Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Supreme Aptimus Zaal vs. Jarl Skuld, Devil of the Thornwood at 50pts

So, another long hiatus, but I'm hoping to get reports in on the regular starting this month.

I decided to go with an out-of-tier Supreme Aptimus Zaal list, since I have a little less experience with him out of tier:

Supreme Aptimus Zaal (+5)
*Bronzeback Titan (10)
*Titan Gladiator (8)
*Aptimus Marketh (3)
*Kovass (-)

10 Nihilators (8)
10 Immortals (8)
Tyrant Commander and Standard Bearer (3)
Paingiver Beast Handlers (2)

Hakaar the Destroyer (4)
Ancestral Guardian (3)
Ancestral Guardian (3)
Ancestral Guardian (3)

This is a little different from the tiered Zaal list I've been running.  The main difference is including 2 melee heavies instead of the battery of ranged beasts I've been using.  The idea is that after the infantry and Ancestral Guardians (AG's from here on out) have done their work, my opponent will have two very solid melee heavies to deal with, and not much left that can deal with them.  The other difference is that I have some ways to hand out Pathfinder in the Gladiator and Tyrant Commander.  Overall, this is the preferred way to play Zaal, so I'm optimistic.

My frequent opponent and co-blogger, Caleb J, was running Jarl Skuld with the following list:

Jarl Skuld, Devil of the Thornwood (+6)
*Dire Troll Mauler (9)
*Troll Impaler (5)
*Rune Bearer (2)

10 Trollkin Fennblades (8)
*Officer and Drummer (2)
5 Trollkin Warders (8)
3 Trollkin Long Riders (7)

Horthol, Long Rider Champion (5)
Fell Caller Hero (3)
Trollkin Champion Hero (3)
Stone Scribe Chronicler (2)
Fennblade Kithkar (2)

This looks like a pretty attrition-y troll jamming list.  It's going to be fast between Quicken and Tactical Supremacy, and there are a lot of Tough, multi-wound models around for me to slog through.  It has decent, though not great, options against both high-Def and high-Arm, and overall I'd call it a pretty good scenario list, especially with Jarl's Feat potentially buying another turn.

Deployment and Scenario

We were too lazy to play a scenario though.  In the future, I really think we should, because I think they're more fun (and especially in this case, so Caleb's list could showcase its strengths).  But Tower's Scenario box (where spare packets, zone cutouts, and timers are located) was a whole 6 or 7 feet away, and we could not be bothered.  Oh well.

I won the roll-off, and decided to go first.  I wanted to be able to claim as much maneuvering room as possible against Jarl's speed.  Plus, if we had been playing a scenario, I wouldn't have wanted to be jammed out of it on turn 1.

I set up in a two-part cluster in the center of my side of the table.  Each infantry unit went on one side, supported by two AG's (the Immortals got Hakaar, since I'd have much better options for Righteous Vengeance with the Immortals being able to get out of the way with normal Vengeance).  The Warbeasts, Zaal, and my other support went in the middle, so I could send them wherever they were needed.

Caleb deployed in the long blue line I've come to know and love.  The Fennblades and Kithkar set up to oppose my Immortals, while the Long Riders opposed the Nihilators.  The Warders deployed just behind the Fennblades as backup, while the Warbeasts deployed near them and to the center to maybe do something about my warbeasts.  Jarl and the Rune Bearer deployed at the front of the army near the Long Riders, and the Champion Hero deployed close behind.

Turn 1, Skorne:

Nearly everything ran.  Zaal put Awakened Spirit on the Gladiator and Last Stand on one of the Ancestral Guardians with the Nihilators, walked forward, and gave each AG (including Hakaar) a Soul Token.

The Tyrant Commander used Overcome on the Nihilators to let them run through the forest.  Marketh put Inviolable Resolve on the Immortals to take them to Arm 19.  Everything else ran.

Turn 1, Trollbloods:

The Rune Bearer walked forward, and used Harmonious Exaltation on Jarl.  Jarl put Quicken on the Warders and Tactical Supremacy on the Fennblades, then charged up behind a low wall.

The Fennblades and Kithkar ran 12" up, and the Warders ran up right behind them.  The Stone Scribe Chronicler walked up, and put Hero's Tragedy on the Fennblades so that any of my warrior models who killed them next turn would be knocked down.

The Fell Caller used Overcome on the Long Riders to let them run through a forest, which they then proceeded to do.  They didn't run their full 14" because Caleb didn't want them to be in the Nihilators' threat range.

