Vanguard Path of Conquest – Nords Milestone 3
From the frozen tundra of the north, the Nords are on the march. This month, the force grows yet again with the addition of a Shaman and another regiment of Stalkers. This is a relatively small milestone, designed to add yet another Nord character to the game and help flesh out the ranged options that his budding Nord army brings to the table. If you’re just joining us for this month’s article, the first article in the series can be found here (https://www.underspire.net/factions/nords/a-tale-of-four-gamers-nords/), and the second milestone’s article can be found here (https://www.underspire.net/painting-hobbying/vanguard-path-of-conquest-nords-part-ii/). You can also follow along the #PathofConquest through Para Bellum’s guide here (https://www.para-bellum.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/PathOfConquest_Program.pdf). If you’ve followed my guide so far, you’ve purchased the Nords’ Start Playing box 1 and 2 and have a solid backbone of units available from which to build a strong Nord army. For this month and milestone, you will need to purchase the Shaman and a box of Stalkers. You should have an extra three trays of Ugr available, but for the purposes of discussion, I’m going to speak directly to the third milestone that Para Bellum has produced.
I had already purchased and assembled the miniatures through Milestone 3 before I had published the previous month’s article on Milestone 2. I mentioned then that I’d love to get everything painted before the end of Milestone 3. I succeeded! I am not an expert painter by any stretch, and my purposes in painting are simply to make miniatures look good enough on the table. I want enough variety in them that they have a unique feel, but I can be prone to overthinking. For example, when I painted 100 Kingdoms Men-at-Arms, I ended up painting three different schemes with the idea that they belonged either to the Imperial forces, my foot noble warlord, or my cavalry noble warlord. The reality of putting the units on the table meant that units with different schemes ended up grouping up with those of a different paint schemes. I learned my lesson then, and decided that I wanted a simpler approach to the Nords, settling on green and blue as the two cloth colors that would define my Nord armies.
Game Report: 1250 points of Nords versus 1250 points of Spires
We don’t just want to buy, collect, assemble, and paint our miniatures. We buy into the game to put it on the table and play it. So as with last month, I created a list from Milestone 3 of the #PathofConquest. I then created an opposing list of Spires (last month I did 100 Kingdoms) and played a game out with it. Here, I opted for Head-to-Head and used terrain generator list I created to place terrain on the battlefield. I used the 4×4 field of play, which I find works well at 1250 and below. At 1500, you probably want to increase the size of your playing field or you won’t have much room to maneuver. The terrain ended up being open in one quarter, light ponds (water) in two of the quarters (yeah, lucky rolls for that), and then a very dense rocky section in the final quarter of the field, both deemed broken and hindering terrain.
Nords Starter List (1250 points)
Blooded : Massive Frame
– Stalkers (3) : Leader, Standard Bearer
– Stalkers (3) : Leader, Standard Bearer
Jarl : Select as Warlord, Mistcaller’s Raiment
– Raiders (3) : Shield Biter, Standard Bearer
– Ugr (3) 
– Mountain Jotnar (1) 
Shaman : Mist Weave
– Raiders (3) 
The Spires Challenger List (1250 points)
High Clone Executor : Select as Warlord, Tier 1, Marksmanship, Fire and Advance, Biotic Hive
– Vanguard Clone Infiltrators (3) : Leader
– Vanguard Clones (4) : Assault Preceptor, Standard Bearer, Leader
– Marksman Clones (3) : Standard Bearer, Leader
– Vanguard Clones (4) : Assault Preceptor, Standard Bearer, Leader
Biomancer : Sensory Augmentation, Unstable Enhancement
– Force-Grown Drones (4) 
In setting up the opposing Spires force, I wanted something good, but not something that I had fully gamed out to be a strenuous challenge. I knew this would be more of an uphill match. The Nords were considered underpowered with their current units, especially against Dweghom and Spires, but I had not played them on the table yet and I wanted to see how much.
Round 1 saw four Nord lights enter the game. Both Raiders made their rolls. The Stalkers used Flank to enter the table. This meant that the Nords had 7 cards in their stack on the first turn. Meanwhile, the Spires brought a single light regiment, the Vanguard Clone Infiltrators onto the table, in the hopes that this regiment could do enough to stem the huge onslaught of Nords that had appeared. Round-2 proved less interesting for deployment, as no Nord units (only the Ugr) succeeded in their rolls, but the Spires were able to bring their remaining light regiment and one of their mediums on, opting for a regiment of Vanguard Clones. At this point, the Vanguard Clone Infiltrators and Stalkers were in chipping distance of each other, but the engagement was taking place over the dense rocks, so charges were difficult. Ultimately, that kept the Raiders away from the Infiltrators and enabled them to do steady damage to the Stalkers. While this was a losing proposition in the end for the VCI, they managed to scamper away with a couple of models on their final stand and avoid elimination.
