesting T9A: Essence of War in Tabletop Simulator, even though I never imagined I would ever want to be playing a miniatures wargame digitally at the start of 2020!
Kingdom of Equitaine vs Orcs & Goblins
For my first digital EoW battle I would be learning the ropes of how to control things in TTS as well. This was definitely a bit of a struggle, but thankfully I had a very patient (and fun) opponent micdicdoc (aka “Super Hans” on Steam), and a gracious host Piteglio (Veil of the Ages) to help out. So despite me causing various disasters such as knocking over units, moving them erroneously, or accidentally picking up my opponents ‘models’ throughout the proceedings – we were able to overcome everything with a bunch of ‘time rewinds’, Undos & other such fixes. I should mention though, having played a 2nd game in TTS already now, that was 10x smoother already! So whilst there is definitely a bit of a learning curve to the TTS controls, and you should expect things to be a bit rough the first time you try it – it’s not too bad to get used to. Thankfully, to also alleviate my anxious introduction here, I was playing as my favourite & familiar T9A faction – Orcs & Goblins:
Their new EoW ‘Patrol’ list has changed a little bit from their old ‘T9A Quickstarter Premade’ list – you may notice that their rather elite ‘Eadbasher unit (that I’d complained about how it dominated the old list so much) is no more, hurrah! In general all the Patrols in EoW have been weakened in power somewhat from their previous QS versions – in particular characters have been removed or weakened so that the basic rank & file units are the focus of the battle even more so now. Whilst I was very concerned about changing the lists at first – now we’re actually able to do a lot more playtesting of the new Patrols, I’m definitely coming around to these new Patrols as even better introductions to T9A. One thing I really like about the OnG Patrol is that it now has better balance between the units, and now the Goblins are equipped with Bows, they even have something reasonable to offer in the shooting phase as well. They still have the very fast, but potentially very vulnerable Goblin Raiders unit though which I’ve never been too sure of how effective it can be in a game like Essence of War – so we will see how all of this pans out as we get into the battle.
For my opponent, the aforementioned micdicdoc was in command of the Arthurian knights themed ‘Kingdom of Equitaine’ Patrol. As this is still in an extremely early development state, I cannot even give a sneak peak at the potential ‘book version’ of the list, but here are their stats and rules in raw spreadsheet form:
In summary – two small-ish units of Knights, both very different in equipment and statistics though, with backup from a unit of Peasant longbowmen and magical support in terms of a ‘Damsel’ caster with two unit-buffing spells. This would be the first time anyone had played this list in a real playtest game, so it would be very interesting to see how they fared.
Micdicdoc rolled and had to choose the side of the board & deploy his army first – but in EoW this also ensures you get the 1st turn however. Mic chose the right-hand (or Eastern) side of the digital ‘board’ to deploy on. I think he may have chosen this side to limit my deployment options somewhat due to a large impassable terrain building within the deployment zone for the Orcs & Goblins in this case – so he could potentially predict my setup a bit better despite having to place his units down first.
I kind of like deploying and going second in Essence of War as it means I get to counter-deploy somewhat vs how my opponent has set up. However, having looked at the stats of all the units before the battle, there weren’t any particular unit vs unit matchups I really wanted to try to ‘force’ – and the generally faster KoE Patrol might make that difficult anyway. I had noted that in general when it came to melee units I would slightly prefer the Orcs to fight the ‘Knights Aspirant’ over the larger ‘Knights of the Quest’ unit, as the Orcs better stats make more of a difference vs the Knights Aspirant, even if they get charged. So conversely the opposite is true of the Goblin unit, where they don’t much care which Knights unit they are fighting. I’d also noted I liked the Goblins over the Peasant Bowmen in a “shoot off” as their greater numbers I felt would more than make up for their shorter ranged bows. However looking at the way mic had deployed and the terrain, I felt the biggest thing I should try to do was, rather than focusing on the enemy units, to instead deploy to try to use the terrain to my advantage as much as possible:
Here’s an overhead view with all the units highlighted for the clearest look at this:
As you can see, my whole army is slanted to the top/North of the map, whereas Mic’s is more towards the lower/South part of the map. Mic has positioned his Bowmen a little bit back from the front line ‘deployment zone’ to take advantage of them having the longest range missile attacks on the battlefield with their longbows. He’s also placed his Damsel alone, but in the wood and behind the hill meaning it would be very hard to threaten any kind of ranged attack on her – she’s also positioned to run forward for an even better ‘hidden’ position behind the hill, since both of her ‘buffing’ spells have a reasonable range and don’t require a line of sight. I assumed Mic’s plan was to sweep forward with both Knight units onto or around the central hill, with the Damsel in support. So I positioned my Orcs in the centre and as far forward as possible to be able to threaten any Knights that wanted to step up onto the Hill on their first turn, and to hopefully discourage either Knight unit from pushing too far forward on their first turn.
