Introduction

It’s Beta Time. After the gigantic nerffest of the 0.99 rules package it was finally the time to meet up with my dear friend (but also arch enemy) SH to put the new rules and balance changes to the test.

We agreed on 2500 points to be able to really try a lot of new things. For the first time we played everything by the book including the rules for setting up terrain.

Concerning new things, SH also got himselves involved with some tree huggers and commanded an army of Sylvan Elves for the very first time.

The Bleak Legion01-de

  • Dread Prince – General, Beast Master,     Heavy Armour    , Shield, Manticore    , Dragonscale Helm, Sprout of Rebirth, Ogre Sword
  • Oracle – Level 2, Path of Fire, Dispel Scroll
  • Oracle – Level 2, Path of Fire, Tome of Arcane Lore, Ring of Shadows
  • Oracle – Level 2, Path of Fire, Book of Arcane Power, Obsidian Pebble
  • Captain – Battle Standard Bearer, Crimson Mail, Hero’s Sword, Shield, Lucky Charm
  • Assassin – Path of Bloody Murder, Ward Save (4+), Distracting, Headsmen’s Axe
  • 25x Dread Legionnaires – Spears, Full Command
  • 13x Repeater Auxiliaries – Shields, Musician, Standard Bearer
  • 5x Dark Raiders – Repeater Crossbows, Shields
  • 5x Dark Raiders – Repeater Crossbows, Shields
  • 10x Dancers of Yema – Skirmishers, Standard Bearer
  • Divine Altar – Altar of Yema
  • Hydra – Breath Weapon
  • 7x Dark Acolytes – Cult of Yema

Obviously the centre piece of my army was the Beastmaster on his Manticore. I added a Hydra to make maximum use of the Beast Master rule. Otherwise the Legionnaires should hold the centre supported by Dancers, Altar and Repeaters which got a standard as well to be able to claim the objective. Raiders and Yema Acolytes as fast stuff to be present on the flanks. For Magic I tried a new setup: Three Fire Oracles to burn those Elves. With additional items to get more Spells and more spellpower.

Sylvan Elves02-se

  • High Druid, General, Level 4, Path of Nature, Obsidian Rock, Dispel Scroll, Sacred Seeds
  • Avatar of Nature, Entangling Vines, Impaling Roots
  • Chieftain, Battle Standard Bearer, Mithril Armour, Hero’s Sword, Longbow, Jewelweed Shot
  • Dryad Matriarch,  Scarred Bark
  • Dryad Matriarch,  Toxic Spores
  • 30x Sylvan Archers, Black Arrows, Full Command, Moral Banner
  • 14x Dryads, Skirmishers
  • 14x Dryads Skirmishers
  • 3x Kestrel Knights,  Shields, Light Armour, Skirmishers
  • Forest Eagle, Lightning Reflexes
  • Forest Eagle, Lightning Reflexes
  • Treefather
  • Treefather, Impaling Roots

This list was not what I expected. SH loves to play avoidance and this list had much more hitting power and less shooting and evasion than I expected. The Dryads supported B their Matriarchs as Skirmishers as hard hitting mobile units and three big trees as absolute Infantry killing monsters. The Avatar as an absolute challenger with his extra ability.

Terrain, Magic, Deployment03-battlefield

Following the rules we set up a forest, impassable terrain and hill randomly on the table. Then we rolled only two additional pieces: A second forest and some ruins. The random rolls moved a lot of terrain to the edges but then we got diagonal Deployment and suddenly the terrain was once again relevant.

SH was allowed to choose sides and placed himself on the corner with the forest, drawing the line of scrimmage through the impassable terrain and a forest. He placed his free forest in the centre.

For Spells the Sylvan Elves rolled a double and were able to choose quite freely. Similarly to me, SH dislikes the big Spells and opted for Oaken Throne, Stone Skin, Summer Growth and Master of Earth.  His primary goal was obviously to heal his trees.

My Spells were a little bit more complicated since I wanted those burning Bolts on the Oracle with +1 to cast. In the end that worked out fine: One Oracle had Fireball and Flaming Swords, one had Fireball, Cloak of Fire and Burning Ramparts, while the one with the Book had Fireball and Burning Bolts.

