But who will be victorious?
Words by James Winspear | Additional text by Rob Burman | Images courtesy of Mantic Games
Draw your swords and steel yourselves, soldiers! With Kings of War now hitting its third edition, we decided to do something Miniature Wargames hasn’t done in quite a while – a good old-fashioned battle report! In this game, we’re pitting the new Northern Alliance faction – a confederacy of stalwart warriors from Pannithor’s arctic lands – against the Nightstalkers, horrific beings from some hellish nether dimension intent on bringing ruin and misery to the world. To mix things up, the folks at Mantic kindly created an exclusive set of rules to use to represent a new danger on the battlefield – the weather!
At the end of the game, add up the Unit Strength of all of your units that have the majority of their footprint within 12”of the centre of the playing area. That is your Victory Point score. Your opponent does the same and you compare scores. The player with the highest score wins.
EXCLUSIVE RULES: UNNATURAL WEATHER
Roll at the start each turn. Add the number rolled to the current turn number. For example, if you roll a two and on turn two, the result would be a four.
2-3 Clear Skies [no effect]
4-5 Slippery Ice: any units that move At the Double will move directly forward D3 inches after their normal movement has been completed
6-7 Icy Mists: all units are considered to be in cover when targeted by a ranged attack
8-9 Wild Winds: all units have Wild Charge (1). If they already have Wild Charge, it is increased by1
10-11 Freezing Fog: all units have -1 their Sp stat
12 Ice Storm: when charging an enemy unit, roll a die. If the result is 1, the unit is frozen to the spot and carries out a Halt! order instead. This does not affect Counter Charges.
Hjelmar surveyed the scene below her. She and her armies had never been this far south before, and she felt ill at ease in this green land, so different from her world of ice and snow.
Yet the cause of her disturbance went further than just the unfamiliarity of the terrain. As foreign as she was to this place, even she could sense something wrong – terribly wrong –here. The shadows of the trees seemed to stretch in directions that had no relation to the sun above. There was the constant, disquieting perception of things flitting and shifting just on the periphery of vision, only ever half glanced from the corner of the eye. And the weather. What weather could change so suddenly? Now a fog that covered the land like a blanket. Now a driving rain that slowed progress to a crawl. Now a storm so furious it was all one could do to try and hunker down beneath the onslaught of wind and fist-sized hail. It was as though Nature itself was protesting at the blight that had set root here.
She heard footsteps behind her as Yorn neared her. A great, burly Clansman of prodigious strength, his face framed by a wild mane and beard of fiery red, even this proud fighter approached with the diffident respect to which an Ice Queen was due.“Over there, my Queen; to the East,” he rumbled, gesturing with one gloved hand. She looked. In the distance something was gathering, a horde of shadows that slithered like some foul black liquid across the ground before forming itself into dim but monstrous shapes. Her eyes narrowed in righteous fury. Here at last was the foe she had tracked down from her frozen homeland. Here both they and she would make their stand.
She turned to the warriors behind her. The Clansmen stood ready, restless and eager for a fight, whilst the Ice Elementals shifted and pawed the ground like great arctic bears. The snow trolls grunted and bared their teeth. Behind them all, the glittering blue eyes of the frost giant – tall, ancient, silent – gazed down at her. She raised her hand, clasping a dagger of ice that crystallised out of the air. The warriors roared as one, surging forward. “For Talannar!” she yelled.
WE’LL TEAR THEIR SOULS APART
James: Being an ardent devotee of H.P. Lovecraft, I just had to get the chance to command the Nightstalkers. Whilst the faction may be all about mind-bending madness, my actual battle plan is quite straightforward. Since the main objective is to capture and hold the centre, I need a tarpit that’ll be able to hold its ground and tie up whatever Rob throws at it for a few turns. Enter the Scarecrow legion. With a Nerve value of 27 and the Mindthirst ability (allowing them to essentially leech off of enemy morale by forcing a reroll on Nerve tests if an enemy model with Inspiring or Very Inspiring is within 12”) they should be able to hold their own in a war of attrition. The Butchers are going to be my workhorses of the game, and will be there to back up the Scarecrows and try and ward off any sneaky flanking manoeuvres. With Crushing Strength (2) they’re no slouch in combat either! The Shadow-hulk is basically there to make sure Rob’s Frost Giant won’t be rampaging through my lines, although that’s exactly what I intend to do to his if the Shadow-hulk wins out in a fight! For this reason, I’m going to keep the Mind-screech near the Shadow- hulk to try and get a few potshots in at the Frost Giant before the two titans clash. So, in short: grab the middle ground, grind down Rob’s units and make sure nothing nasty makes its way round to my sides. Sounds simple enough, but as we all know no plan survives contact with the enemy.
