Introduction

For the first game in 2017, I invited my good friend, tabletop mentor, arch nemesis and general extraordinaire SH. He brought his Highborn Elves with him so it was brother versus brother, sister versus sister and emo versus herbal tea drinker.

We played a game with 4500 points following the 1.3 rules with the latest updates. For the map we once again used the map pack and randomized the map after rolling for the scenario.

The Bleak Legion01-de

  • Dread Prince – Army General, Crimson Mail, Headsmen’s Axe, Talisman of Greater Shielding
  • Captain – Battle Standard Bearer, Halberd, Heavy Armour, Crown of Scorn, Skullsplitter
  • Assassin – Path of Silent Death, Master Poisoner (Blood Root), Paired Weapons, Potion of Strength
  • 12x Blades of Nabh –Musician
  • 12x Blades of Nabh –Musician
  • 10x Repeater Auxiliaries
  • 14x Repeater Auxiliaries – Musician
  • 20x Tower Guard – Champion, Standard Bearer, Banner of Blood
  • 11x Executioners – Standard Bearer, Æther Icon
  • 10x Raven Cloaks – Great Weapons
  • 6x Raven Cloaks – Paired Weapons
  • 5x Harpies
  • Dread Reaper
  • Dread Reaper
  • Dread Reaper

That’s right. Not a single cavalry model in my army. I always wanted to try multiple Blades of Nabh unit. In the past I always ended up switching them out in favour for Dark Raiders, so I wanted to leave them home. Instead I tried to make use of the Repeater Crossbow in a big way and hoped for a lot of T3, 5+ models to shoot down. The BSB didn’t even try to survive a close combat, like the Assassin. These were supposed to make the Raven Cloaks even stronger and put a dent into almost anything the Highborn Elves could throw at me. Together with the Dread Reapers I wanted to shoot down my opponent good enough to win the close combat encounters with me Tower Guard (striking before most of my opponents) and then leaving nothing to strike back at me. Killer Prince build was there in case an Ancient Dragon makes an appearance and I need serious high strength attacks. I expected my opponent to bring magic, so I made an effort to include the Æther Icon as well.

Highborn Elves02-he

  • High Prince – Army General, Griffon, Talisman of Supreme Shielding, Hardened Shield, Heavy Armour, Flaming Lance
  • Mage – Path of Divination, three additional Spells, Wizard Master, Amethyst Crystal, Gleaming Robe
  • Commander – High Warden of the Flame, Battle Standard Bearer, Heavy Armour, Shield, Great Bow of Elu, Charm of Cursed Iron
  • 8x Elein Reavers – Full Command, Bows
  • 8x Elein Reavers – Full Command, Bows
  • 8x Elein Reavers – Full Command, Bows
  • 17x Citizen Archers
  • 4x Reaver Chariots
  • 25x Flame Wardens – Full Command, Banner of Becalming
  • Giant Eagle

So SH tried out something new again and brought a maximum sized unit of chariots, which in theory should break any elven unit on the impact alone. His BSB is a ranged specialist as well. He brought significant magic and magic defense to the table, but as I didn’t bring any magic, a good part of this is for naught. His force is built around the sturdy Flame Wardens, which are complemented by the High Prince on Griffon. Luckily I didn’t bring a Hydra, which would have been the ideal target for being picked off by that flying prince. Also lucky for me: His Reavers would have been ideal to pick of my usually 5-man Dark Raiders.

Terrain, Magic, Deployment

The map pack would grant us our terrain, so we rolled scenario first, which was „Refused Flank“, afterwards the dice decided on General Map #3. My luck stroke once again, as it contained two ruins and two hills on the map, ideal surroundings for both Raven Cloaks and Dread Reaper while simultaneously a disadvantage for the advancing force and especially chariots. Secondary objective is breakthrough though, which is better for the (supposed) attacker.

Rolling for sides favoured the Highborn Elves and SH did not waste time and chose the correct corner, which would put a hill outside of the deployment zones and another one quite close to the frontline, while minimizing the effect of the ruins.

03-deploydeThat left me to deploy first, which I did. As the defense, ranged army I did not want the possibility of a broad front line with close ranges to my enemy. So I picked my main flank (left side) and sort of cut off my deployment at half of the battlefield. My goal was basically to make a battlefield that is 72“ deep and 48“ wide. I felt forced to put at least one unit (my six wide Blades of Nabh) to the front on my right flank in order to prevent too easy vanguard movements, that could pressure me. (As it’s not quite easy to spot on the picture, the units are from left to right: Blades of Nabh, Dread Reaper, Blades of Nabh (back), Repeater Auxiliaries (front), Raven Cloaks with BSB and Assassin, Tower Guard (front), Harpies (back), Repeater Auxiliaries, Dread Reaper, Dread Reaper, Executioners).