The Goblin infantry were in cover of the wood ‘hindering terrain’ so that they could in theory move up and potentially get into an advantageous “shoot off” with the Peasant Bowmen as I mentioned. With them being even harder to hit in the woods, this would give them an even more significant advantage in a ranged vs ranged ‘combat’ and meant even though they were immediately in range of first turn shooting from the Peasants, they would be extremely unlikely to take any significant damage. Conversely I positioned the wolf-riding Raiders a few paces back to ensure they could not really be shot at in the first turn. I’d roughly measured out their first movement phase too and was sure I could make them leap forward and behind the building in front of them. This would give them an absolutely ideal ‘flanking’ position of the centre of the battlefield. I’ve generally thought that this Raider unit absolutely needs favourable terrain to be of any great use – and this terrain & deployment was an absolutely perfect set up for them I thought, being able to take advantage of their huge movement to quickly get into a strong forward position whilst also avoiding missile fire or offensive enemy magic – not that the KoE have any of the latter in this instance. I pondered placing the Orc Shaman in with “the boys” in the Orc unit as he’s not too bad in combat, but in the end I felt it would give me more options as the battle unfolded for him to run solo, so I put him by the side of the unit instead.
EoW Design Note: Due to the positioning of the terrain in my deployment zone, I was not able to place any unit other than possibly the Goblins to the south of the building opposite the Knights of the Quest due to larger frontage of my units (and even the Goblins would be compelled to March past it as fast as possible in the first turn if they started there, to get outside of 1″ of it due to the new Movement rules in EoW compared to the old QS rules). I mentioned to Piteglio how when I’d played games in the previous QS we’d purposely made sure any gap between terrain pieces, or a terrain piece and the board edge would either allow all units to pass through that gap, or none (although not including solo characters in this). This was due to the fact that, with the exception of casualties, you cannot change the formation of units in EoW at all. I don’t think this is a huge thing, as the positioning and type of terrain in general can likely have a much larger effect on the battle in other ways, but it is certainly something we will consider either mentioning in the rules or perhaps in the example maps.
EoW Design Note: The way the rule to maintain a 1″ gap from other units or impassable terrain is currently written it only applies at the ‘end of their movement’. This was why it would have been technically possible (if a bit unclear due to the wording for the Impassable terrain rules rules) to deploy the Goblin unit between the building and the board edge as long as they moved far enough away from it as soon as they could. It’s also why my Orc Shaman -who I deployed too close to the Orc unit, forgetting this rule, was also technically legally deployed but also meant that one of both units would be forced to move to obey this rule by the end of their first movement phase. We definitely need to take a second look at this rule for both clarity and intention however and compare to how it works in the full rules version of T9A as I am still not entirely happy (or at all used to) this rule!
Kingdom of Equitaine Turn 1
Mic opened the battle by moving up with both the Knights of the Quest and Knights Aspirant. My Orcs being so far forward had the desired effect of stalling his progress somewhat (I believe at least!) as he didn’t move their full distance possible, nor move them onto the hill at all in the end:
Mic had instead set up both Knight units with potential charges onto the Orcs or the Shaman even.
In the Magic phase Mic drew 5 Magic dice to my 4, and wisely decided to put all his dice onto one spell rather than risk an unlikely attempt to cast both spells in this situation. Stone Skin was successfully cast onto the Knights Aspirant bringing them to a very high Resilience of 5. I was not especially concerned by this however, as I did not expect to be interacting much with them at all anyway over the next turn whilst this spell lasted.