During setup we both didn’t want to risk being outmaneuvered and so no one Deployed their army in one go. We started with Chaff on the flanks. As it became clear the flanks with the forest would be the better option for me SH deployed fully to get first Turn and I adjusted neglecting the flank of the Dancers to bolster the other one.04-deployment

The Assassin basically had two options  either the Legionnaires or the Dancers. As the Dancers were positioned on the „lost“ flank, I placed him into the Legionnaires, although the Treemans were actually the ones I wanted to fight.

Sylvan Elves – Turn 105-se1

Movement: The Eagles moved forward aggressively one taking the centre. The other flying into the flank of the Dancers to threaten them. The Dryads move moved forward as well to protect the flanks and shoot with their Spores. In the centre the Avatar moved into the forest. The Kestrel Knights secured the back of the battle line to prevent the Dark Raiders from slipping through.

The Druid uses her Seeds to plant a forest.

Magic: 6+1, no Channel. Magic starts with a bad roll for my opponent. It continues with a low roll for Oaken Throne (5+2+1), which is dispelled (5+3+3). Not so the Master of Earth (6+5+4+1) with a high roll on the Dark Raiders. Dispelling is unsuccessful (6+5+1). It scores seven hits, four wounds from which one is saved. The Raiders however remain calm and don’t panic.

Shooting:

  • Dryads on Dark Raiders, only four can shoot. Score one wound via Lethal Strike.
  • Sylvan Archers on Dancers (some could not shoot, some had to shoot through light cover. eight hits but only two wounds.

Close Combat: None.

Dread Elves Turn 106-de1

Movement: Dancers of Yema attack the Dryads and align themselves to get maximum Attacks on the Matriarch. Legionnaires charge the Eagle but if flees, they roll double one and only advance minimal. On the right flank the Raiders circle around completely staying well out of charge range from Kestrel Knights. On the left flank the whole army basically moves around the threat Arc of the Avatar. Hydra and Altar swap places more or less. The Manticore, Acolytes and Raiders pressure the Dryads. Repeaters stand still.

Magic: 4+1, no channels. Again a non-threatening Magic phase. I try to collect his Dispel Scroll by casting the large Burning Bolts with five dice (6+2+2+1+1), but the roll is so low, it is dispelled with four dice (6+4+3+3).

Shooting:

  • The shooting of the Raiders is without consequence
  • Repeaters on Dryads: Four hits, one wound.

Close Combat: The Dancers opt for flails. The Matriarch attacks first, scores three wounds out of three attacks and kills two. The Dancers have four attacks on the Matriarch but do not manage a wound. The other two inflict one wound on the unit. The hatred Dryads then make short work of the Dancers annihilating them (12 wounds before saves). The Dryads Reform / wheel.

Sylvan Elves – Turn 207-se2

Movement: No charges. The Eagle successfully rallies.

The Dryads move backwards to shoot the Raiders. The Avatar also shuffles a little towards the left to be able to shoot the Acolytes with his roots. The rest of the units all move towards the left flank, except the Kestrel Knights, who proceed on the right flank and the Sylvan Archers who reform.

Magic: 4+2, no channels. Oaken Throne succeeds uncontested. Stone Skin on Avatar (5+4+3) is not dispelled (4+3+2+1).

Shooting:

  • Dryads on Dark Raiders: Ten hits, four wounds, but only one casualty.
  • Impaling Roots on Dark Acolytes: Five shots, three wounds, two dead.
  • Sylvan Archers on Dread Legionnaires: They hit badly partly on sixes and sevens. Six hits,  five wounds, four dead.
  • Panic tests: Dark Raiders fail their panic test and flee from the board. The Acolytes stay cool.

Close Combat: None.

Dread Elves – Turn 208-de2

Movement: Manticore charges the Dryads from behind the Acolytes. Stand & Shoot allows four to shoot on 5+, but they don’t hit anything. Nine hit on 6+, manage three hits and two hits wound on Lethal Strike forgoing Armour and Regeneration. Dark Acolytes also charge the Dryads. As does the Divine Altar. The Hydra charges the Eagle which flees but shortly.

While Manticore and Acolytes are auto-in, the Altar fails the charge on 15 and the Hydra fails on 12. Both move minimally forward.

