Monday 30 October 2023

A little seasonal vampirism with Fantastic Battles

Getting into the spooky season, I took my Night Stalkers (vampires and their ilk) out for a feed against Jim's human Byzernian Empire. The countess summoned her minions, the emperor rallied men to his standards and the stage was set.

The table was laid out as rough moorland to the north of Byzernia - a central hill dominated the battlefield, with large areas of boggy ground, a couple of wooded copses and some fields off to one side where the ground was obviously more forgiving. 

The Byzernians (top, from l. to r.) fielded a two-company unit of skirmishing kern, a three-company unit of mixed shieldwall, spears and bows, a two-company unit of cataphract heavy cavalry, an archangel, three companies in a unit of fierce gallowglass,  a three-company unit of spearmen, two cart-mounted flame-throwers and a unit of three companies of well-equipped skirmishing horsemen hidden in ambush in the woods to the top right.

The Night Stalkers consisted of (bottom, from l. to r.) two companies of dire wolves grouped in a single unit, the same number of werewolves, vampiric knights, and giant vampire bats, followed by a three-company unit of succubi, a four-company unit of ghouls, and the terrifying death coach in the far right.

For objectives, the Byzernians were feeling iconoclastic, and set out to topple three totems - two near enough to their lines, and one way off to the left of the Night Stalkers' lines. The Night Stalkers were tasked with stealing a relic from a troll hoard which was within their own deployment zone. Something they chose to ignore as the 33% chance of losing one of their few characters was considered too big a risk.

The ghouls impulsively ran forwards, causing the Byzernian command some consternation. The Byzernians' own lines were obstructed by the totems which they needed to destroy in order to move forward. That, or change formation and risk getting caught in column.

The death coach moved off to the right, just as the Byzernian light horse emerged from the woods. Despite how it looks, the death coach's terrifying trait, together with the cavalry being skirmishers caught in the open, meant that the attack dice were even. The cavalry, however, did have a lot more resolve, so in the war of attrition, there was only one way it could end.

In the centre, the vampiric flying division advanced more cautiously, as the Byzernian gallowglass made their way up the hill to topple a totem.

Something they achieved in short order, thus freeing up their full frontage for a winged onslaught.

The gallowglasses were obviously distracted when the succubi hit them as the mortal men caused little damage, and what they did was restored immediately as they broke and fled, leaving the succubi to feast on the fallen after only one round of melee.

Back on the right, the ghouls rushed in (could write a song about that... Wise man says, only ghouls rush in... never mind). It was a foolish move, but not something that could be heled given their impulsive nature. The flame-throwers evaded, while the Byzernian angel flew down to assist the spearmen.

Meanwhile, on the left the impetuous Byzernian kern had thrown themselves forward into the dire wolves, and the mixed spear and bow unit charged and caught the werewolves. Not wanting to be caught against spearmen in shieldwall, the vampire knights changed formation into a column to start making their way around them.

Overall, the battle was still very much on a knife edge. The small vampiric army was more or less pinned in place, except in the centre where the succubi had scattered the gallowglasses. Both the ghouls and the death coach were in difficult situations, but the left flank was looking stronger.

The Byzernian cataphracts moved forward in such a way that they could not be hit in the flank this turn, only for them to be hit in the flank. The succubi changed formation into column, and then with the assistance of a haste spell, made contact with the cataphracts. The column of vampire knights also charged, thus pinning the Byzernians in place.

The werewolves conformed to better fight the spearmen to their front, as the dire wolves scattered the kern, feasting on the dead to restore lost resolve.

At the same moment, the death coach was overwhelmed, and the ghouls then broke and fled. The entire right flank of the vampiric army was gone. The Byzernian army had lost five companies against its break point of ten. The Night Stalkers had also lost five companies, but had a lower breakpoint of just nine.

It was now a race against time as the Night Stalkers on the left prepared to fully envelope their victims.

The Byzernian left flank units closed in, moving slowly but unhindered across the open ground, as the vampires, wolves and succubi closed on the Byzernian right.

The attacks from front and flank proved too much for the cataphracts who scattered before they could be relieved.

On the far left of the Night Stalker line, the Byzernian emperor fought a galliant last stand with his spearmen, surrounded as they were on three sides. However, no level of heroics could save him under the circumstances and his spearmen too scattered, taking the emperor with them and bringing the Byzernians to their breaking point.

This was a very enjoyable, fast and fierce fight. The Night Stalkers as I run them are proverbial glass cannons, brutal but brittle. If they can win melees, they can restore enough resolve to fight the next, but if they come off second best in a melee, they crumble like a vampire on a sunny day. Both Jim and I forgot things that would have been to our own advantages - my night march strategy, his magic-user's ability to cast magic... The risk of  gaming after a long week I suppose!

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