The Peasant bowmen stood still and attempted to train their bows upon the Goblin infantry – but the long range and protection of the trees proved very useful as I had hoped for, and no damage was caused at all to the Goblins.
Orcs & Goblins Turn 1
I pondered my movement options with both my Orcs and the Shaman at first. I tested out some possible moves trying to see if there was an annoying spot the Shaman could potentially move forward and ‘chaff’ to get in the way of either of the Knight units, but chatting it out with Micdicdoc and Piteglio, and due to the good speed and wheeling options of the Knights, I couldn’t find any significant way to block them really. Mic also pointed out he’d quite gladly run down my Shaman if I wanted to gift that model to him! 😀 With that plan in the bin then (at least for now) I didn’t really fancy the Orcs chances too highly if both Knight units were able to charge them… so, in what Mic admitted was a complete surprise move to him, the Orcs actually retreated 2″. They were still in potential charge range of either of the Knight units, but it would be need very fortunate charge rolls for both of the units to successfully charge their position now. The Shaman also retreated slightly, getting outside 1″ from the Orcs, and also back slightly behind their frontline, meaning he could not be charged by either Knight unit as they couldn’t fit in between the Orcs and the building to get to him, without contacting the Orcs first:
Both Goblin units followed my plan from deployment. The Raiders rushed forward into just the kind of dream position for them on the battlefield. The Goblins decided to forego any shooting and march to move forward right into the wood. I deliberately wanted to leave most of their frontage covered by the wood so they could still benefit from the cover of the trees, and also, if any cavalry unit decided to charge them, they would have to enter the wood in that case and take tests and potentially take some casualties for moving through hindering terrain. This is a bit of a double-edged sword however, as it would also mean the Goblins would not benefit from ‘Steadfast’ due to their ‘Broken Ranks’ from being in the wood. They were also positioned now so that they were somewhat protecting the flank of the Orcs, and the majority of them were now in range for next turn to potentially shoot back vs the Peasants.
EoW Design Note: Whilst there isn’t strictly any need to ‘name’ the test for large models moving quickly through Hindering Terrain, we are seriously considering matching the full rules of T9A and referring to this as a ‘Dangerous Terrain Test” since it seems nicer to give people a clear reference name for it (and since existing T9A full rules players will still call it that anyway!)
In the Magic phase I pulled the II card and had 4 dice to Mic’s two. I tried to cast ‘Awaken the Beast’ on the Orcs with 2 dice but this was dispelled by Mic if I remember correctly. But at least this left me 2 dice and only needed a 4 to get a Fireball off…
Kingdom of Equitaine Turn 2
Mic, I assume wanting to keep the pressure on the Orcs moved forward with both of his cavalry units. The Knight Aspirant moved on the hill even, so they could now see the Goblin bowmen also.
In the Magic phase it was the big dicing time with Mic drawing the VI card for 7 dice to my 4. As I felt this Magic phase might well be the most important one of the game I wasn’t too happy about that, and Mic put 4 dice into casting Stone Skin again, but then I dispelled it with a crazy high roll of 20 on 4 dice. Mic was instead able to cast “Know Thine Enemy” onto the Knights Aspirant as a magical consolation prize.
The Peasant Bowmen continued to loose arrows upon the Goblins to no avail – once again not felling even a single Goblin (I hadn’t even had to try to make an Armour save yet).
Orcs & Goblins Turn 2
Charrrrge! I was really quite surprised by what a bold move Mic had made with his Knights Aspirant. As he was positioned within potential charge range of all of my units. I considered all my options and decided to declare a charge with the Orcs vs them first, which needed a 8 on 2 dice to make it the 12″ required – and Mic decided they would hold to receive this possible charge. I then also declared a charge with the Goblin Raiders all the way across the board and into their flank should they make it, and despite how far this looks…
… they actually only needed a 7 on the dice to make it due to their massive speed, so this was only an “average” charge for them! I wondered if mic had perhaps missed how far they could go as I don’t recall seeing him test this measurement during his movement phase at all, but again he decided to hold vs this charge too in any case. It would come down to the dice rolls to see which units, if any, would end up in combat. I wasn’t TOO worried about this as my odds of making at least one of these charges successfully was really pretty good, and I thought either unit would be able to win the combat given the power of the Orcs on the charge vs the Aspirants, and the flank positioning of the Raiders. My only real concern was if the Raiders failed their charge and ended up getting in a perfect shooting lane for the Peasant Bowmen next turn… however they are reasonably resilient to the longbow fire (most likely only losing a single Raider, but more casualties would definitely be quite possible!), but given this “juicy” flank charge opportunity for them, I decided both charges were easily worth the risk/reward presented.
