After what can only be described as a 'bit of a week', I settled down for a medicinal game of Fantastic Battles with JB this week. JB reprised his role as Witch-King of some rather nasty and stabby Dark Elves (the dark-armoured evil looking beggars at the top of the pictures), while I assumed the mantle of the Red King leading an army of loveable and - mostly - fluffy beastlings (lower half of the photos).
The battlefield consisted of a range of hills, all covered by either woods of rough ground (snow drifts), with a valley in between, also smattered with snowdrifts. On a whim we called it Murder Valley. What could possibly go wrong? Let me count thy ways!
1) Mishaps to start with. Some of my skirmishing beastlings deserted ahead of the battle, the thegns on their chariots were suffering from mange, and one of the levy blocks were late! The elves only had an enthusiastic unit and two late units.
2) The Red King, with an army using the highlanders trait as a racial trope (giving them melee advantages on hills), and having deployed on a line of hills, decided to advance into the valley below to allow his many, many, shooty troops to come within range.
Throughout the early part of the battle, the Wyrd Sister (beastling magic-user) rode along on the back of one of the moohemoths, doing her little summoning dance and accruing a summoning pool for later use.
On the beastling left, the hare piper (captain) had command of the situation. He sent the remaining skirmishers into a snow drift to pepper a column of menacing elven axemen. His bog trolls, meanwhile, turned their attention to the elven raptor-riders, hurling boulders as round as a man is tall and crushing the elves and raptors with little or no discrimination (in this they were aided by bows of the beastling levy in the centre). The hare piper kept the mjowls in the rear ready as a mobile reserve. Everything was going to plan!
3) The Dark Elves had a couple of scout companies with the emerge trait. They were intended to burst-forth from the snow drift and pin the skirmishers in place to await the advancing axemen. Unfortunately, they did not emerge in the desired location. Instead, they came up under the hare piper, whom they promptly assassinated!
4) The beastling left flank was now entirely out of command. While the skirmishers and bog trolls held their ground sensibly, the loss of the piper (and the sudden arrival of the elven scouts) clearly spooked the mjowls who turned tail and fled. As fast flyers, they made it almost the table edge in the one more and then, in the next turn (and still out of command), they continued to fly off!
In the centre, the loss of the elven raptor-riders opened the way for the beastling thegn chariots to hurl themselves against the Witch-King himself (and his giant dragon). They were promptly joined in the melee by the elven blood cauldron which tipped the balance somewhat to the elves.
On the right, after firing off several volleys of arrows, the beastling levy were charged by a unit of crazes witch-elves. The moohemoths moved forward to threaten the flank of a unit of spearmen, but were prevented from engaging when another unit of elven scouts emerged from the snow drift (this time arriving where intended).
On the left, the elven scouts turned around and hit the beastling skirmishers from the rear while the axemen continued their steady advance. The bog trolls (now within the command range of the Red King himself) turned around to face them, but it all looked a bit too late to save the skirmishers.
In the centre, the beastling chariotry were holding on by pure grim determination, struggling to cause fits against the Witch-King's dragon. To the right, the moohemoths charged the scouts, while the Wyrd Sister finally unleashed her summoned fury, creating a large unit of poisonous shroomlings to hold up the elven swordsmen. On the extreme right, the witch-elves and the beastling levy were both a whisper away from breaking.
5) The beastling chariots scattered, as the moohemoths, fresh from trampling the elven scouts, attacked the flank of the spear unit. In the following turn, the dragon, flush with it;s own victory, swept into the flank of the moohemoths. The doughty bovines could not resist the dragon's attack and broke, causing a ripple of resolve loss than causing the nearby levy to break as well, thus spelling the end of the beastling's hope for victory.
6) ... and because he could (she could? I don't know, its sometimes hard to tell with elves...), the Dark Elf rogue attacked the squirrel captain who had been commanding the Red King's centre, quickly aiding the global decline of the red squirrely population.
And thus, it came to be revealed how Murder Valley got its name. At the end of the battle, the Red King still lived, with a unit of levy and his bog trolls still in good order, together with the shroomlings. All other beastling forces (including three captains) had fallen or fled. The Witch-king stood/flew victorious, halvng lost only the flattened raptor-riders and a unit of scouts to the moohemoths.
So to summarise the learning points:
1) Not much I could have done about the mishaps. Bad days happen.
2) When you have an advantage with terrain, use it! There was no need for mee to advance as the elves were the attackers and were badly out-bowed. They would have had to come to me anyway, and across poor terrain!
3) The death of the hare piper proved, ultimately, catastrophic. But it played out as such a beautiful narrative part of the battle, that his death will be remembered through the generations!
4) Bad things happen when you lose command of your army.
5) At the climax of a game, the ripple of resolve loss can prove costly. Rally with forethought.
6) Some Dark Elves are just evil wee bastards.