Vanguard Path of Conquest: Nords
The time of raiding is at hand, and our Nord armies must expand yet again in order to plunder more lands of their riches. In the previous months, we set up three characters, the warlord Jarl, his Blooded support, and his spiritual Shaman. We started building their basic warbands and reached a place where we could comfortably play 1250 points. If you’ve just bought into the Nords and are looking at a good way to give yourself diversity on the table, then following the first three milestones allows you to put a lot of different units on the table, and to put doubles of some regiments on the table, such as Raiders or Stalkers. In the present milestone, we’re looking at expanding the total trays of the units that we already have.
Milestone 4 is also the first point where it really makes sense to deviate from the suggested path. In fact, the milestones are loose guideposts, and you might find yourself buying different units based on interest or simply what you happen to have caught on sale. In fact, at the present, I am actually a Mountain Jotnar short of the 4th Milestone, but I happen to find myself in possession of not one, but two additional regiments of Ugr, and I have also picked up an additional regiment of Raiders. All of these units are enough to take us to 1500 points comfortably. In fact, if I decide to use all of the trays, regiments and add upgrades, I can build lists of around 1700 points.
As with the previous months, I’ve elected to build a list and then play it against one of the other factions. I’ve decided to work backwards to 1500 points and largely work with low upgrades. Since I’ve already played a game against the Spires and 100 Kingdoms, this month, we will take on the mighty Dweghom. As with previous months, I will be building my Dweghom list to explore some of the upgrade options and style, and less like the Dweghom list I’m currently using in the TableTop Simulator tournament.
Nord List, 1495 points
Jarl : Select as Warlord
– Raiders (3) 
– Ugr (4) : Standard Bearer
– Ugr (3) : Standard Bearer
Blooded : Wolf
– Stalkers (3) : Standard Bearer, Leader
– Mountain Jotnar (1) 
– Stalkers (3) : Leader
Shaman : Blurred Vision, Mist Weave
– Raiders (3) : Standard Bearer, Shield Biter
This list is not complicated. One of the Nord strengths is simply putting many regiments on the table. The list aims to use Stalkers to dart across the board on Turn-1, setting up good reinforcement position for the Ugr on turn-2 or turn-3, and ultimately the Mountain Jotnar on turn-4. I’ve also seen the Jarl Supremacy limit enemy reinforcements considerably on turn-3, and I’d like to keep exploring that dimension of the Nord builds. Furthermore, I’m going to select one of the new scenarios that Para Bellum has offered its players to test in the current Table-Top Simulator tournament.
Enchanted Landscape is a bit like Breakthrough from the book, but scoring points requires you to control both objectives on your side of the board instead of just one. It also adds one central objective. The wildcard for this scenario is that you get points for removing character command cards.
The Dweghom, 1495
Tempered Sorcerer : Tier 1, Focused, Graft of Fire, Fireball
– Hold Ballistae (3) 
– Inferno Automata (3) 
– Fireforged (3) : Flamecaster, Leader
– Inferno Automata (3) 
Tempered Steelshaper : Select as Warlord, Tier 2, Tier 1, Tier 1, Fuelled by the Furnace, Flaming Weapon, Unmake Armor
– Fireforged (4) : Herald of Fire, Standard Bearer, Leader
This list explores how a non-Warlord Sorcerer plays (fewer points than in my Warlord lists, but less damage potential. It secondarily looks at a Steelshaper built for melee combat who also robustly functions as the warlord. The rest of the list works with units from the Warband. There’s an argument to be made that we should explore the game more than getting used to power builds, because those builds may find themselves out of favor as the game evolves, but if you’ve practiced using a unit like Automata around the board, then you may find yourself in a unique position later.
The first round was a bit dull. Despite the high number of light units on each side, only a single regiment passed their reinforcement rolls. The Dweghom elected to push their own reinforcement lines by bringing Inferno Automata onto the map. The Nords brought the Jarl and Raiders on. The reasoning for this is that the Jarl generally wants to trigger his Supremacy ability on T2 so that it applies for T3 (The Supremacy phase where you choose to apply your ability occurs BEFORE you roll for command cards, so this is the only way). In order to do that, he’s actually got to be on the map. Otherwise, Stalkers would have been a better choice.
Round 2 brought some good rolls for the Nords. All of the Nord lights entered the game. One regiment of Ugr succeeded in their reinforcement roll. The remaining Dweghom Lights entered, but no Fireforged entered the game. This led to a tough situation where two regiments of Automata were up against five regiments of Nords, plus all three Nord characters. Moreover, since this objective involves scoring points, it left the Nords with the chance to dictate the flow of the game by starting to score points, securing a single point in turn-2.