In the end the Orcs failed their charge and moved forward 4″ as a failed charge move, but the Raiders made their 7 roll needed and made it into combat.
The Orc Shaman also retreated further back and to the side of the Orcs. I was trying to keep all units within the 18″ range of his ‘Awaken the Beast’ spell but also keep him outside a 6″ zone of the Orcs so he could not be panicked or pursued into, should the Knights of the Quest charge and beat the Orcs on the next turn. I wasn’t too worried about trying to keep all units in range of his General’s Discipline, as the Raiders could not lose this combat at all this turn, even in a worst case scenario. The Goblin bowmen considered marching out across the battlefield to take the fight to the Peasants directly! However I decided against this for a few reasons – I felt their current positioning was already pretty great basically, covering the flank of the Orcs and being able to shoot across the battlefield pretty well. And they were also within a single move of the objective should they need to march out in the last turn – whereas Micdicdoc’s Bowmen were not. Those Bowmen were positioned so far back, I worked out that the Peasants themselves would need to move twice to be able to get near the central board objective to be able to contest the game winning position, so essentially, with only 2 turns left, there may be no need to move my Goblins, the enemy would likely have to come to them anyway.
EoW Design Note: We’re hoping to eventually add some more descriptive ‘example’ text in various formats alongside the main rules in later versions of Essence of War to help with rules comprehension. One of the most complex phases in terms of decision making and rules sequencing is a Charge phase like this, where some additional examples of how the rules all interact will potentially really help. Even though I had a part in editing these current rules, not having played a game like this in well over a year now, I was still a bit rusty and unsure about how this was all done! What order charge declarations, charge reactions and dice were rolled in, and what’s the best way to do it if you have options, especially in a multiple chargers vs a single unit situation such as this, is not obvious if you’re not familiar with it. I declared the Orcs charge first, because if Mic had fled from that, I could have potentially not declared the charge with the Raiders – and also tried to redirect the Orcs charge into the Knights of the Quest.
Before we got to resolve the Raiders in melee, it was first onto the Magic Phase were I pulled the V card. With 6 dice to 4, I decided (perhaps unwisely) to try to cast both spells. Mic was able to dispel my attempt at “Awaken the Beast” easily, and whilst my Fireball was successfully cast upon the Knights of the Quest, it succeeded in doing nothing but light one of the cigars I assumed they were carrying for just such an occasion. Two turns of Orc magic now with nothing to show for it! However, looking back, this was definitely in good part due to my mistakes in using the Magic dice anyway. Fireball is so ineffectual vs either Knight unit, unless I got an opportunity to cast it onto the Damsel or the Bowmen, I probably should not have bothered with it. If I had instead thought ahead, putting as many dice as possible into ‘Awaken the Beast’ on the Orc unit was actually by far the best play as they were the unit that would most benefit from it next turn, should micdicdoc engage them.
Shooting however was much more successful in any case. Despite only 8 Goblins being within range from their be-wooded (is that a word?) position, they managed a rather fortunate 2 successful health losses on the Peasants.
Finally it was time for some hard-hittin’ melee action!
Positioned in the flank like this the Goblin Raiders had a huge advantage. Despite having higher agility and striking first, only 1 Knight could strike at them, and he was unsuccessful in doing anything. Even with 4 attacks back the odds weren’t that great the Raiders would do anything either, despite their ‘Devastating Charge’ bonuses, they aren’t exactly devastating anyone! However they remarkably managed to fell one of the Knights. This combined with their flank and charge bonuses to the combat score meant the end for these guys’ Knightly aspirations, as they were testing vs an extremely low Discipline score, failed the test and fled. These horses really did not appreciate wolves biting them in their flanks!