Magic: 3+3, Dread Elves channel. Finally my triple setup nets me the first channel. A medium fireball on the Eagle (4+3+1) succeeds as the Dispel Attempt rolls even lower (2+2+1). The Fireball kills the Eagle easily. Burning Bolts (5+4+1+1) secure a necessary Dispel Scroll (would have created 16 S4 hits on the Sylvan Archers).

Shooting: Repeaters on Avatar: 7 hits, 2 wounds, one goes through.

Close Combat: The Matriarch challenges and my Dread Prince accepts. His four attacks do four wounds outright killing the Matriarch (two were saved). The Manticore succeeds in creating the maximum overkill. Dryads attack the Acolytes, 16 Attacks score seven wounds of which only two are saved, killing the Acolytes. The Acolytes kill six Dryads. Dryads have to test on re-rollable three and flee. They are easily run down by the Manticore.

Sylvan Elves – Turn 309-se3

Movement: Treeman Ancient and Eagle attack the Manticore and both complete the charge. The Avatar attacks the Divine Altar which flees, redirects into the Hydra, which also flees. It moves four inches forward. Dryads charge the flank of the Legionnaires need an eight and manage it.

The second Treeman moves further towards the left flank, while the Kestrel Knights complete their flanking maneuver and move on the hill.

Magic: 5+1, Slyvan Elves channel.  Not even in a forest, the Druid obviously knows her channel 101. Oaken Throne (5+3+2) is successful, healing one wound on the Avatar. Stone Skin on Dryads (4+3+2+1) is dispelled (6+5+5+5+2).

Shooting: Sylvan Archers on Hydra: Ten times on 5+, ten times on 6+, ten times on 7+: Seven hits, three wounds, two damage dealt.

Close Combat: The Dread Prince deals two wounds on the treeman. The Manticore fluffs his ToWound rolls, but only hit two times anyway, despite having hatred. The Treeman fluffs his attack rolls also and the Eagle’s attacks don’t go through the toughness, armour, regeneration combination. The Manticore loses frenzy as the fight is lost by one, but the Dread Prince stays cool and remains in combat.

The Assassin reveals himself inside the Legionnaires and places himself into base contact. He immediately challenges the Matriarch, who accepts. The Assassin rolls perfect three wounds, none is saved creating five combat result and removing the hatred from the other Dryads. The four Legionnaire attacks deal two wounds on the Dryads. The Dryads score seven hits and convert them into five wounds. Losing the combat by six the Dryads flee only five inches, the Legionnaires are lazy as well and roll exactly five, annihilating the Dryads.

Dread Elves – Turn 310-de3

Movement: The Dark Raiders on the right flank succeeded in their flanking movement and charge the Sylvan Archers in the back. The Dread Legionnaires attack the Kestrel Knights, which flee again only five inches! The Legionnaires obviously managed their stamina well and wipe out the Kestrel Knights.

Hydra and Altar both manage to succeed in their rally tests. The Repeaters remain standing still.

Magic: 6+3, Dread Elves channel. Flaming Swords on Repeaters (5+2+1) is successful, as once again a dispel attempt is very low (1+2+3). Cascading Fire (amazing range on these spells, the Oracle in the Dread Legionnaires could still cast this) on the Eagle (6+5+2+1) is successful. Medium Fireball (6+5+1) on Avatar is also not dispelled (5+5+2), but doesn’t score a wound.

At the end of the magic phase the Fire Cloak deals five hits to the Eagle creating three wounds and outright killing it.

Shooting: Repeater Auxiliaries on Avatar: 28 shots on 5+, three hits, no wounds.

Close Combat: Dark Raiders kill two Archers and do not get a wound in return. The Archers remain steadfast and easily succeed in their break test. However they fluff their reform (7 rerollable).

Dread Prince deals one more wound on the Treeman. Manticore and Treeman both screw up again. Treeman remains steadfast and doesn’t break.

Sylvan Elves – Turn 411-se4

The Altar grants his boon of ward save 5+ to the Repeater Auxiliaries.

Movement: Treeman charges the Manticore and succeeds. The Avatar moves forwards to impale the Repeaters with his roots. The Archers remain standing still.

Magic: 5+5, both channel. Summer Growth (3+3+1+1) rolls very low, but is barely dispelled (6+1+1+1). Boosted Master of Earth on Hydra (6+6+2+2) is successful and scores one wound on the Hydra. The Miscast is an Amnesia, but the Oaken Throne helps and prevents losing one spell and Wizard Master status. Breath of Life heals one wound on the Treeman.