Round-3 saw the Jarl Supremacy limit both sides to no further reinforcements. At this point, it looked like everything about the Nord gameplan was in full effect. They were moving across the field rapidly, were up against a fewer number of regiments, and had the hopes of crushing those regiments before both sides brought new reinforcements next round. Furthermore, the Ugr would be able to enter behind the light regiments far upfield. I was really pleased with how this game was playing out. Sadly, the Spires had the right tools. The Biomancer used Unstable Enhancement to advance the Vanguard Clones. While they were bound to be destroyed by the Nord counterattacks, this critical first activation meant the destruction of one of the Raider units and its commanding Jarl. While I should have thought about their positioning and the overall level of threat in this match-up a bit more carefully, it is clear to me that the Unstable Enhancement of those Vanguard Clones would have eliminated a unit. Both sides claimed a single secondary objective, leaving the score 5-2 at the end of the round in favor of the Spires. This was really the high point of the game for the Nords and the fairly dramatic turning point toward the spires.
Round-4 saw all remaining reinforcements enter the game. But by this point, the pathway of the Spires to 8 points was broad. They needed merely to kill three units, with many of the Nord units whittled down, and a strong Spire ranged unit entering the table, and a strong Spire infantry unit able to hold up any more Nord counter attacks. The rest of the game ultimately proved not worth commenting on in detail. The Spires extended their lead, 7-2 on the fourth round, before winning 9-3 on round-5.
Lessons from the Game
As a long-standing Dweghom player, you really feel the difference between high armor and low armor. Units come off the table very quickly. Some key points: Stalkers are a good light harass unit, but you really feel the point loss if you have to go up against something stronger than most factions’ light units. While the Volley score of 3 increases their hits, extra hits do not translate into a lot more damage against armor. The rerolls are nice, and they can start chipping and whittling units like Vanguard Clone Infiltrators. Just note that they won’t trade very effectively with them. Some of the points that you pay for Stalkers represent the intangible benefits of Flank and Vanguard. These are good in their own right, but it falls upon you the player to make the most of them.
The outcome of the game overshadowed what I consider to be two great truths regarding the Nords. First, the Nords are glass cannons. Glass cannons are a very tough design concept to get right, and they tend to either do very well, or very badly, with little room for close victories. So read the 9-3 loss with a grain of salt. Second and perhaps most importantly, another scenario would have altered the results, possibly drastically.
First, on the Maelstrom/Pincer objective, the Nords are securing both two-point objectives on turn-2, since their medium characters in light regiments can score. There’s almost nothing the Spires could do with a single regiment of Vanguard Clone Infiltrators and the Nord ability to wait out activations against them. There is also a decent chance that they score both objectives again on turn-3. It is precisely in a scenario like this, where regiments are not on the board to contest or score objectives that the Jarl’s supremacy ability shines. It is hard to foresee a situation where the outcome would have been anything other than a Nord victory between turns 3-5.
Finally, on the Breakthrough objective, the central question becomes whether the Nords are able to dominate one of the two objectives on the other side of the map while making a credible threat to the other. Deployment would have been different for both factions. The central question is whether the Jarl Supremacy and lack of board presence on T3 for the Spires might have resulted in the Nords claiming a 2 point objective, placing them squarely in the lead for those points. And then whether the arrival of Spires units would cripple the Nord advance fast enough that they’d stall out at 6-7 points (and I always adjust the scenario points as printed to 8 points, as per the other objectives).
There’s no way to know for sure, but whenever you hear talk about the Nords being underpowered, few people have the requisite experience to be making those pronouncements, and nearly all of us play with different terrain set-ups, adjustments to the scenarios for balance, and with opponents of differing skill levels. In short, I think Head-to-Head is a tough Nord match-up right now, especially when another faction needs only establish enough defensive presence to get all of their units on the table. In those circumstances, any advantage from a rush of light units or a Jarl supremacy are lost. Those same lists that are auto-winning on Head-to-Head are likely auto-losing the Maelstrom objectives.
Overall, the game was fun, and if you’re ok with casual games, playing the Nords with these units from their launch and early releases is going to be fun.
Next month, we’ll look to expand our forces by another 300 points. If you’ve been following my buying guide, then you already have the regiment of Ugr recommended in the #PathofConquest. At the present, I already have a regiment of Raiders, which I may use instead of the recommended Jotnar. This expansion doesn’t bring us any new units, but it does allow us to put a few more regiments on the table or expand the regiments we do have. For next months’ game, the Nords will face off against the mighty Dweghom!