Given the board positioning it was an easy decision to pursue – I needed an 8 to get a pursuit move that would also take the Raiders into the flank of the Knights of the Quest too… whilst this unit isn’t quite so vulnerable in the flanks as the Aspirants had been, there was still a very good chance the Raiders could beat them too if they got into their side like this. Could this ‘weedy’ Raiders unit really see off all of Equitaine’s finest all by itself? Alas, I rolled a 7, so we wouldn’t discover that. They did however run the Knights Aspirant down (or off the board), and their combat victory also forced a panic test on the Knights of the Quest, which they made successfully. Still a hugely successful game already for the Raiders though, proving how much damage flank charges vs some units can do in Essence of War.
Kingdom of Equitaine Turn 3
Mic started the turn pondering out loud what to do with his Knights of the Quest. With the way the Raiders were now just to their side we did a few calculations of possible movements. If he reformed them to face the Raiders head on, would he also be able to keep them out of a possible charge from the Orcs, using the Raiders and and angle of the nearby building to prevent the Orcs from getting through? It was very tight positioning:
But then I also pointed out if I ‘combo charged’ with both the Raiders AND the Orcs, there is no way the Knights Aspirant would be able to prevent the Orcs from charging in this case. With that clarified, Mics decision became much simpler. Especially, as is often the case in the small Essence of War games, losing one unit (especially if the enemy took minimal to zero losses doing it, as I had here) means that you are already significantly on the back foot in terms of being able to win the game – so the only thing to do can be to throw caution to the wind and take some risks to attempt to turn the game around. And thus he declared a charge with his Knights of the Quest against the Orcs, which they would automatically make with it being under 8″ of movement. Whilst I wasn’t at all confident in the Orcs ability to win this fight, if I fled the charge now in turn 3, there would be almost no way the Orcs would be able to rally and return to the centre of the board to contest the objective (plus Mic may have been able to then re-direct into the Raiders too) – and I’d set myself up to receive this charge as best I could anyway… so I’d just have to fight it out and see how they did.
The Damsel also ran out of the woods, as I’d expected from the start of the battle, to hide behind the hill. As the vicious Goblin Raiders were still facing away from her from their pursuit move last turn, she was in no danger of being charged by them either. Also as anticipated last turn, in order to potentially contest the objective on the last turn, Mic was compelled to move his Peasant Bowmen forward.
In the Magic phase Mic drew the III card. With 5 dice to my paltry 2 on this card, he was easily able to force through a “Stone Skin” onto the Knights of the Quest. This would make them significantly harder for the Orcs to damage them – and so my concerns for that combat got even worse! Mic again was smart here and just forced through 1 spell which I had zero chance of dispelling. Not only that, he’d calculated that Know Thine Enemy wouldn’t impact that combat anyway, due to the skill differential between the two units, the Knights already had better offensive and defensive skill than the Orcs, and Know Thine Enemy would mean no further advantage for them.
EoW Design Note: Something I definitely want to keep an eye on is – are we offering enough options in the Magic Phase in EoW? Despite almost all Patrols having 2 spells, it seems the odds of ever getting 2 off, due to the casting values of the spells and the way the dispel dice work, is generally very low. So therefore the best play is to generally max dice (or just under max) on a single spell and pretty much forget about anything else. That said, the KoE list is particularly susceptible to this having two spells with pretty high casting cost, whereas there would (were it not for terrible dice rolls) have been multiple turns in this battle when the Orcs did get a decent odds of casting both spells & forcing the opponent to choose which one to dispel with some chance they might fail to do so. Overall though I must admit, despite it initially providing an interesting “mini-game within the game” I am not a huge fan of the way Magic works in T9A at all – but we do have a design constraint for EoW that it must still match the feel & basic mechanics of the full Fantasy Battles game anyway, so we may already be doing the best we can do by scaling the full T9A magic system down to something more appropriate for smaller battles whilst remaining within that constraint.