The Mauler and Impaler both ran, ending up .  The Champion Hero ran.

Finally, the Fennblades took their Tactical Supremacy move, and walked 3" toward the Immortals.

So, there was a looming jamming threat, but it wasn't too bad.  I'd have the first strike in, and Immortals backed up by Ancestral Guardians are pretty good against infantry.  More interestingly, Jarl was far forward - ahead of a lot of his troops, and on a largely unsupported flank.  I couldn't reach him on the next turn, but maybe I could set something up.

Turn 2, Skorne:

Zaal upkept Last Stand on the sacrificial AG and Awakened Spirit on the Gladiator.

The two titans ran up a little cautiously.  I wasn't scared of most of the trolls, but I didn't want the Mauler or the Long Riders getting a first strike in on my beasts.  The Beast Handlers ran up behind them, trying to stay out of the way.  Zaal advanced, and put another Soul Token on all the AG's again.

The leading Immortals charged the Fennblades, while the back lines spread out to make the most of their Vengeance attacks next turn.  Two Immortals killed their targets, so the Fennblades would have some Vengeance of their own to do.  Fortunately, they were more than 5" from the Fennblade Kithkar, so there would be no Righteous Vengeance.  The AG and Hakaar moved up into the middle of pack for additional support.  Marketh advanced, and put Inviolable Resolve on the Immortals again.

The Tyrant Commander put Overcome on the Nihilators again, so they could get through the woods.  One charged a Fennblade (it Toughed), and the rest ran.  The idea was to get as close to Jarl as possible so that support couldn't screen him with much depth.  He could still retreat, but I'd still be setting the battle line far forward on his flank, and starting to wrap around his Fennblade jam.

I was reasonably well set up.  The Immortals would probably hold the Fennblades, and the Nihilators were a serious thorn in Caleb's flank.  If Caleb didn't do something about them, they'd be able to clean up their side of the table, and go after Jarl.

On the other hand, Caleb's turn would initiate the grinding phase of the game, which trolls are traditionally good at thanks to Tough, and Zaal can sometimes struggle with, thanks to Last Stand killing whoever had it on them at the end of the turn.

Turn 2, Trollbloods:

The Fennblades crashed into the Immortals with Vengeance, but only one got through that Arm 19.  Meanwhile, Jarl upkept his spells.

The Mauler wasn't interested in killing a couple of Nihilators only to be charged by a Titan, so it backed off.  The Fell Caller used Overcome on the Long Riders again so they could charge the Nihilators.  Then it moved up and sprayed over 2 Nihilators and the Last Standed AG.  It knocked down one of the Nihilators, and did a couple points of damage to the AG.

The Rune Bearer used Harmonious Exaltation on Jarl again.  Jarl cast Magic Bullet on himself once, and forfeited his move to aim.  His first shot caused a Nihilator to pass its Tough check, but killed a second with the Magic Bullet.  His second shot killed its target, and he took a 2" Swift Hunter move to end behind the wall, still fairly exposed.  He also Feated, laying down 5 4" AoE clouds which granted Pathfinder and the ability to move through friendly models for the Trollbloods, and a -2 to attack rolls for living enemy models in the clouds.

Two of the Long Riders charged the Nihilators, and one charged the Last Standed AG.  Between impact attacks and initials, the Long Riders reduced the Nihilators to the last 4, but one of them died to the AG's Defensive Strike.  The Champion Hero charged in next, killing another Nihilator as well as the Last Standed AG, which spawned a Kovass.

The Impaler advanced, and tried to Critical Smite the Bronzeback.  It hit, but didn't crit, and did 2 damage to the Bronzeback, which used Hyper Aggressive to advance 4" toward it.

The Fennblades killed 2 more Immortals thanks to their high Arm, and one more Nihilator.  Horthol tried to trample over an Immortal to reach the non-character Ancestral Guardian near him, but failed to break the Immortal's Arm 19 with his impact attack, and failed the charge.  The Fennblade Kithkar charged my one surviving lead Immortal, and finally killed it off.

The Warders tried to run to screen Jarl, but weren't in a good position to do so, and only one got sort-of between him and the Kovass.

Caleb was not in a good place here.  Jarl was very exposed, and easily within my Kovass' walking threat.  Both the Fennblades and the Long Riders would be eating a lot of attacks in my turn, and that would leave just the Warders and the Mauler to handle my heavies, not to mention whatever other infantry survived.  The smart play was probably to grind the game out, and focus on clearing out Caleb's remaining tools.

But that is way less fun than trying to kill Jarl with a ghost.