Scarecrow Legion: 190 pts
Butcher horde: 205 pts
Butcher Horde: 205 pts
Mind–screech: 150 pts
Shadow–hulk: 225 pts
Total: 975 pts
BACK TO THE VOID, BEASTS!
Rob: The Northern Alliance are the new army for Third Edition and they are tough! I’ve mostly been playing goblins in preparation for Third and have been on the receiving end of the Northern Alliance’s cold shoulder several times. So I was pretty excited about being able to dish out the destruction, rather than being on the wrong end of a Snow Troll’s club. I knew we’d be playing the Dominate scenario, so I wanted to make sure I had a solid centre to hold the middle ground. With a horde of Snow Trolls and Ice Elementals, I thought I would have the staying power to keep going until turn six. What’s more, they can both really pack a punch too – particularly if you can pull off some of those all-important flank attacks. Meanwhile the Ice Queen could provide some Inspiring for the Ice Elementals and offer some shooting with her Icy Breath spell. The Icy Breath spell could also come in handy for slowing down some of James’ faster units too, as it comes with the Frozen ability – which reduces speed by -1. Finally, the Frost Giant and Clansmen could take the left and right flanks ready to take on James’ unit as they approached the centre ground. Although the Clansmen aren’t super tough, they do have Wild Charge (which gives them an extra boost when charging). This can sometimes put opponents off guard and I’m hoping that James will fall into the trap – perhaps baiting him in and then going in for the kill.
Ice Queen: 80 pts
Human Clansment Regiment: 140 pts
Ice Elementals horde: 240 pts
Snow Trolls horde: 220 pts
Frost Giant: 230 pts
Total: 910 pts
After winning the roll off for deployment, the Nightstalkers opted to have the Northern Alliance deploy first. First to be deployed were the Snow Trolls, which went in the centre of the Northern Alliance’s deployment zone to grab the objective. The Nightstalkers then placed the Scarecrow legion on the centre of their line. The Ice Elementals were placed next to the Snow Trolls, creating a solid line of heavy hitters. In response, one of the Butcher hordes was placed behind the Scarecrows to provide backup. The Frost Giant was deployed on the right flank behind a copse of trees, with the Shadow-hulk going opposite to face him off. The Clansmen were placed on the far left flank. Eager for a squishy, human-shaped meal, the Butchers took up the Nightstalker’s right flank. The Ice Queen was placed near the Ice Elemental horde in the centre to inspire them whilst the Mind-screech went near the Shadow-hulk to get some Lightning Bolts off at the Frost Giant before the two clashed. After winning the choice of turn, the Nightstalkers elected to go first.
WEATHER ROLL: ICY MISTS
Nightstalkers: The turn started with the butcher horde on the flank moving up 6”. Eager to capture the centre ground, the Scarecrows moved At the Double 8”up the board, followed closely by one of the Butcher hordes. On the left flank the Shadow-hulk let out a tortured roar and lumbered 6”up the field, tailed by the ethereal Mind-screech. In the shooting phase the Mind-screech sent a bolt of eldritch energy hurtling towards
the Frost Giant. Usually, the Mind-screech’s Lighting Bolt has six attacks hitting on 4+, but because of the weather effects this was modified to 5+. Clearly all that time in non- Euclidean dimensions had affected the Mind- screech’s aim as every attack missed the mark and the Frost Giant remained unscathed.