Because they had moved, the Peasants were at long-range and shooting into cover vs either target they could potentially see – either the Goblins or the Goblin Raiders. This took their “to hit roll” to a 7 – which in the current EoW rules meant they automatically missed. As Mic hadn’t realised this beforehand, I told him I was more than happy for him to instead make a March move with his Bowmen – but he said he would rather learn from his mistakes the hard way and he wanted no such “take backs”. To be fair, their odds of doing anything even if we applied the full T9A rules for “7s to hit” were very small in any case.
EoW Design Note: We’re certainly considering bringing back the “7+ to hit” rules from FB T9A (you have to roll a 6 on 1 dice, followed by a 4+ on a 2nd dice to hit)… but as mentioned above, it is rarely ever good odds to do anything anyway, and it potentially means more time taken rolling relatively meaningless dice – and it maybe simpler for player’s decision making (ie: don’t bother trying this!) to keep the rules as they are. What do you think?
Onto the melee that looked like it would decide the game pretty much! Because the Knights of the Quest wield slow ‘Great Weapons’ which explains their very high strength but Agility: 0 stat, the Orcs would strike first, with the first two ranks able to fight for 10 attacks, and their “Born to Fight” rule they were a bit stronger in this first round of combat. However the combined defence of the Stone Skin spell, and the high armour of the Knights meant that only a single wound had been dealt after all of that by the Orcs – and Mic promptly rolled a 6 for his Aegis Save that these blasted Knights also get for some unknown reason! These guys were impregnable! To make matters worse, Mic swung back and got 5 hits, 5 wounds and they cut down an entire rank of Orcs.
To be fair, this was only slightly worse than ‘average’ really in this combat, which is about the usual way my dice go in any game like this (as anyone who’s played me over the decades can attest!). What really mattered to me though much more was the Discipline roll to see if the Orcs would break or hold their ranks… Despite their losses they still had more ranks than their opponent, so they would be ‘Steadfast’ and being able to use the Discipline of the Shaman general nearby, they needed to pass a Discipline 8 test – and much to my relief I once again rolled bang in the middle 7 and they stayed put.
Orcs & Goblins Turn 3
Into the latter stages of the battle now. With the Orcs managing to hold and providing my “anvil” it was time to bring down the hammer on these foolish Kerniggets – the Goblins! As you can’t shoot into a melee – and the Orcs would smack their heads in I’m sure if they ever tried that – the Goblins put down their bows, drew their pointy sticks and charged in! They only need a 4+ on two dice to make it, and they just made it if I remember rightly, rolling exactly a 4. I then pondered a large amount of movement options with the Goblin Raiders. We worked out if they wheeled around in a huge semi-circle it would take them 15″ of movement, so they would have a little room to manoeuvre afterwards. The issue with this though was it would bring them outside of the central objective area and would place the Damsel right in front of them giving her a great potential to ‘chaff’ them and block their ability to move into the objective area. So after a lot of deliberations I decide the best move to make was to reform them to face the Damsel. This would place them right next to the objective scoring zone, and if she ran in front of them to ‘chaff’ their movement next turn, they could instead side-step onto the objective. What well-behaved wolves! I was reasonably happy with the positioning of the Orc Shaman anyway so left him alone to ponder his magical options… and in the Magic phase I finally learnt my lesson and with no targets for Fireball anyway, put most of my dice into one spell and was able to successfully cast something! Awaken the Beast was placed on the Orcs, however as it was now their 2nd round of combat, they lost their bonus from “Born to Fight” so they only ‘maintained’ their stats from last round, and the Knights still had Stone Skin to help defend them. I noted that, were it an option in T9A, I would have forgone casting any spells at all in order to try to ‘dispel’ that darn buff spell now.
In the fracas, all the Goblins and all the Orcs attacked with their full fury vs the Knights… and once again did zero damage whatsoever. With Stone Skin up and very little ability to penetrate armour in the whole list, actually damaging Knights at all was always going to be a problem for the Orcs & Goblins, but this was getting a bit ridiculous. Thankfully for me, after their incredibly deadly blows last round, this turn most of the Knights appeared to fumble their swords (perhaps put off by the shrieking ‘war cries’ of the Goblins ringing in their ears?):
The one Knight who was still on the ball did manage to take down an Orc. However with the flank & rank & charge bonuses from the Goblins, this combat was once again a huge win to the Warborn side and they would have to test vs a very low Discipline score and, like the Knights Aspirant before them, these Knights would once again flee from the flank assault of some Goblins intend on stabbing them in their hind-quarters.