04-deployheSH once again surprised me (I love that, the games never turn out the way I expect them to be), by ignoring my left flank and the shortest way to the Dread Reapers. Instead he focused on the centre and right flank, leveraging his vanguarding to the maximum, as well as the range of the Citizen Archers. The single Eagle prevented any troublesome scouting that my Raven Cloaks could have done. His units from left to right: Elein Reavers, High Prince (behind building), Giant Eagle (way back), Citizen Archers (middle), Flame Wardens (front), Elein Reavers, Reaver Chariots, Elein Reavers). My second Raven Cloaks deployed on the left side in the field.

For spells, the mage rolled 2, 4, 5, 5 and chose: Know thy Enemy, Unerring Strike, The Stars Align, Scrying. A good set of spells for that scenario, but only one missile, so he really needed to get into close combat, and would have trouble forcing the Crown early on.

Dread Elves – Turn 105-de1

Movement: Raven Cloaks moved forward into shootin range but had to leave the field to it. Raven Cloaks moved slightly forward to be able to shoot on the Flame Wardens. Blades of Nabh on the right side fled behind the hill to prevent a charge by the Reaver Chariots. The other Blades quickly reformed to nine wide and out of archer range. Executioners move forwards (and are tasked to prevent a hop over the building towards the Reapers by the Griffon).

Magic: None.

Shooting:

  • Raven Cloaks (left) on Elein Reavers: No wounds (double six on armour save)
  • Raven Cloaks (centre) on Elein Reavers: Five wounds.
  • Dread Reaper on Elein Reavers (centre): No wounds.
  • Repeater Auxiliaries on Flame Wardens: Three wounds.
  • Dread Reaper on Elein Reavers (centre): No wounds.
  • Dread Reaper on Reaver Chariots: Three wounds.
  • Elein Reavers (centre) fail their panic test and flee into the ruins, but stand their dangerous terrain tests.

Close Combat: None.

Mixed first round, as the centre Elein Reavers were forced to flee, but I definitely would have expected two Dread Reapers to fully kill the unit. The double 6+ save on the left flank was more aggravating though. On the plus side, the Repeater Auxiliaries directly diminished the Flame Wardens by three. As the Flame Wardens would be a very close matchup against the Tower Guard, I needed to bring them down far enough to reduce the amount of attacks that I would receive in return.

Highborn Elves – Turn 106-he1

Movement: The Mage moves out of the Archers as the Ruins grant him exceptional protection and he needs to be closer to the own troops for buff spells anyway. The Reavers on the right side take the risk of single shots and present a 2×4 formation after the Reaver Chariots claimed a lot of space and setup themselves for an easy charge on the Reaper. To my surprise the High Prince switches sides and also threatens my right flank. Apparently the Highborn want to break through there. The Giant Eagle tries to catch up and the Flame Wardens advance as well. The Elein Reavers successfully rally, thanks to Martial Discipline. SH begins to worry about leadership tests with his BSB so far in the back.

Magic: 2+1, no channels. Scrying on the High Prince (6+4+2) is not dispelled (6+4). Guiding Light is cast on the High Prince as well.

Shooting:

  • Citizen Archers on Blades of Nabh: Two wounds via Bow of Elu, seven wounds due to Archers.
  • Reaver Chariots and Elein Reavers on Blades of Nabh: One wound.
  • Elein Reavers on Raven Cloaks: One wound.

Close Combat: None.

Nothing exciting happening here. The Blades cannot stand fire for long. The high damage prevents me from being able to at least fire & forget them into the flame wardens, as I would have had only nine attacks left. Movement of the High Prince was more suprising, but in the end logical. After abandoning the left flank, why should the High Prince move there now?