Round-3 brought the full effects of the Jarl’s supremacy. The two Fireforged regiments would normally enter on a 3+, but instead, only succeeded on a 5+. This was enough to keep both of them off the map, further limiting the Dweghom ability to score points. On this 44×44 map, you start feeling the cramping effect of 1500 points. You basically have three lanes of approach and then your regiments start bumping into each other. In fact, one regiment of Raiders ended up behind a regiment of Stalkers. Inferno Automata delivered the first wounding of the game, smashing into Stalkers on a charge. The Dweghom Sorcerer and Ballista starting shooting at the other Stalker regiment on the central objective, but the Nords still scored an additional two points to go up 3-0. In retrospect, the proper way to play this objective as the Dweghom would be to concentrate all three regiments on the center objective and play smash-mouth. Both Automata are going to die, but they would need to bleed out more points in Nord units before they go, which is possible with characters in regiments of Stalkers and Raiders, and the odds on favorite to win the first move during these critical rounds.
Round 4 brought all remaining regiments onto the table. The Fireforged entered automatically. The Mountain Jotnar succeeded at his roll. The Fireforged were still too far away to critically impact the game, however, resulting in another 2 points for the Nords, and a 5-2 score. In this scenario, the player wins by securing 7 victory points. The Dweghom were successful in claiming their two objectives and in removing a character card. The Nords retained control of the central objective, and were able to use a combination of Ugr and the Jotnar to control the objectives on their own side. While the Nords struggled against the mighty Dweghom defense, they managed to save the game by holding up the regiments of the Dweghom at key points and prevent them from advancing toward the objectives.
Round 5 saw the Nords pick up one additional point, the central objective. The critical moment came when a regiment of Ugr moved and then charged the Hold Ballista to pin them in place and keep the Fireforged behind them off the center objective. This had the added goal of attempting to score an additional victory point by removing the Hold Ballista and the Sorcerer attached to it. Furthermore, it caused just enough disruption to prevent a Dweghom point on their own objectives. The score stood at 6-3. I didn’t realize at the time that the required score was 7 points, so I ended up almost starting round-8 before I realized that the Nords had actually won the game at the end of Round-6, when the final score stood at 8-4.
Evaluating the Outcome
At the moment in the community, we have a large number of discussions. These include: 1. Hero-Hammer. 2. Size of the Game-board. 3. Influence of Heavy units on the game 4. The overall competitiveness of the Nords. 5. Balance in the scenarios. Some of these intersect, in that how influential heavy units are depends upon the size of the game-boards, and it is clear from the games I’ve played with Nords that they are more competitive in some scenarios than in others.
If you’ve been in the community long, you know that Para Bellum initially announced the game as 4 feet by 4 feet, but the entire community found this too limited for taste and had opted to go to 6 feet by 4 feet for all games above 1500 points. In other words, what the community has done and how it has experienced the game does not seem to match exactly what Para Bellum intended for the game. Ultimately, people play a game to have fun, and if something doesn’t feel fun, such as the size of the game-board, they’ll adjust it on their own. In conflict with this tendency to adjust the game is the competing desire to have the feeling of playing the same game as everyone else. Now, there are good signs that Para Bellum intends to address these issues in the future and I eagerly await their announcements. Let me address these issues with respect to the present game and provide just one perspective.
In the game above, the Dweghom heroes were kitted out to be powerhouses. In the actual game, the melee Steelshaper didn’t and wasn’t likely going to get a meaningful attack off. By the time he came into melee contact with anything, the other Dweghom forces had already whittled those regiments down. The Dweghom Sorcerer got off several meaningful shots, but also wasn’t kitted out to be the most powerful Dweghom Sorcerer. On a non-Warlord damage Sorcerer, clearly Coruscation would have allowed more range to chip away at incoming Nord units. Magus would have strengthened the extra die that he gets from Graft of Fire, but by itself, Graft of Fire was not a problem. He also failed every resolve test he made with Graft of Fire, though he only made three spell attacks, so he didn’t kill himself on spell rolls. I’d say that this particular Sorcerer build did the particular kind of damage I’d expect out of it for the points invested, was vulnerable enough to being removed (and actually removed in the game). In any revision of the character-side of the game, I’d generally expect a build like this to stay on the table. One game doesn’t prove enough about Hero-hammer, but it does show that other factors exist in the game.
