Post-Battle Report Analysis
This is an analysis of the battle report posted here: https://www.underspire.net/battle-reports/battle-report-100-kingdoms-vs-spires-1500-pts/
Posting an almost three-hour battle report is going to have its pros and cons. The cons are that a lot of people are going to miss out on a lot of what happened, and there were a lot of really good nuggets of information to glean from that battle. Lets do a deep dive and find out what we can in the battle between the Spires and the 100 Kingdoms!
The Three Pillars of Wargaming
I discussed the Three Pillars of Wargaming in my statistics and probability series earlier this year. They can be found here:
From that article I run with the idea that any given wargame’s result is broken down into three categories or pillars:
The Army List itself. When we create army lists we are attempting to make the most efficient use of our points as we can. The end goal of the army list creation phase in many games is to win the game before you start the game by having the vastly superior list. This assumes that both players are setting out with the same goal. When they are not, the game gets very lopsided and skewed which can cause negative play experiences.
Player Skill. This is represented by player decisions during the game, or the employment of their tactics (short term plans) and strategies (long term plans). The closer the army lists are to each other in power, the more player skill will matter.
Dice Luck. This is represented by how often dice swing in one way or the other. Most games the overall average of the dice will be near what we expect, but in many games there will be a swingy moment where we absolutely need good dice, and if they fail we will blame the dice. Realize that our decisions led us to those moments where we absolutely needed those dice.
Given a game where the army lists are even, player skill and dice luck are more important. Given a game where one army list is superior to the other, the player with the weaker list MUST employ superior tactics and play a better game, and have decent luck on his side. A strong player with a strong list will rarely lose to a strong player with a weaker list barring really bad dice luck as well, because player skill is even and the weaker list player has to have a decidedly stronger game. Dice are always the wildcard that can skew even the most solid player and his plans.
This ambush was designed to break the heart from the northern invasion at its inception…
Breaking Down the Army Lists
The 100 Kingdoms brought Alfred the Black (special noble, gives up a point of clash for the ability to let all units within 12″ use his Resolve 4 and the Stand your Ground supremacy replaces the Fury that noble lords typically have, which lets the entire army pass all of their resolve rolls for that turn). He was accompanied by 6 stands of Household Guard with an Arms Master to give them the Clash score of 3. This came out at 105 points for Alfred and 365 points for the HHG.
Two units of Merc Crossbow provided ranged support at 105 points a piece (or 210 total)
A unit of 5 house hold knight stands would provide mobile support. House Hold Knights are NOT shock cavalry and should not be used as such. This unit had a standard and came in at 295 points.
Victor Longhorn, the imperial officer, came in with Bastion to boost a unit’s defense, and the Shroud of St Lazarus to give him a Resolve score of 4. This put him at 95 points. He was with a unit of 5 Men-At-Arms with a standard clocking in at 195 points.
Last, the Steel Legion would provide a late game hammer with standard and leader, clicking in at 235 points for a 1500 point total list.
Using the statistics and analysis application that I showcase in my videos, this army totalled out at 260.08 output points, which is a measure of their offense, defense, movement, and ranged capabilities. There were no real intangibles present in the 100 Kingdoms list that could not be mathematically analyzed.
It was intentionally chosen to not employ mages or priests as A) priests are not present in the narrative for Alfred’s army at this point in the campaign and B) the spires chose a weak point of the column to ambush.
The Spires list was intentionally toned down as with what is released right now there is not much of a game to be had by employing a lot of long range and using the High Clone Executor (hereby referred to as the HCE) triple activation supremacy. As such, no marksmen clones were taken, and the HCE was not the warlord to make for a more even game. In a competitive environment, this would not have been the case. Additionally as this was an ambush in a forest, and the scenario specifically called for a lot of forests that block line of sight, the ambushing force would not employ a lot of ranged units anyway as it doesn’t make sense.