Northern Alliance: Eager not to let the foul Scarecrows claim the middleground uncontested, the Snow Trolls moved up At the Double 8” straight forward. On the left, wary of the Butcher horde, the Clansmen regiment moved up a cautious 5”. The Ice Elementals advanced 6”, putting the scarecrows just out of range of an Icy Breath attack, followed shortly behind by the Ice Queen. The Frost giant moved 7”into the trees, putting him just out of charge range of the Shadow-hulk but within range to target the Scarecrows. In the shooting phase the Frost Giant unleashed his Icy Breath at the Scarecrows. Being only partly corporeal, every unit in the Nightstalker bestiary counts as Stealthy, putting the Frost Giant at a -1 modifier to hit, plus another -1 because of the Icy Mists, meaning he needed a 6 to hit. Failing all his attacks with Icy Breath except one, this was still enough to put the chill on the Scarecrows, who suffered one casualty and -1 to their movement next turn.
WEATHER ROLL: SLIPPERY ICE
Nightstalkers: Readying their sickles, the Scarecrows moved up 6”At the Double towards the centre. This would, under ordinary circumstances, have put them just out of charge range, but their general had foolishly failed to take into account the extra inches caused by the slippery ice (d’oh!), and the foul horde slid forward an extra inch. In an effort to rectify the situation, the butchers pivoted and moved up 6”in anticipation of the Snow Trolls flanking the hapless Scarecrows. Meanwhile, the other butcher horde on the right flank, taking a que from the blunder in the centre, pivoted and crept up a mere 1”to put them just out of charging range from the Clansmen. Shooting was a slightly more positive affair, with the Mind-screech landing four hits on the Frost Giant and scoring one wound, although this failed to cause a waver.
Northern Alliance: This turn saw the Northern Alliance getting to grips with the
foul foe. Despite the tempting target of the Scarecrows, the Frost Giant had bigger fish to fry and charged straight at the Shadow-hulk. Not let off the hook, however, the Snow Trolls charged into the Scarecrows’flank, whilst the Ice Elementals took them head on, supported by the Ice Queen. Seeing the Butchers on the flank would likely try to charge the exposed rear of the Snow Trolls, the Clansmen backed up an inch, putting themselves out of the Butchers’ charge range whilst providing a deterrent in the form of a possible counter-charge.
Combat proved to be a bloody affair, although the Frost Giant fairly whiffed his attack. Things started off well when the Frost Giant rolled a six for his extra d6 attacks, giving him a whopping 14 attacks in totals. Despite hitting on fours, however, he only managed to land a paltry three hits. With Crushing Strength (4) the Shadow-hulk’s defences went down to one, meaning the Frost Giant had only to hit on a 2+. Proving to be a marathon sprinter with his run of bad luck, he proceeded to defy the odds and rolled two ones! What had meant to be a mighty hammer blow turned out to be a gentle slap, with the Shadow-hulk taking a pitiful single wound.
Things fared better for the Northern Alliance in the centre of the battlefield. With 18 attacks the Ice Elementals scored five wounds on the Scarecrows, after taking their armour down to 2 as a result of their Crushing Strength (1). The real damage came from the Snow Trolls, who inflicted a brutal 16 wounds on the luckless ghouls after rerolling two ones because of their Vicious special rule. Not surprisingly, the Scarecrows failed their Nerve test, even after forcing a reroll because of their Mind Thirst ability. Battered and bruised, the Scarecrow legion was banished back from whence they came! Having finished off the legion, the Snow trolls pivoted in an effort to stop a flanking manoeuvre from both Butcher hordes.
WEATHER ROLL: ICY MISTS
Nightstalkers: Gambling on being able to defeat the Snow Trolls and reposition to face the Clansmen in the same turn, the Butcher hordes charged into the Snow Trolls’ flank in a pincer movement, one on the flank and the other head on. Seeing that it would no longer be able to affect the outcome of the titanic duel between the Shadow-hulk and the Frost Giant, the Mind-screech moved 12”At the Double and pivoted to face the Ice Elementals. In combat the Shadow-hulk managed to land five wounds on the Frost Giant, though failed to cause a waver. The real action came from the Butchers, who lived up to their name by inflicting a total of 21 wounds on the Snow Trolls between, destroying the wintery brutes outright in a flurry of crude blades and gnashing maws. Their gamble having paid off, the Butchers on the flank then turned to face the Clansmen at their rear, ready to bring their wrath down about the stalwart warriors.