Dread Elves – Turn 207-de2

Movement: The Raven Cloaks make a precise measurement and see that they can move out of the line of sight of the Flame Wardens and take the chance. They would have moved inside the 12“ but then the High Prince would have only needed a 9+ for a charge, so I moved back a little, allowing just the Assassin to be within range. The Repeater Auxilaries use a quick reform to turn and shuffle backwards. Clearly I had placed them too far to the front. The Blades of Nabh on the right flank do the same and shuffle backwards, as I do not want them charged, but instead will try to get the counter reaction after a probably charge of the Elein Reavers on the Dread Reaper. The other Blades (only three) do a magnificient turn around and make it into the front of the chariots in a truly sacrifical way. One model more and that would not have been possible. Harpies and Tower Guard do a slight repositioning, while the Executioners advance. The left Repeaters finally get the memo and start moving with haste to the left flank.

Magic: None.

Shooting:

  • Raven Cloaks (left) on Elein Reavers: Two wounds.
  • Dread Reaper (left) on Elein Reavers (right): No wounds. Single shot missed.
  • Dread Reaper on Elein Reavers (left): One wound.
  • Raven Cloaks (centre) on Flame Wardens: One wound.
  • Repeater Auxilaries on Flame Wardens: One wound.
  • Dread Reaper on Elein Reaver (right): No wounds. Single shot missed.
  • Elein Reavers (left) stand their panic check.

Close Combat: None.

Pretty disastrous shooting for me. The Raven Cloaks in the centre did not nearly the damage I was anticipating, leaving the Flame Wardens at 19 models and still in full damage capacity, while the enemy closed the distance. Luckily I saw the turn around for the Blades of Nabh, which was maybe the most important movement of a unit in the whole games, as the Chariots could would not risk an overrun and be caught by the Blades of Nabh waiting behind, giving me one more turn.

Highborn Elves – Turn 208-he2

Movement: The High Prince (to my surprise again, this guy is unpredictable) charges the Dread Reaper together with the Elein Reavers. The Reaver Chariots charge the Blades of Nabh. They Prince fails a 9+ throw, but the Reavers are auto-in thanks to their Champion, as are the chariots. The Flame Wardens do not advance very much, but turn a little bit. The Citizen Archers are forced to move forwards, if they still want to be able to shoot at something. The Mage moves out of the ruins, again to keep himself in range for the Divination spells. The Elein Reavers on the centre and the Eagle move up in order to chaff up something if necessary. The Reavers on the left stand to continue the shootout with the Raven Cloaks.

Magic: 5+3, no channeling. Magic does what it does, the boosted version of Scrying (6+6+5+2) results in a miscast. The Mage has a tiny bit of luck in these circumstances and „only“ Witch Fire, which deals two wounds to him. Stars Align on the Citizen Archers (6+4+2) is dispelled (6+3+3+1+1).

Shooting:

  • Citizen Archers on Raven Cloaks (centre): Two wounds.
  • Elein Reavers on Raven Cloaks (left): One wound.

Close Combat: The Dread Reaper crew shows, that they are in fact close combat masters and not a war machine crew. They deal two wounds. The Reaper suffers two in return and fails the break test on LD 6. The Elein Reavers overrun but only four inches. The Reaver Chariots wipe out the Blades and reform.

Dread Elves – Turn 309-de3

Movement: The left Repeaters are still not in range, even after a normal move, so they marche towards the left Elein Reavers once again. The Tower Guard decides it’s not afraid of the Flame Wardens charging them and moves up into 8+ charge range. The Repeater Auxilaries shuffle backwards once more, causing a 10+ charge distance by the High Prince. The Blades of Nabh charge the Reavers, who cannot stand & shoot as the overrun brought them within five inches. The Executioners carefully position themselves for flank support of the Tower Guard, but outside of reasonable Flame Warden charge ranges. The Raven Cloaks in the centre use the gap and run towards the Archers, managing to get into 12“.

Magic: None.

Shooting:

  • Dread Reaper on Mage: One wound. Killing it.
  • Raven Cloaks (left) on Elein Reaver: Two wounds.
  • Raven Cloaks (centre) on Citizen Archers: Eight wounds.
  • Repeater Auxiliaries on Elein Reavers: Three wounds. Killing it.
  • Dread Reaper on Citizen Archers: Two wounds.
  • Elein Reavers (left) flee nine inches.

Close Combat: The Blades of Nabh kill five Elein Reavers, the remaining Champion kills two Blades. The Reavers break and are overrun by the Blades of Nabh who roll eleven and land within one inch of the Reaver Chariots. A twelve would have been the luckiest, instant 800 Victory Points roll in the world.

This round my shooting proved quite lucky. I was trying to pick off the Mage with the Dread Reapers, but would have used the Raven Cloaks if necessary, luckily the first Reaper finished the job, so that I could diminish the Archers even more. Additionally the three wounds of the Auxiliaries on the Reavers were well above average as well.