Arduous the Cleaver led the spires. This was a Lineage Highborne claiming warlord title by its rank. He had the supremacy that let him take as many mutations as he wanted, so gave him the Adaptive Evolution and Command Pheromones (which would boost his resolve score to a 6 and give him conditional boosts to clash, volley, or defense as well!). He came in at 150 points and came on with 4 avatara with a standard (240 points)
The High Clone Executor was given Double Time and the Degenerative Aura mutation. This is a filthy mutation that does a LOT of damage and is only 10 points to boot which makes it pretty much an always-take in every list I have ever seen. He was a paultry 100 points for what he could do and he would come out with Vanguard Clones with a standard (five stands, 285 points total)
A unit of 3 stands of Vanguard Clone Infiltrators would provide the ranged fire as well as mobile pressure and were 205 points. These guys are one of the two gold-standard units in the game (the other being dweghom berserkers) as they hit well above their light weight class and provide so much utility for what they cost that they are just simply incredible. Just dont get trapped in spending too many points on them!
The Pheromancer would sit back and heal for 75 points, and he would sit in an 8 stand Force Grown Drone unit. This large unit wouldn’t accomplish much in battle, but that wasn’t its goal. its goal was to keep the pheromancer pumping out the cheap heals. Eight stands for 205 points? Yes please.
Last, four stands of Brute Drones would support the avatara.
Overall this list is fast, aggressive, and capable of doing a lot of damage. Its not the standard spires list as it doesn’t have a lot of ranged elements, and it doesn’t have the devastating triple-pop of an HCE warlord, but as we’re keeping this a game we want to be entertaining and somewhat close, that was not the point.
Even with handicapping this list a bit, the statistics showed that it weighed in at 288.83 output points (compared to 260.08 output points of the 100 Kingdoms) and this DOESNT COUNT the intangibles which in this game are the pheromancer’s ability to heal, and the degenerative aura of the HCE!! This comes in at roughly a score of 90% meaning that the lists are within 90% of each other and would feel like a 1650 point vs 1500 point game. This is not awful, and in fact most games will be a lot worse than this (and if you play other games from certain other companies, you get games that feel like 4500 vs 2000 quite regularly as that is the point of list building).
Putting it Together
This means that the 100 Kingdoms are going to be starting off at a disadvantage and that the 100k side must have better dice and play a tighter game if they hope to pull out a win. The 90% score ratio in the two lists puts the game at challenging, but not HARD. (and indeed it is virtually impossible for both lists to ever literally weigh the same so challenging is a good game to have).
Breaking the game down, the overall score was 7-6 in favor of the Spires. This was an incredibly tight game that had a couple of swings, but never seemed like it should have been as close as it was. This is a testament to not giving up and playing the game all the way through! There were some important aspects that I want to focus on here in this article. Looking at those:
The Pheromancer was the MVP of the Spires. His intangible came out to be 13 avatara wounds healed (he basically brought an entire regiment in) and 3 vanguard clone wounds. He added by himself roughly 18 additional output points through bringing these models back (putting the spires actual output at 306.42) and kept the avatara alive long enough to stimmy the Steel Legion and lead to them being flanked and destroyed by the brutes. Excellent utility, healing can not be underestimated in this game. Most factions have the ability to employ healing (100 Kingdoms have the Water Mage for example) and it is something I feel you will see quite a bit.
The High Clone Executor’s Degenerative Aura was as filthy as predicted. It was responsible for 9 wounds on the Household Guard by itself. That is over one third of the HHG block being destroyed just by being in contact with the Executor. If you are playing against spires, expect this every single time. Its very cheap in cost and is just simply devastating.
Utility Units Dont Always Have to Score Points
In this expertly diagramed photoshop of the table (look at those dead sexy arrows!) we see the unit of Vanguard Clone Infiltrators sitting on the extreme flank of the table. (note that the 6×4 table REALLY accentuates the maneuver that played out in this game, this new standard of 44×44 or 60×44 really makes me sad because you wont see as much of this as you will units just smashing headlong into each other, but you are free to play on whatever table size you wish and my games will still feature primarily on 6×4 tables).
The Infiltrators ended up not scoring any points. HOWEVER what they did was just as valuable. Their presence here meant that they threatened two areas simultaneously. With their special rules they can push so many shots out on top of being able to free reform and move that if you fall for their trap you can have them pull you way out of position. In this case, the men at arms (in the back) had to choose between reforming and moving after the infiltrators on the flank and potentially be pulled out of formation and made useless… or stand their ground and keep the center of the battleline fortified.
