Monday, June 13, 2011

Kings Of War: Dwarves Vs. Undead

by SandWyrm

Mrs. SandWyrm is out of town again this week, so I had to get my gaming in on Sunday at the GP South. Where EvilTed (aka Archfiend of Dezdemon) was up for trying out Kings of War with his Undead. So I packed up my Dwarves and headed down to Greenwood.

My Dwarf List

Here's the 1500 point list I came up with:
    Infantry (Shooty)
145  Ironwatch Regiment (20) w/Banner, Musician
90    Ironwatch Troop (10) w/Banner, Rifles
90    Ironwatch Troop (10) w/Banner, Rifles
For the uninitiated, that's one large 20-man unit of Crossbows, represented by my Rangers. Plus two 10-man units of Rifles. The larger unit has some staying power, while the smaller units put out the same number of shots but are easier to run off.
    Infantry (Non-Shooty)
265    Ironwatch Hoarde (40) w/Banner, Musician
135    Ironwatch Regiment (20) w/Banner, Musician
205    Berserkers Regiment (20) w/Banner, Musician
150    Shieldbreakers Regiment (20) w/Banner, Musician
The first two units are of regular Dwarves with single-handed weapons and shields for holding the line. While the Berserkers (Slayers), and Shieldbreakers (Double Handed Weapons) are my more killy, but less resilient infantry.
    War Engines
70    Ironbelcher Cannon
70    Ironbelcher Cannon
70    Ironbelcher Organ Gun
Pretty self explanatory. 2 Cannons for killing at range, and an Organ Gun for twice the killy up close. Did I mention that I hate cavalry? :)
130    King
50    Warsmith
30    Army Standard Bearer
The King is a close-combat monster that's very hard to wound. He's also Inspiring, meaning he lets units within 6" re-roll failed Nerve (Leadership) checks. Which is huge.

The Warsmith is weak in combat, but makes any War Machine within 6" elite, meaning I get to re-roll one miss or failed wound per shot. Plus I figured I could put him in the way of something coming after my cannons.

The Army Standard Bearer is also weak, but he's inspiring. So he'll help hold the other side of the line.
Total: 1500 Points
I don't know what the norm is in 8th Edition Fantasy Battle at 2000-2500 points, but this army is about the same size, model-wise, as what I used to run in 3rd and 5th at 2K.

EvilTed's Undead List

Hey! Kings of War has Army Builder support. Who knew? Be careful though, we did find an error in the number of attacks that were listed for the Skeleton Spearmen. It should be 20/25, not 20/30.

So what we have here is two 40-man blocks of Skeleton spearmen, and a huge 60-man block of zombies. For offense, he has a unit of 10 Skeleton Cavalry, and a small 5-man unit of flying Wraiths.

For long range support, he has a Catapult. While his heroes consist of a Necromancer (movement/healer/shooty support unit), a Liche King (Necromancer on Steroids), and a very close-combat killy Revenant King, who can also aid movement.

The Game

I let Ted set up the terrain, as I was afraid I'd add too much. We rolled up a 'Kill and Pillage' mission, which is just battle points + 100 pts for each objective you control at the end of the game. We rolled up 7 objectives, 6 of which use green markers. The 7th is the house with the orange roof.

I won the roll for side and put a unit down. Then Ted did the same. Since I had more units, I was able to be canny with my placement until he ran out. Then I could put down an entire flank at once, just as I used to do in Fantasy Battle.

Kings of War plays quick. We got well into the 2nd turn before I remembered to start taking pictures. As you can see, EvilTed is marching his Cavalry and blocks right at me. With the Wraiths moving down the far side of the table behind the houses.

Where I placed some rifles so that they could cover the approach. They didn't do much damage to the Wraiths, but their Nerve is quite low. So every point counts. This ended up forcing the Wraiths into a frontal assault on my blocks instead of flying around my backfield.

The Bolt Thrower is a Cannon Proxy. :)

I threw a few shots at EvilTed's catapult on the first turn, but after that everything I had went into the Cavalry, which was the most dangerous threat he had. He goes after my Organ Gun in return, but only does one wound.

The Rifles, Organ Gun, and Cannons do their job, and the Skeleton Cavalry breaks.  Whew!

Now I just need to kill all this infantry.

EvilTed hits me on the left flank with the Wraiths and starts a back-and-forth that will last for the rest of the game. The Wraiths don't have much Nerve, but I need 6's to wound them. In return they'll keep doing one wound to my unit and stealing back the life to heal themselves. But they won't do enough damage overall to make me run.