Highborn Elves – Turn 3

(forgot picture, sorry!)

Movement: Seeing his mage dying on the battle field, the Highborn Elves did finally commit to the attack. The High Prince charges the Auxiliaries. I hope he wouldn’t make than ten, but he does survicing the stand & shoot without a scratch. The Flame Wardens fail their 8+ charge on the Tower Guard so the Giant Eagle steps in front of them to prevent a counter charge. The Elein Reavers rally. The Citizen Archers shuffle backwards out of short RXB range (they weren’t technically allowed, as they didn’t have a Musician, but we failed to notice). The Reaver Chariots once more charge a unit of Blades of Nabh standing directly before them.

Magic: No magic.

Shooting:

    Citizen Archers on Raven Cloaks: Four wounds. *ouch*

Close Combat: The Repeater Auxiliaries do the unthinkable and deal one wound to the High Prince (and yes, we forgot Fear). The Highborn general on the other side has ten attacks and could break steadfast if all ten wound. My opponent does not have such luck and only kills four. The Repeaters stand on steadfast. The Chariots kill the Blades of Nabh, we don’t even roll dice for that and overrun afterwards.

Dread Elves – Turn 410-de4

Movement: Tower Guard charges the Eagle, the Harpies chaff up the Reaver Chariots. The Executioners feel the pain when you don’t have a Musician. I can wheel good enough to get out of line of sight, but not enough to wheel back to have a good line of sight myself. The Raven Cloaks move within six inches of the Archers. Repeater Auxiliaries once more march forward together with the Raven Cloaks.

Magic: None.

Shooting:

  • Raven Cloaks on Elein Reavers: No wounds. Once more double six on armour.
  • Raven Cloaks (centre) on Archers: Five wounds.
  • Dread Reaper on Archers: One wound.
  • Dread Reaper on Flame Wardens: No wounds.
  • Archers succeed their panic check.

Close Combat: The High Prince kills seven Repeaters. The remainging two Repeaters break and flee. The High Prince does not pursue and reforms towards the Tower Guard. The Dread Prince seizes the opportunity to charge up the Crimson Mail and kills the Eagle singlehandedly.

An aggravating round of shooting once more. The Elein Reavers refuse to be killed and the Reaper failed to kill the last two Archers as well.

Highborn Elves – Turn 411-he4

Movement: High Prince and Flame Wardens both successfully charge the Tower Guard. The Chariots charge the Harpies. The Reavers move up into the forest. The Commander leaves the Archer and moves towards the centre of the battle field. The High Prince masters the dangerous terrain and does not take damage.

Magic: No magic.

Shooting:

  • Elein Reavers on Raven Cloaks: No wounds.
  • Single Archer on Raven Cloaks: One wound.

Close Combat: There is no challenge. The Dread Prince strikes first towards the High Prince, hits only once, and the wound is saved. Then three attacks are allocated towards the Flame Warden champion. Two wound, but both are saved. The remaining four attacks towards the High Prince do nothing, the remaining 19 attacks on the Flame Wardens kill only three. That leaves the Flame Wardens at 16 models, still able to dish out the pain. The Griffon does six wounds, the Flame Wardens eight. The Tower Guard loses horribly, but stands on bodyguard.

In a close combat where the amount of damage done is critical it’s very disappointing if the opponent holds 11 of 14 ward saves. Especially when I needed the Champion gone to force a challenge with my champion on his Griffon. A normal results should have killed nine Wardens, which would have left them at only ten models, unable to deal so many wounds. I worry what the fight might bring.

Dread Elves – Turn 5

Movement: The Raven Cloaks move to be able to shoot both: Archer and Commander. The Executioners successfully charge the flank of the Flame Wardens.

Magic: None.

Shooting: The Elein Reavers, by pure determination withstand the shooting without a single wound. The blessing of the Flame keeps the Commander alive as well, as he stands five ward saves in a row. The Dread Reapers shoot the Chariots and deal a whooping five wounds.

Close Combat: Having only one rank, the Dread Prince challenges. As the Griffon is only able to attack the Dread Prince anyway, the High Prince accepts. The Dread Prince starts and hits only once again. This time there is a gap in the talisman protection and the Griffon suffers two wounds. The High Prince and Griffon, now reduced to attacks with lower strength fail to break the blood soaked Crimson Mail. The dice play a cruel game once more and the Dread Elf troops only kill two more Flame Wardens who kill four Tower Guard in return. I win combat by one, but the Highborn do not break.