Had they moved to the flank to deal with the VCI unit, the VCI could just reform and go attack the center and wipe out the crossbows. This would have given the spires a point, taken away a ranged unit, AND pulled the men at arms way out of position.
In the end we saw that the VCI bootlegged around to threaten the flank, poured shots into the men at arms and weakened them, and then pulled the men at arms out of position which while giving up their own point helped seal the deal for the ultimate end where spires pulled the 7-6.
The Household Guard blundered by pulling out of the battle line and canting toward the vanguard clones. Alfred was hoping to catch the Executor and his unit walking up in a flanking maneuver with the men at arms. However, the VCI had pinned the Men At Arms in the flank which removed that extra element that the 100 Kingdoms had. Additionally… Alfred exposed his own flank and only had his unit of knights to shield him from the fast brutal attacks of the Avatara and the Brute Drones. The end result was that Alfred’s Household guard were shattered, and the Kindoms lost their warlord and boosted up the spires’ score quite considerably!
Alfred’s last stand. The HCE’s degenerative aura really proved to be too much for the Household Guard and it was a trivial thing for the HCE to carve through the remaining men in Alfred’s company.
Alfred himself managed to do well in a handful of duels though, bloodying the nose of the Highborne (is that possible? Its a statue… ok he carved its nose off with his sword!) and holding his own against the HCE. But it was not to be his day, as when the last guard fell, he was removed from the battle as well.
The Knights had to choose between rushing the brute drones, or hammering the Avatara in the flank. A flank charge could have served them well, but without regular cleave the knights hit hard initially and then had no reinforcement to help continue the damage. Avatara are Defense 4 and were with a Resolve 6 character, so this truly was a nightmare of a tanking unit to get rid of!
The Brute Drones were able to smash into the knights flank following that and from there the 100 Kingdoms were looking pretty out of sorts. At this point in the game its safe to say most players would have conceded.
But that would have been a huge mistake! The game isn’t over until its over!
The brave men of Alfred’s Household charge into the Avatara’s flank!
Steel Legion coming in as a heavy unit late in the game let them choose a pretty good spot to push for an opportunity: right down the center of the depleted spires! The crossbowmen would have to make short work of what was left of the vanguard clones (they did) which enabled steel legion to hammer the avatara.
If successful this would have killed the spires warlord and given the kingdoms a much needed 3 points on the score board.
Alas, the pheromancer (remember him, the mvp of the game) did his little magic pipe dance in the back and kept bringing avatara back to life.
Ultimately the steel legion would come close but would end up flank charged by the brutes and destroyed. The crossbows being able to fire into combat would whittle the avatara down and the brute drones to claim some points however. This is where it was important to NOT GIVE UP.
The Steel Legion are stymied by the Pheromancer’s continued healing of the Avatara, leading them to be flank charged by the brute drones…
The conclusion of the game was in doubt even at the end. In turn 9 it was tied at 6-6! The kingdoms had two units of crossbows to the spires massive unit of drones and a single remaining brute.
If the Kingdoms could shoot the brute down with two units of crossbow, they could go up by a point or at least force a draw in trading the center unit of crossbows out by a charge by the drones.
Alas the dice turned on the kingdoms and the brute was not killed, and in fact ran into the crossbow unit on the right and began tearing it up while the drones finished off the center unit of crossbows.
The men at arms were pulled well out of position to contribute and even if they were in a better position, they could not carve through all eight of the stands of the drones. Even as a “trash unit”, the drones in such numbers were formidable.
In Conclusion – there were a lot of interesting dynamics that were captured in this battle. The spires stronger list in this case did carry them across the finish line by a single point. This report showed why giving up means giving up a potential win where it seems like you could have lost. It showed how vital maneuver and positioning are, particularly on wider tables (boo hisssss small narrow tables) and how important healing really can be.
Leave any comments in the comment section below and look forward to the second chapter of the campaign! How will Alfred recover from this loss?