Shooting:

  • Impaling Roots on the Repeater Auxiliaries: Seven shots, four hits, two wounds, one prevent by armour.
  • Sylvan Archers on Dread Legionnaires: Three hits, two wounds, one saved.

Close Combat: The Dread Prince once again makes two wounds on the Treeman, but the Manticore doesn’t even wound. The combined power of the Treemans is then finally too much as they score five wounds of which only one is saved. The Treemans reform.

The Dark Raiders and Archers both fluff their attacks. The Archers reform and the BSB moves into base contact.

Dread Elves – Turn 412-de4

Movement: The Dread Legionnaires quickly reform and move towards the Avatar/centre as I deemed the distance to the Archers to be too great to actually get into close combat before the end of the game. The Hydra moves in front of the Avatar to prevent a charge on the Repeaters, ensuring they would be able to fire on close distance.

The Oracle flee the Repeaters and move backwards. As there is no ranged threat in range they can easily work around alone.

Magic: 6+5, Dread Elves channel. Now we are talking, a nice 12/6 magic phase and all Oracle looking towards the action. Flaming Swords (5+5+2) on Repeaters is not contested. Now I realize, that the trees are flammable and I actually get to re-roll my ToWound rolls! Raging Fire does a wound, but it is saved. Cascading Fire on Avatar (5+3+1) is dispelled (6+2+1). Medium Fireball (6+5+2) on Avatar is uncontested. With Raging Fire does ten hits and two wounds. The Avatar now has three wounds left. Another medium Fireball (6+3+3) is not dispelled (5+4+1), but doesn’t manage a wound.

Shooting:

  • Repeater Auxiliaries on Avatar: 24 shots on 4+, deal two wounds thanks to Flaming Swords.
  • Hydra’s Fire Breath: Avatar now has exactly one wound left, the Breath makes five hits and deals exactly one wound. The Avatar is brought down.

Close Combat: The Chieftain easily kills the two Raiders. The Archers reform towards the centre.

Sylvan Elves – Turn 513-se5

The Treemen advance a little. During magic phase (4+4, DE channel) a Dispel Scroll is used to prevent anything from happening. The Archers shoot down the Hydra by dealing two wounds.

Dread Elves – Turn 514-de5

In my second to last turn, I bring my units into range to claim the objective in case the Sylvan Archers decide to move forward, while staying out of range of the Treemen. In Magic a 3+2 plus Dread Elves channel allows a boosted Burning Bolts (5+5+4+2+1) into the Archers (5+4+2+2 is not enough) which kills nine Archers. The Archers don’t panic. A one die Fireball is not successful (2).

Sylvan Elves – Turn 6

The Sylvan Elves remain steady in their last turn. Magic (5+5, DE channel), sees one Treeman healed but Stoneskin on the Archers dispelled. Combined shooting kills six Legionnaires, but the unit doesn’t panic as well.

Dread Elves – Turn 615-end

The Legionnaires claim the objective. Another high magic phase (6+4, Dread Elves channel) sees a lot of fire raining down on the Sylvan Archers as a risky dispel attempt is once again very low. Only four Sylvan Archers remain at the end of the game, as the Repeater Auxiliaries also do three wounds.

Result

The Sylvan Elves managed to score 1318 victory points (150 for general and one standard). The Dread Elves managed to score 1870 victory points (500 for the secondary objective). This is either a 13:7 victory for the Dread Elves or a normal Dread Elves win.

In the end we agreed, that it was a very close game which was certainly one of the most thrilling ones we played so far. Sadly the most deciding moment was probably the unlucky roll of the Kestrel Knights when fleeing. Otherwise I would not have been able to turn around the game in turn 3. Otherwise I think the lucky and unlucky rolls were quite balanced. We both struggled with the diagonal setup and had to re-evaluate movement and flanking maneuvers. I think SH overestimated the Headsmen’s Axe and underestimated his Entangling Vines aspect. But the Avatar let both Altar and Hydra flee, so he didn’t do nothing in that turn 3.

v0.99 Rules, Balancing, Units

Rules: We both very much liked the secondary objectives and the diagonal deployment and were quite satisifed with the terrain rules. Especially the diagional deployment was quite interesting as it was a first for us both. All in all these extra rules force the opponents to play more balance lists an refrain from „all-in-lists“ that cannot claim objectives or would be annihilated if diagonal deployment or flank attack is rolled. It seems to us, however that „Hold the Ground“ and „Secure Target“ should be valued differently, as getting one objective opposed to remain victor in two locations seems easier. SH also thinks, that 20% VP is a tad to high, I would certainly agree, that 15% is not too low, but maybe 20% is fine as well (but not more).