The size of the game board is a complicated one. The pro for a larger game board Is the game really does feel cramped. The Nord units especially bumped into each other quickly. The other pro is that flanking maneuvers become real possibilities on a larger game board. While some have highlighted that on a small board, you end up effectively with three lanes, on the larger board, you can end up with two or three separate battles with no real way for units in one sector to influence those in another. On the smaller board, you get more of a feel of a single force approaching the entire enemy force and clashing with them. There’s more of a line abreast. My sense for this specific scenario is that at 2000 points, it really needs to play at 60×44, which seems to be the upper end of size that Para Bellum is approaching. Some of the community’s balance complaints also seem to stem from playing on the larger sized maps. There is more room for range units to impact the game there, less room for them to hide, and the same for magic units. The jury is out, but I’d definitely like to play more games at 2000 points at the smaller table sizes and report how they seem to play. I think some maps and scenarios might possibly work well at 44×44, but this objective wasn’t an ideal one for that.
The influence of Heavy units comes down to the scenario. First, I liked that in order to score, you have to secure both objectives on your side of the map. This delayed scoring for a turn and kept the overall points down. But at 7 points, it still played a little too fast. I didn’t like the feeling that the Nords would have been tabled and tabled decisively on turn-8, but lucked into winning the game on points before then. The Jarl supremacy also had the effect of reducing the Fireforged’ chances of entering, so that they entered turn-4, the same turn most heavies would enter the map. That’s fine by itself, but it left the win feeling a little gimmicky. I generally like games where the outcome reflects the intelligent decisions of the player rather than the luck of the reinforcement rolls. In the end, a speedy heavy would have had a huge impact on the game, whereas a slow ponderous ranged Fireforged did not. On the other hand, the game was already tilting by the time turn-5 rolled around and Heavy regiments might have influenced the game. And we have to remember that adding more heavy regiments to either side would have affected the number of light regiments at the start of the game. A 44×44 inch would definitely have helped them have a clearer impact, so the jury is still out there.
Then, I really liked how this scenario offered a variety of pathways to points. You could secure your own objectives, secure the center objectives, or kill characters. Keeping your own characters in secure regiments is going to prove central to denying our opponents points in the long run. It might also have been a better deployment strategy to put both Automata into the middle where they could cross the centerline, charge, and clash, disrupting the approach long enough for the Ballista and two Fireforged to pick up points. But it was clear that to play this objective well, you really need more places that you can score in your list, and that means a medium character in a light or an additional medium regiment. I think this is a solid and strong scenario, but I do look forward to playing at 2000 points on a 60×44. In my experience, 1500 plays solidly, but you are usually short of a tool or two that feels more meaningful at 2000 points. For example, you can get that extra medium or heavy regiment in your list at 2000 points. A third character and two regiments could be very impactful. If you recognize that your regiments are going to cross the map, clash pretty quickly, and that your light regiments are especially going to die, thereby clearing space for their medium and heavy regiments behind them, then I think the smaller table size can play well. It will simply take the community adjusting to playing the game a bit differently.
Finally, we touch on the competitiveness of the Nords. The Nords took this one. This wasn’t the perfect Dweghom list, I had it toned down a bit, though perhaps I should play with my Nord units on this objective against my TTS list. The Hold Raegh is a bit more melee competitive than the Steelshaper, and my warlord Sorcerer is built to rip out the damage. Still, something like the outcome of the present game is a real possibility: the Nords end up stepping on an objective early, scoring points, and then race to a point where the Dweghom cannot catch up. I feel I’ve got a few more options in that list than in the present one, but I do think the Nords have chances on any scenario that is based around scoring points, and I do think the Nord Jarl is as competitive and meaningful as the Blooded as a Warlord. The Blooded offers flank to his entire warband when he is warlord, and while it is obvious that getting onto the map earlier rather than later is more useful, I suspect people remain skeptical about whether the Jarl’s supremacy will be meaningful in a game. You’re basically taking Medium regiments and making them heavy on the critical T3, and keeping heavy regiments off the table that turn. That’s a pretty sizeable and meaningful step. And if people are going to complain about heavy regiments coming on late, then the Jarl’s supremacy is powerfully impactful in the same way and is likely to affect several critical regiments every game.
I expect to have all the units assembled, painted and ready to play in preparation for the final two Milestones. Since I was missing I Jotnar, I effectively traded a regiment of Raiders for the Jotnar of milestone 4. So in the next article, we’ll get that second Jotnar in there and we’ll add our final regiment of Raiders to the list. We look forward to seeing you in January!