EvilTed's Skeleton catapult (proxied) finally breaks my Organ Gun. I should have remembered that the Warsmith is inspiring for War Machines. That would have let me force EvilTed to roll the Nerve test again.

The foul Undead blocks finally get close enough for me to charge them. My killy flank is the Berserkers and Shield Breakers, supported by my King. They run head-on into the Zombies and do 18 wounds, which is 2 points over their Nerve. While their Banner cancels out my musicians. So they have a roughly 60% chance to run with the re-roll from the Revenant King.

They Waver (can't shoot or charge), but the Zombies (like most Undead) ignore wavering. Damn!

My large block of 40 charges his Skeleton spearmen in the center, but only does 6 points of damage. Which is nowhere near enough to worry the unit. Both sides in that fight are more resilient than killy.

We're not quite there on the left. Both of us are making mistakes here, as we didn't realize that charging wasn't slowed by terrain and that it allowed a free wheel.

EvilTed charges back and does some damage. I pick up the damage dice without thinking. But things are about equal in the center. While on the right, the Slayers get hit with 5 or 6 wounds. Their Nerve is 12 though, which is only one less than my big block of 40. So no worries.

The important dynamic here is that you can only charge one unit on one unit. So a big block facing 2-3 smaller blocks or heroes has to pick it's target carefully. While 2-3 smaller units can gang up on a larger block. So if you want to kill, you need smaller blocks. While if you want to defend or tie up an opponent, you take large blocks. It's pretty interesting.

(Side Note: One of the insidiously brilliant things about the KoW ruleset is how WHFB and 40K players keep walking up and asking why you're not removing dead models from the blocks. It's quite the conversation starter. We spent as much time answering questions about the game and comparing it to Fantasy as we spent playing it. We even had a couple of guys hang around and watch with real interest.)

Eventually I was able to break the center block of Skeleton Spearmen with my big block and a flank charge (double attacks!) from the Shieldbreakers. While my King and the Berzerkers cleaned up the Zombies.

I was then able to charge one of his characters with my big block (bye!) and Waver the other with cannon fire.

 End of Game. The Dwarves win hands down.

The Second Game

What? I told you it was a fast game. Even with all the talking we did it only took about 2 hours. EvilTed was eager for another go.

He did a quick trade of his Liche King for a less expensive Necromancer. Which free up enough points for a 2nd Catapult. He then deployed only slightly differently than he did before. He also re-read the charge rules, the proper application of which would help him quite a bit.

EvilTed swapped the Zombies into the center alongside the Skeleton Cav, putting his Spearmen on both flanks.

This time I deployed my King one unit further to the center and put the 2nd unit of Rifles up on the line. I figured the 20-strong block of Ironclads could deal with the Wraiths as they did last game.

Big mistake. Without the Rifles to scare them, the Wraiths were free to zoom up and threaten my flank. I could wheel about to face them, but if they're not in LOS to the unit champion when you begin your move, you can't charge. Uh oh...

In the center, my artillery once again (with some help from the Rifles and Crossbows) ran off the Cavalry. EvilTed really should have sent them down a flank instead.


Wraiths aside, my left flank looks secure. While I expect to do a repeat performance on the right. This time with my King getting double attacks for a flank charge on the Spearmen.

The Wraiths go "Hey! We can charge 20" through the air! Why are we over here on the flank?". They then charge a cannon. Ugh!

There's not a whole lot I can do about it. I can wheel a Rifle unit around, but they can't fire if they didn't have the target in LOS to start with. The other cannon is shaken, and the organ gun was destroyed already by catapult fire.

Bye bye cannon.

Like a proper Imperial Guard player, I put the Warsmith between the other cannon and the Wraiths, but there's enough room for them to fit between him and the cannon, so they fly-charge right past him. I should have charged the Warsmith in instead. :(

My King, Shieldbreakers, and Berserkers do a lot of damage to the Skeleton spearmen on the right, but the Undead hold. In return they bend the Berserkers over and suck enough life out of them to repair half of their damage. Along with some healing from a Necromancer.

I charge in with the King and the Shieldbreakers, but the Skeletons still hold. Damn!

The Skeletons on the left hold too. This isn't good.

It's my turn to get flank-charged. My big block sucks it up though.

Another charge.

This time the Berserkers run. The Skellies get a free wheel and make rude gestures at my King. ;)

Somehow, my Crossbowmen still hold. 

My King ignores the jeering Skellies and joins the big block in charging the Zombies, but to no avail.

My Warsmith charges the Wraiths in the rear (Triple Attacks!), but whiffs.

The Shieldbreakers clean up the Skeleton Spearmen on the right. HA!

It's the last half of the last turn, and EvilTed charges my big block in the front, side, and rear. Amazingly, they hold! Wow!