Regarding terrain I think the rules should somehow prevent from all terrain to be on the fringes, would we not have rolled diagonal deployment most of the terrain would have been no factor at all. Additionally I think each player should be able to choose and place at least one piece of terrain (or choose two and not place one or place two but not choose the type, something like that). If you have Strider (Water) you should be able to make that a factor at least some of the games.

SH thinks games should be more than six turns, he liked the 7th edition rules better in that regard, where games lasted for seven turns.

Balancing:

  • After the drastic changes in v0.99 I was unsure about many things. For Dread Elves I can say, an army at 2500 points looks definitely smaller than before.
  • For Sylvan Elves I cannot make any comparison as I didn’t experience them before.
  • Path of Fire however is insanely strong versus Sylvan Elves. Particulary the range is enormous. And the possibility of casting two damage spells into close combats is not to be neglected either.
  • A Lord Level caster is currently not really a good option (except for some combined models that maybe also fight very well). This is mainly due to the Book of Arcane Power just being to cheap for heroes. The book should cost 50 points for heroes.

Dread Elves Units by me:

  • The triple Oracle setup convinced me. Channeling on 3+ is very good if you want to blast the enemy with redundant S4 hits from Fire Magic. I will take this over an Exalted Oracle in any game. Sad times for the Exalted Oracle.
  • Dread Legionnaires once again performed admirably as a character bus and easily held against a flank charge from skirmishing Dryads.
  • Close combat Assassin is still my MVP, as he alone deterred the Treemans from my Legionnaires and even the Avatar opted for other options than to charge the Legionnaires.
  • On the other side the Yema troops Dancers of Yema and Dark Acolytes did not manage anything at all. The Acolytes had bad luck in their dice rolls, but the Dancers showed their problem in skirmishing mode: Their damage output is far below something you would expect from a 14 point model. Their ward save won’t win combat results. I don’t see myself using them as skirmishers without heavy character support.

Dread Elves Units by SH:

  • Altar of Yema seems to cheap for 200 points, especially since it has a Medusa on top of it.
  • Headsmen’s Axe is still too cheap for what it does. Reducing strength to S6 would be the first balancing fix that comes to mind.
  • Dread Elves now actually have a large range of Ward Saves in the army. Something that doesn’t changed this game, but versus other high strength armies it might be too good.

Sylvan Elves units by me:

  • MVP for me were the Dryad and Dryad Matriarchs. Matriarchs are surprisingly good for very little points (high weapon skill and initiative, included ward save). I liked how the skirmishing Dryads were good for clearing chaff (with their spores) but failed horribly versus a Rank and File unit. This is the way it should be.
  • The Avatar’s challenge upgrade bothers me, because of the style of gameplay it enforces. Bringing down a giant monster should be a joint effort. The challenge rules effectively prevent that, and this upgrade makes it even worse. I could live with the upgrade, if the challenge rules would be changed, so that large targets cannot be in challenges. (I would even support a rule change to eliminate challenges all together)
  • The rules for Strangling Roots are bad in a way, that they forego to many rules of the game. It is good, that cover, moving and shooting, and range  play a role in hitting things. Removing them alltogether feels like a kiddy playing „always one more than you“.
  • I think the arrow upgrade for the Archers is too expensive, especially since it makes these archers easy targets, one wound against T3 without armour equals 15 points.

Sylvan Elves units by SH:

  • Thinks the point cost for Black Arrows on Sylvan Archers is okay, but the Arches should have at least a second option from the Fey Arrows.
  • Tree Singing as a bound spells is not worth it, since dispelled to easily.
  • As this was the first game, the potential of the army is not obvious, yet. But so far everything seemed very balanced so not many ups and downs.
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