Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Beastmen vs Wood Elves, Song of Blades and Heroes

I put the first game of the year in the books with a quick bit of Song of Blades and Heroes between me and my better half.  The scenario, Treasure Hunt, comes from the main rule book, with the opposing parties racing to check three possible locations where treasure might be located.  If (based on a roll) the first two come up dry, then the treasure will be found at the third.

I took a faction of five Beastmen, who all activated on a roll of 3+ on a d6, and have a Combat value of 4 (added to their roll in a contested d6 vs. d6 encounter).  No special abilities, save my leader, who had the (obviously) Leader trait.
The boys/beasts, in all their glory.
My special lady friend took a group of four Wood Elves, who activate on 3+, have a Combat value of 3, were armed with bows, and could move through the woods without penalty (Forester trait).
The fey lads.
The stock Beastman clocks in at 40 points, the Wood Elf with bow at 50.  As the encounter played out, you'll see that this was a mismatch.  The Elves needed more numbers, not less, to offset the Beastman toughness, and this game gives particularly short shrift to missile troops.

The Field:
I started from the near side.  Click to embiggen and enjoy my labels.  Do the same with the rest of the pics below.
Turns 1-2:
The Beastmen won initiative and race toward the three potential treasure spots.  They made better progress than the Wood Elves, in spite of the heavily wooded areas, on account of some good luck with the dice on activation.

The Beastmen take an early lead in getting to potential treasure spots 2 and 3.
Turn 3:
Two of the Beastmen and the Wood Elf leader arrived at Treasure 2, in the middle of the field, at nearly the same time.

The Beastman who made it to Treasure 2 first discovered that the treasure wasn't there, but he and his buddy stuck around to face off with the Wood Elf leader.

The lead Beastman moved into contact with the Wood Elf leader, so that at the least the Elf wouldn't be able to move out of combat to another possible treasure location without offering the Beastman a "free hack."

The Wood Elf leader prevails in the early combat, but only to the extent of knocking down the lead Beastman.
Meanwhile, over at possible treasure location 3, a Beastman has discovered that the treasure wasn't here, either, but moved forward to likewise engage a nearby Elf in combat and tie down the enemy.
Turn 3:
As both sides now know that the treasure is at treasure spot 1, they all shift forces toward that location.

The Beastman leader leads the charge, racing toward treasure site 1.
As the Beastman leader completes his move to treasure site 1, the Beastman previously knocked down has gotten back to his feet, and another Beastman rushes to his side to gain a group combat advantage over the Elf leader. The Elf leader succumbs to a bad roll and enemy numbers.
Though the Wood Elf leader fell in combat, his followers all retreated just one movement, just enough to avoid leaving the field of combat.  They resumed the push for the treasure in his name.

Turn 4:
As the Beastman leader gathered up the treasure, the Wood Elves proved unable to slow their enemies' momentum in the contest.

As the Beastman leader successfully spends two actions picking up the treasure, a Wood Elf moves into the copse of trees and fires an arrow at the Beastman leader.  It failed to connect, and the Beastmen moved closer to victory.  Out of the picture, other Beastmen continued to move toward treasure location 1 to screen their leader's exit from the field.
 Turn 5:

As the Beastman leader made a successful move out of the copse of trees that had hidden the treasure, two Beastmen moved in to engage the archer that had dared challenge their warlord.
The advantages of numbers and a higher Combat value again overwhelm a Wood Elf.
Turn 6:
As soon as the turn started, the Beastmen leader activated well enough to leave my starting edge, gaining victory.
1.  You'll notice a lack of Wood Elf activity in my report.  The Fey Folk failed to force a fearsome fight from their frail followers.  Seriously, the Elf rolls for activation and combat were awful throughout.
2.  Two key factors in the math supporting Song of Blades and Heroes really undermined the Elves here.
-  First, the expense of statting up the Wood Elves as archers meant that troops inferior in combat (Combat value 3) were more expensive than the Beastmen (Combat value 4).  This is one way in which missile troops are disadvantaged in SoBH.
-  Beyond close ranges, missile troops are not very effective.  They suffer beyond 1 x Shooter Distance (Short, Medium, Long).  Even though these were Long Range Shooters, look at how the numbers play out.  With a distance beyond 1 Long Range measure (7" - 14" or so) the shooter suffers -2 to his Combat value.  So a C3 becomes C1.  And this is fired against a C4 target.  So if the Beastman target rolls a 1 and adds 4 to get 5, the best the archer can do is roll a 6, add 1 to get a 7.  This fails to get a double on the defender, and fails to get a kill.  Even if you take the trait Unerring Aim (the Elves were already too expensive relative to the Beastmen, so I didn't), which reduces the distance penalty to -1 instead of -2, the best you can do is 8 versus 5, which still fails to double and produce a kill (and noting that rolling a 6 vs 1 is a 1-in-36 chance in happening).  So it's impossible to kill beyond close range with an archer, even one with a relatively high Combat value, against a C4-level target.
3.  So, as much as I enjoy Song of Blades and Heroes, particularly for its "play what you brought" ethos, there is still a certain amount of Army List gamesmanship that can be had.  I'll never again field a force made up of archers because of the structural disadvantages outlined above.

I remain undeterred in wanting to play Song of Blades and Heroes, but will definitely be mindful of the necessity of fielding a more balanced force for both sides in the future.  More to follow.

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