Game Over.

The Dwarves have killed more, but the point difference is less than 300 (20% of game size), so officially it's a draw.

This game went faster, at slightly over an hour. Even with many stops to check rules. EvilTed and I agreed that if we knew the rules better and were more practiced, we could get a game like this done in just 30-40 minutes. That's pretty impressive, as I don't feel like we were any less challenged than we would be with the WHFB ruleset.


We both agreed that the games we played were fast and a lot of fun.

His Take:

EvilTed commented specifically on how he liked the reliability of the Undead magic. In 8th Edition WHFB he says that the increased randomness of the magic phase (while "a lot of fun") can be very frustrating for an army like his that depends on magic to get things done. He brought up the example of one wizard's miscast destroying all the spell dice for the casters on both sides. Which is, he said, one of the lesser possible results of miscasting in 8th.

In KoW, on the other hand, he just casts his heal or movement spells and they only vary on how much damage they heal or how many extra inches of movement they give. So he can plan ahead with those boosts in mind. He also loved how the undead heal one damage for every point of damage they cause in melee.

He also commented on how he didn't have to deal with crazy Dwarven magic (Anvil of Doom) that happens in the shooting phase, where he can't do anything about it. Plus, he said, he didn't "feel like I was having to hack through multiple layers of throw-away barrier Dwarves to reach the 1-2 targets that really mattered.".

List-wise, I think that EvilTed was making decisions (Correct me if I'm wrong Ted!) based on what works for him in 8th, instead of in a KoW context. Hence the small number of large blocks. Whereas I think that a more varied selection of damage-dealers and damage-blockers, with some better tactics, would work wonders for him in KoW. As well as be far more interesting to play with.

He "LOVED" how Heros are always separate from units.

One last thing that EvilTed said stuck with me too. Evidently 8th Edition hasn't gone down well after the initial excitement wore off. He says that the local community (Greenwood?) is now down to just 1-2 other regular players; and that it "wouldn't take a lot of effort to build a decent KoW community out of disaffected WHFB players down here.".

Hmmnnn... I didn't think it was that bad here locally. But I did count less than ten players at the 'Ard Boyz tourney I saw at G2D4.

My Take:

These 1500 point games were a lot more fun and challenging than my little 800 point test game with Farmpunk. I particularly liked that, for once, my Dwarves played like I always thought that they should. As hard, sturdy (But not invincible) infantry backed by cool war machines. Instead of as a speedbump for a unit of mounted Chaos Warriors or Dark Elves on Cold Ones.

Yeah, I know Hero-Hammer is dead and 8th has different imbalances. But that's what I remember when I think of Fantasy. Poor rules leave scars.

While I don't see myself switching away from 40K to KoW, the startup and ongoing rules costs are so low (free), and the first year's model costs so cheap (about $110 to fill out what I have with un-proxied Mantic/GW models) that I'm like "Hey! Why not?".  I spent nearly as much on Space Hulk and I only play that 4-5 times a year.

It just burns me to think of what I've spent on 40K in comparison.


  1. "It just burns me to think of what I've spent on 40K in comparison."

    thus one of the many reasons im done with 40k. lol. at least the orks got a good home.

  2. I think it would be funny to take all GW models into a GW store and then play a game of KoW there to see if the employees noticed.

  3. Just because you've quit buying doesn't mean you have to quit playing (yet). You may need those minis for something else.

  4. @eriochrome

    I'd love to get that on tape! No GW store around here though.

  5. Games are Games. Mini's, Roleplaying and Board. They are all usually pretty good straight from the publisher but its all about house rules and applying a little imagination that make the games classics. To me its like guys who roleplay that can only use stuff if its in a book or supplement. The books should give you a rough idea for you to create your own adventures. So why not do the same with minis. 40k is a hobby with a ton of different levels to appreciate. While some guys like painting and modeling, I am one of those who loves a good story and an epic battle. The 40k has such a rich storyline to draw from and endless ideas for units and armies. Why limit yourself to just what is published by GW. Why not take the time to create your own rules like guard having assault rokkits with the guys you like playing with and just have a good time. Now obviously if your playing in organized events you need a uniform set of rules but then again GW doesn't do much in the way of rules to support organized play anyway. Its a game and is as enjoyable as you want it to be. If you think its lame make it better.

  6. That's fine Strung, but I gravitate to the painting, competition, and the social aspect more than the tell-a-story possibilities. That's probably why I've never played more than a dozen games of D&D. I just never got into the whole group narrative thing. I think too differently from most folks to mesh in nicely.