As it was the last turn of the game next, I elected not to pursue with either unit as it was more important to keep my units near to the objective – and the Knights unit was now essentially irrelevant anyway as the best it could do was to rally in it’s last turn but it would not be able to engage the battle again. To ensure it could not potentially rally within the objective area, I forced them to flee from the Goblins rather than the Orcs. This then sent them hurtling around and beyond the impassable terrain building which was blocking their immediate flee path from those Goblins – and sent them off the board entirely. Both the Orcs and the Goblins then reformed to face the central objective. With one unit already within the scoring zone and two more ready to move in next turn, and with the only remaining Equitainian unit being the Peasants, it appeared that the day was already essentially won for our brave green-skinned warriors – but just for fun and for practice in playing things within TTS, we played out the last turn anyway.
EoW Design Note: Once again the 1″ gap maintenance rule caused me a bit of confusion here during the “post combat reforms” of the Orc & Goblin units. It’s not 100% clear if it applies during post-combat reforms, but as written currently it pretty much implies that it does. As it was, these 2 units had ended the combat almost touching each other, but I was easily able to keep them 1″ apart by facing them the way I wanted to anyway. However in some circumstances this could be very tricky to keep units 1″ apart after combat like this and it could perhaps compel you to rotate a unit into an orientation you did not want, just to keep them far enough apart from other nearby friendly units – which I do not think is the intention! As mentioned earlier, we will definitely be reviewing this rule in later versions of the rulebook. Similarly I noticed a slight bit of contradictory wording in the current rules about how unit pivots are made after a victorious non-pursuit combat, but that should easily be fixed later.
Kingdom of Equitaine Turn 4
In my focus to avoid the Damsel chaffing my Goblin Raiders, I suddenly realised something else I had completely forgotten – that she could also charge into combat herself! And that was exactly what Mic did! On the charge there was actually a pretty good chance she would win a combat and cause the Raiders to flee in fact. And even worse, due to my reform moves in the last turn, I’d actually left them within 6″ of my other units. So, whilst this whole turn of events was fairly unlikely, this could potentially cause a Panic chain reaction throughout my whole army, and then the Peasant Archers could march in the steal the objective and win the game at the last! Despite the odds, I figured there was no sense in risking anything I didn’t have to, and the Raiders who’d already done a fine job anyway this battle, decided to call a ‘tactical withdrawal’ for now and flee from the screaming madwoman of a Damsel charging at them. This took them well beyond her charge range – in fact, ‘bouncing’ past the building behind them would (like with the Knights of the Quest) cause them to clip the board edge and head off the board – so that was it for the Goblin Raiders. I like to imagine they were actually heading off to chase down the remaining Knights who’d both fled the battlefield in this same direction, but more likely they were just interested in hunting for some post-battle snacks, and who can blame them?
Just for the sake of it, Mic then buffed the Peasants with Stone Skin to perhaps honour their bravery as the only Equitainians not to flee the field. They once again attempted to kill some Goblins with their bows, but still at long range and with some of the shots in cover from the hill, they once again managed zero wounds.
Orcs & Goblins Turn 4
The only thing left to do was move both infantry units up into the Objective zone to win the battle:
Result: Orcs & Goblins VICTORY
Conclusion and Post-Battle Thoughts
Firstly this was a very fun battle to play out. As mentioned earlier I did find the TTS controls a bit of a struggle as I was completely new to it – but Mic and Piteglio were really great in helping me out, and as I say, even into my 2nd game I have already found it much much easier. It was definitely tougher to focus on how to play the game tactically rather than battle with the controls & camera etc, so I’m pretty pleased I was mostly able to play this one out ok and making mostly pretty sensible decisions I think, despite figuring out the controls as I went and also indulging in some cheese & wine whilst playing it (well, that is a tradition for when I am on gaming live-streams now!).