At this time I am cursing the ward saves in general. The Commander miraculously survived. Again the Flame Wardens could even out the battle, despite the hatred Executioners striking on their flank and hitting nearly everything. I dread the Chariots impact hits the next turn, as only two Tower Guards remain.

Highborn Elves – Turn 5

12-he5

The Elein Reavers flee from the shooting, apparently they think their good luck has finally ended. The Commander moves towards the battle and starts to provide leadership re-rolls, while the chariots successfully charge, albeit through dangerous terrain, which does another point of damage. The last Archer flees into the forest.

The Impact Hits kill both Tower Guards. The Dread Prince still fumbles with his Axe, hitting once, but the wound is warded once more. Vice versa, the Griffin fails to do anything itself. The Executioners manage to make a dent into the Flame Wardens, and being in the flank to not have to take many casualties. The Dread Elves win combat by two, but the Highborn stay in the fight.

Dread Elves – Turn 6

Raven Cloaks and Repeater Auxiliaries manage to kill the last remaining Archer. Combined shooting of two Dread Reapers, Skullsplitter, Assassin and Raven Cloaks only manages a single wound on the Commander.

In the combat the Dread Prince finally learns how to hold the Axe and hits three times. The Griffon’s ward saves cannot hold three wounds and the High Prince goes down. Executioners and Flame Wardens do not do a lot, but the overkill of the challenge is enough to see the Chariots break away from combat and losing another one due to dangerous terrain.

Highborn Elves – Turn 6

13-end

In the last turn, the Commander joins the combat, some more blows are exchanged, but nobody breaks from the combat.

Game Result

Defnitely one of the most intense and close games, going over the full distance. In the end, the Highborn Elves scored 1777 VP and the Dread Elves 3000 VP. Together with the secondary objectives, it’s a 16 – 4 victory for my forces. If only one more Flame Warden had survived that would have been 400 VP and if the last fight would have taken place where my Tower Guard stood at the first Flame Warden charge, the secondary would also have been challenged. It can be so close at times.

After Battle Analysis

From my side not a lot of new insights. Clearly magic is so weak, that taking it is hamstringing yourself. Once again a miscast for a „nice to have“ Scrying caused major havoc, even when not being inside a unit. Additionally magic is so weak, that Raven Cloaks can more or less wander the battlefield unhindered. With a Ring of Shadows they are basically not killable with normal shooting, so I might try that next. The Captain with Skullsplitter was a good success and I like the combined shooting with the Assassin.

Overall the game was a quite skewed in my favour, by the list setup, as I didn’t have any big targets for the Griffon, no Dark Raiders for the Elein Reavers and could prevent the placement of the Mage inside the Flame Wardens due to the Headsmen’s Axe on my Dread Prince. Nevertheless SH managed to get a close game out of it, despite an extremely unlucky miscast.

So my MVPs were definitely the Raven Cloaks and the Killer Prince. On the Highborn Elves side the Reaver Chariots caused a lot of trouble for me. We both agree, that Magic is just too weak and the whole magic mechanic (magic flux, casting values, random spells, miscasts) is very unfun. Bringing a wizard does not feel empowering at all, more like a drag.

Update: After Battle Analysis by SH (translated by me)

I think my analysis matches the one of my opponent in large parts: Magic is not worth it. With those miscast effects it’s too dangerous.

Highborn units: I was satisfied with the Griffon, the chariots were a delight as well, but I think one unit of three or two units of two each would have been better. Citizen Archers were ok and I liked the setup of the BSB commander. On the negative side, the Mage was not worth it, but it was also unlucky with the early miscast. Another negative aspect is, that Highborn Elves have a hard time bringing down tanky characters, but I think that is okay, as they are allrounders with good shooting).

Dread Elf units: Overall it was just the better list. No major disappointments, aside from some unlucky dice rolls. The Headsmen’s Axe is still the best weapon in the game, especially since it combines very well with the stats and special rules of the Elves. Harpies I could not evaluate, they died for the cause. Tower Guard is still a supreme blender.

On the game: The overall battle was quite okay. Yes, I could have been more aggressive, but I lacked the clear upper hand in close combat to warrant bolder movement. On the right flank the unit getting the charge would win, so I needed to make sure, that I get it. Overall an exciting game, that could have been a lot closer, if that miscast didn’t happen in turn 2.

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