Turn 3, Skorne

First, the Immortals and Hakaar took out a bunch of Fennblades in the Maintenance Phase.  Zaal upkept Inviolable Resolve and Awakened Spirit.

So first, can I kill Jarl with the Kovass?

Zaal advanced, used his Feat to turn all those dead Nihilators into boosts, and cast Last Stand on the Kovass.  Now the Kovass would be Mat 8 Pow 14, and would be rolling up to 4 dice on all its attack and damage rolls if I chose to boost them with Ancestral Rage tokens.  Zaal also cast Train Wreck on the Bronzeback.

The Kovass advanced and used Thresher to kill the Fell Caller, force the Warder near Jarl to pass a Tough check, and force Jarl to transfer 14 damage to the Mauler.  The second attack forced Jarl to transfer 12 damage to the Impaler.  The third attack, the Kovass rolled 18 damage, which finished off the Mauler, and blew 2 damage back onto Jarl, who was now out of transfers.  The fourth (and final) attack disabled Jarl, and forced a Tough check.

Which Jarl passed.

Ok, time for my backup plan.

The Immortals activated, and finished off the Fennblades, freeing up the Bronzeback.  Then Marketh activated, and put Last Stand on the Bronzeback.

Now, this was probably neither necessary nor very smart.  The plan was to use Beat Back to get the Bronzeback into Jarl, and I didn't really need the extra attack die (against Def 12) or the extra damage die (against a half-dead Impaler and an 8-hit-box Warder).  In fact, I kind of wanted things to live past the first hit, since I wasn't sure that 2 Beat Back moves would get me into Jarl, and if I failed, the Bronzeback would die at the end of the turn.

But eff it.  I had a Bronzeback and I had Last Stand and I wanted to watch things splatter.

The Paingivers Enraged the Bronzeback, which charged the Warder it could reach.  The Warder passed its Tough check, and the Bronzeback pushed into the Impaler.  The Impaler didn't have Tough, and therefore splattered most satisfyingly.  The Bronzeback didn't quite have melee range on Jarl after this move, but did have it on the now knocked-down Warder, so used its last initial attack to get into melee range of Jarl (the Warder Toughed again, go figure).

Jarl was knocked down himself and camping zero, so Caleb had to pass 5 Tough checks in a row to save him.

He passed the first 2.

Victory to the Skorne!


I didn't make any terrible mistakes, and otherwise played pretty well.  Sending the Kovass after Jarl was the right thing to do, but after Jarl Toughed, focusing on Caleb's army was the safer move.  I could have wrapped up the attrition battle, and had a guaranteed good position rather than the somewhat iffy Bronzeback assassination run (very iffy considering that if the Warder had failed its Tough check, the Bronzeback would have been able to splatter the Impaler, and then exploded itself.  Next time, no Last Stand).

I'm very happy with the list.  The models fit together a lot better than they do in the Immortal Host list I've been working with.  The Gladiator and Bronzeback make a very solid second wave, and I definitely liked having the two Reach units holding down my flank.  I did miss the shooting I usually bring with my Immortal Host list, but this time the synergy and speed of the army more than made up for it.  The ability to deal with rough terrain also added a lot.

I might drop one of the AG's and Bronzeback for Tiberion or Molik Karn and a 2-point solo (though there are so many to choose from).  Tiberion can Shield Guard for Zaal, and is very solid.  Molik with Last Stand and Zaal's Feat will kill just about any 'caster Molik can reach, and Molik is very squigly.  I definitely appreciate the Ancestral Guardians though.  Defensive Strike served me well, and Zaal's ability to load them up with souls makes them very reliable.  The three AG's and Hakaar always do solid work when I field them together.

Caleb only made one major mistake, and that was overextending Jarl on turn 2.  If he'd retreated with Jarl, I wouldn't have had such a good run at him.  In general, playing a little more conservatively, both with Jarl and with the Fennblades, would have served Caleb better this game.  We weren't playing a scenario, so there was no pressure to jam me out of board space, and no reason to play with Jarl so far forward.

Caleb also said he's thinking of dropping the Trollkin Champion Hero from the list, which I think is a good idea.  Even though Jarl's army can be a little too fast to brick up effectively, I think a Kriel Stone Bearer would be a good replacement.  Jarl can charge it up over the first two turns, and use it mainly for the beasts, the Long Riders, and the Warders.  The Fennblades will run way outside the bubble, and they don't really benefit much from the +2 Arm anyway.

As always, thanks for reading.  I hope to have the next report up sooner rather than later.