Overall the two flank charges were the critical deciding factor in this game. Despite me never really rolling anything better than average (& usually very poorly) on most of the dice rolls in the game, the bonuses for charging in the flank really swung this game. It reminded me once again why ‘ranks & flanks’ wargames tend to be so much more interesting than more generic ‘skirmish’ style games where positional advantages are far less of a factor.
Of course I was only able to get these flank charges due to the terrain (& somewhat the deployments that allowed me to use it) really playing to my advantage in this battle I feel. I’ve said before about units like the Goblin Raiders, they absolutely need the terrain to work in their favour to make them useful – and as mentioned in the report, this terrain setup I thought was ideal for them. However I do think it was some critical positioning of the Knights Aspirant that initially swung this. If I rewind to look at this point in the battle:
Moving the the Aspirants on the hill was excessively bold I think in retrospect. I think they were trying to setup good charges into both the Orcs and Goblins, but I think they would have still been a threat – but would have been much safer an inch or two further back from the Orcs, or avoiding the hill entirely to stay out of line of sight of the Goblin Raiders. Perhaps Mic was also not seeing the Raiders as much of a danger at all though, as I believe in the full rules for T9A they are not really a combat threat at all perhaps and can’t really do much even in the flanks? But I maybe wrong as I am not entirely sure how they play in FB rules yet.
Another thing I think Mic could have done in the above position was flee the charge of the Orcs, or maybe the Raiders even. Fleeing from the Raiders might have been a bad move though as the unit would likely flee off the board from this position anyway, but if they had fled from the Orcs it might have potentially left the Orcs in a bad position to get flanked by the Knights of the Quest. Given even a best case scenario of taking a Discipline 5 check to manage to hold vs the Raiders in melee though, I definitely think a Flee option overall would have been better for the Aspirants, as they would then more likely rally on a Discipline 7 and thus still have been around later in the battle (plus avoid a panic check on the Quests).
Overall I think both Patrols stood up ok though in terms of how they played. I think both have some real challenges of how to best use them though. Especially with the Kingdom of Equitaine – using the Peasant Bowmen effectively is a real challenge. For one they are only a ‘roadbump’ to most proper melee units, and their shooting is only effective vs a select few units in the other Patrols seen so far. Add to this the fact the rest of the KoE Patrol is much faster than them, and they are a real challenge to get much out of and co-ordinate with the rest of the army. The Knight units are pretty fast, but still need to be careful with their positioning, as especially the Aspirant need to try and win a charge to be effective, whereas the Knights of the Quest are fine as long as they can fight a unit one-on-one that they can win against (like the Orcs!), but they don’t roll many attack dice or have lots of ranks to rely on, so are very susceptible to ‘spikes’ of good or bad luck, as this battle demonstrated.
Conversely the Orcs and Goblins list is actually quite reliable in some ways by bringing lots of “static combat resolution” in the form of the rank bonuses from it’s two big infantry blocks. They may suffer though if they fail a ‘Steadfast’ Discipline check that you will likely have to make really – and I was fortunate not to fail that in this battle, even if the odds were in my favour, it is bound to happen sometimes of course. Outside of an Orc unit on the 1st turn and backed by ‘Awaken the Beast’ the list really lacks much of a punch too, especially in the form of armour penetration, which is tricky when facing a foe that is mostly very heavily armoured like KoE. The Raiders unit can also be extremely difficult to use as previously mentioned, outside of very favourable circumstances and terrain I found here – although oddly enough the Peasant Bowmen is the one unit they might actually be able to win with a frontal charge against out of all the units yet seen in any EoW Patrol!
I will leave you with a final reminder – if you own Tabletop Simulator and want to get involved in playing & playtesting Essence of War online, just get in touch! Comment here or get in touch anywhere you find me – links on the sidebar – on twitter, discord etc. Or even on T9A forum (I’m Remy77077 there too).
This game was also livestreamed too, although we did certainly take our merry time about it, with lots of friendly chat and with me struggling with TTS etc too, it is quite a long watch! But if you do want to watch the recording (or follow for future battles) you can find it on Piteglio’s Veil of the Ages twitch channel.