Northern Alliance: undaunted by the loss of the Snow Trolls, the Clansmen bravely decided to take the fight to the Butchers and charged, whilst the Ice elementals – supported by the Ice Queen – did likewise against the other horde.
The Clansmen swung their weapons at the creatures before them, axes and blades arcing through the air to cleave apart the monstrous hides of the foe. Yet such valour and fury proved for naught, as out of 12 attacks only one found its mark and dealt a wound. Perhaps dispirited by their human counterpart’s performance, the Ice Elementals did equally poorly, scoring only three wounds despite having 18 attacks. The Frost Giant swung again, dealing five wounds to the Shadow-hulk.
WEATHER ROLL: FREEZING FOG
Nightstalkers: Seeking victims in the centre of the board, the Mind-screech floated 5” across the battlefield, the fog slowing its movement by 1”. Locked in battle, the Shadow-hulk swung its twisted limbs at the Frost Giant and scored four wounds. In a tense moment the Nerve check was rolled; by a whisker, the Frost giant remained in the fight! Elsewhere, clearly still recovering their strength from their encounter with the Snow Trolls, the Butcher horde engaged with the Ice Elementals only managed to cause an insultingly small two wounds. With squishier targets the other Butcher horde fared better, landing 10 hits. Normally the Clansmen have a +5 defence, but because of the Butcher’s Crushing Strength (2) this was reduced to a 3+ to wound. In total the Butchers caused seven wounds and, rolling a seven for Nerve, caused the regiment to Waver.
Northern Alliance: Reeling from the Butchers’onslaught, the Clansmen disengaged and backed up 1”, opening the foul brutes up for a ranged attack from the Ice Queen. Her powers proved less than impressive, however, as a combination of low dice rolls and the Nightstalker’s Stealthy ability meant she landed only a single hit and failed to wound. Proving magic to be no substitute for melee, the Ice Elementals caused six hits on the other Butcher horde, wounding on all bar one, though they failed to wipe them out on the Nerve Test. The Frost Giant continued to duke it out with the Shadow-hulk, landing four hits and wounding on every one.
WEATHER ROLL: FREEZING FOG
Nightstalkers: Turn five proved to be a crucial turning point in the late game. Looking to finish off the stalwart human warriors, the Butchers let out a ghastly roar and charged, whilst the insidious Mind- screech drifted another 5” towards the midfield. Lashing out again, the abominable Shadow-hulk managed inflicted five hits on the Frost Giant, wounding on three of them. Pressing the advantage and driven by blind malice, it finally managed to get the upper hand in the duel and caused the mighty giant to waver. Over to its right, the butchers laid into the Ice Elementals but were unable to take them out of combat, a failure that would prove their undoing. The Clansmen were not so lucky, their regiment taking another six casualties to the Butcher horde’s cruel blades. Already wavering, their resolve finally broke and they were run down by the behemoths. As the last warrior fell, the Butchers repositioned, turning their foul attentions to the Ice Elementals behind them.
Northern Alliance: Wisely seeking to steer clear of the Butcher’s upcoming rampaged, the Ice Queen moved back 4” and unleashed another blast of ice at them. Her run of bad luck continued, and after rolling only measly two hits she failed to do a single wound. The Ice Elementals proved their worth, however, with 11 hits and four wounds, taking the total damage on the Butchers to 13. Showing the Ice Queen how it was done, they proceeded to roll a double six on Nerve, destroying their horrific foes utterly!
WEATHER ROLL: ICE STORM!
Nightstalkers: With the final turn underway the weather decided to do its worst. The air was transformed into a stinging maelstrom of frozen daggers, battering all still left standing with its fury. The Butcher horde prepared to charge the Elementals, but rolled a one on the Ice Storm chart. A savage gust of arctic air swept down on them, freezing them in place! Seeing victory poised on a knife edge, the ethereal Mind-screech flew into attack the Ice Elementals from behind. Usually a feeble close combatant, by attacking the horde from the rear it managed to triple its attacks to 15. Of these 10 found their mark, and four wounds were done. In another incredibly close moment, the Mind-screech failed to wipe them out on a Nerve test by just rolling just one shy! Preparing for the killing blow, the Shadow-hulk scored five hits, causing three wounds. As the Giant fell to his knees the Shadow-hulk pressed the advantage on the Nerve Test, and, with an unearthly cry of triumph and hate, decapitated it with a swing of its scything fist.