    I like being able to walk into any store in Indy (or elsewhere) and get a game in with a standard set of rules to follow. Try my best, and talk/laugh about it afterwards. House rules would just keep me confined to one store or basement. No good.

    So honestly, if I find a fun, free rule set that lets me keep playing games with my current friends and a large portion of my current mini collection, then I will drop GW like a fat, diseased whore and help build up that community instead.

    Because frankly, I can't afford GW's crack anymore. My household earns six figures and I can't afford this (my only) hobby. What's that say? Who is GW's target market if I can't afford to keep buying their little plastic men?

  7. Great read. Glad to see some KoW stuff out there. I think it is much better than 8th Ed Fantasy; Now if I can just get a few others to give it a try...

    I love the Mantic models so there is no way I will be buying any more GW Warhmmaer stuff other than rule books. I have enough 40k that I do not need to buy any more; I am sure I will though if they ever release a good Tervigon model...

  8. Two questions:

    - how are wounds counted in those big combats if you're not removing models to represent them?
    - are you removing whole units of sixty dudes in one go?

  9. You tally up wounds caused to u it's with tokens or such. It affects their nerve tests over the course of the game so the more wounds on a unit the more likely they will falter.

    When a unit finally routes they are removed from play. Very large units like my blocks of skeletons and zombies have a fairly high nerve so it requires a lot of wounds to make them break.

    A note Sandwyrm, I was only adding in 5 attacks for spears not 10. Apparently a horde with phalanx gets 10 instead of 5 attacks so army builder was right.

  10. Purgy is tearing at my soul to buy Tyranids. You're trying to get me to spend my hard earned cash on KoW. I hate you all!

  11. @ Bro Lo

    We're urging you to spend LESS monies on a game. You can have TWO KoW armies for the price of those 'nids. *evil*

    heck, I'm liking the idea of having a fantasy army if we can play KoW once a month.

  12. Those games sounded great - I hope they're the first of many!

    I think the idea of having a mix of unit sizes is sound. Combined arms defiantly served the Dwarves well. Really though I'm just really happy to see a rules system where all the armies are pretty well balanced.

    Out of interest, I found a lot of details about Warpath this thread:

    It seems like they're applying a similar formula to their sci-fi game system. You can work out most of the details from the loose talk from the testers.

    The only misgiving I have is unit sizes. I think moving large forces about will be tough when there's no movement trays.

  13. Thanks for this write up. I picked up Dwarf King's Hold as an excuse to see some of their minis first hand, and have a game to play with the kids.

    I would like to toss a question out.

    There are a lot of knick-knacks and do-dads on the sprues. But it still feels like less actual building options, or poses than I'm used to. Like a lot of your army will be the same. Have you found this to be true? On the flip side, they will likely rank up better... I have a largish Empire army still in boxes because it's such a pain to get the minis to rank up!

  14. @BroLo

    I've wanted to start Nids too, but I just can't justify it cost-wise.

    Look at it this way: You can spend $600-$700 (or more) on a Tyrannid army that's currently considered 2nd tier and at the mercy of the GW FAQ gods. Not to mention that it will have to be re-built sometime in the next 1-2 years when 6th comes out.

    Or, you can spend less than half of that on a Mantic KoW army that can also be played (with $100-200 of rule books/yr) in Warhammer Fantasy Battle.

    No contest. This should be a game, not a lifestyle.

    @Inner Geek

    I haven't bought any of Mantic's minis yet. So I don't know what they come with. Maybe someone else can comment on that.

  15. @Inner Geek

    I personally prefer my Dwarf units where the pose is identical. The slayers look great, but it's a real pain to set them up because there's only one puzzle-like order than they can go in and still fit together in a block.

    I'm thinking of magnetizing my Fantasy models to their bases to save time in setting them up.

  16. It's no contest... but those tyranids are so beautiful and with most of the guys around here, 2nd tier would make things more of a competition to be honest. (Note:I'm not saying I'm 'l33t' but, 14 blood claws in an LRC is not 'optimised'... and yes, I've tried to help)

    I do however really like the idea of KoW and it may be enough to keep my mind off of nids before the new BT codex comes out. *waits*

  17. @Korona; you can use movement trays with Mantic figures. At the Mantic open day all the armies were on GW Movement trays! You can even glue all the figures together so it is easier to set up.

    @The Inner Geek; I have the Mantic Undead and find there is a reasonable selection of posses. Not quite as many as GW but enough. You can see my Zombies here -

    @Brother Loring; I love my Nids but I would not recommend someone to buy the army new. Just wait for your Templers.

  18. Really good to see a battle report of KoW. I'll haver to give this a go at some stage.


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