Northern Alliance: The Ice elementals turned to face the unexpected foe, whilst, hoping to prove third time’s the charm, the Ice Queen sent another Icy Breath towards the Butchers, scoring four hits and one wound. However, it was clear to all that victory would hinge on the Ice Elementals being able to eradicate the Mind-screech. In a flurry of blows the Ice Elementals dealt the floating monstrosity seven wounds. With Crushing Strength (1), the Elementals would be hitting on a three or above; a fairly promising proposition. They rolled, but only caused three wounds! Now was the deciding roll. If the Ice Elementals could roll a double six for the Nerve test they might yet still banish the creature. Now was the crucial moment. The dice flew, bounced, and... a five. The Mind-screech still stood (well, floated), letting out a macabre ululation from its many fanged mouths in triumph.
Nightstalkers: 4 Northern Alliance: 3
The Shadow-hulk was just out of the 12” scoring area, whilst the Butchers were just in. As a result, both sides had two units inside the centre scoring radius; the Northern Alliance the Ice Elementals and Ice Queen, the Nightstalkers the Butchers and Mind-screech. The Ice Elementals had Unit Strength 3, whilst the Ice Queen had Unit Strength 0. The Butchers were likewise Unit Strength 3, but the Mind- screech had Unit Strength 1! A narrow victory to the Nightstalkers!
SWALLOW THEIR SOULS!
James: Talk about close! To say things looked ropey during the first few turns would be an understatement. Being the fool that I was I forgot about the Slippery Mud effect, and you could almost hear the Benny Hill theme as the hapless Scarecrows slid into charge range. When they bit the dust everything basically rested on the shoulders of the Butchers, though they certainly managed to live up to their name. The real turning point in the midgame – at least from my perspective – came when one of the hordes was able to flank the Snow Trolls and – crucially – pivot to face the Clansmen. If they’d been charged
from behind I suspect the outcome of the game would have been quite different. The Shadow-hulk did what it was supposed to by tying up the Frost Giant, but if you’d asked me before turn five I’d have said I’d needlessly underutilised the Mind-screech. Placing it to the left of the Shadow-hulk basically committed it to only shooting at the Frost Giant; after he unexpectedly charged in on the second turn it had to spend the rest of the game trying to reposition to find unengaged targets. It was something of a last-ditch effort sending it in to close combat against the Ice Elementals, though I’ll thank my strategically brilliant forward planning (read: uncoordinated attempts to get it close enough to the centre to shoot at something) for getting it there in the first place.
Rob: Well... that didn’t quite go according to plan. In turn two when I took out the legion of Scarecrows, I was feeling pretty smug. They’re an absolute tar pit and I definitely got lucky with the slippery mud accidentally pushing them too far forward, which opened up a flank for my Snow Trolls. The combination of the Trolls and the Ice Elementals absolutely obliterated the Scarecrows. I mean, I knew the Nothern Alliance were tough but even I was surprised by that! Unfortunately, when repositioning the Snow Trolls after wiping out the Scarecrows, I totally overlooked the Butchers to my left, which opened up a horrible flank. Remember boys and girls... always check your flanks. After that, it was a case of clinging on and hoping my dice rolls would improve... which they didn’t. The Frost Giant, in particular, suffered some horrendously low rolls – although it did manage to tie up the Shadow-hulk for the majority of the game. Those two just get slogging it out and exchanging blows. The end result was extremely close and in hindsight, I wish the Ice Queen had her Wind Blast spell, which could have pushed the Butchers out of the 12” scoring zone. Plus, I didn’t really make the most of her Icy Breath spell to slow James’ Butchers down, which could have come in useful. I definitely got lucky with that final weather effect at the end, otherwise I would have lost the Ice Elementals too! Still, a very enjoyable game and I’d love to have a rematch, perhaps with my beloved goblins next time.
This article originally appeared in issue 440 of Miniature Wargames. You can pick up your issue of the magazine here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.