Artakl looked out over the desecrated wasteland before her. Her instincts had given some idea of what to expect but this complete and utter destruction brought her to her knees. The opening of the Abyss had been felt by many creatures throughout Mantica - Artakl’s keen senses had given her a better idea than most about what was happening in this distant land. Reflecting, she realised that it had only been a few weeks since she had returned from the deep jungles of the Three Kings. She had hoped her dire portent could be explained away by one of the holy Mage Priests but even they had been thoroughly shaken by what their far-sight skills had gleaned. Perhaps it had been luck, perhaps a Celestial machination but Artakl had entered the holy Chamber of Fire just as the Mage Priests were deliberating on what should be done about this grave threat. Her natural inquisitiveness had spurred her towards championing aggressive action against this threat. After a seeming eternity of deliberations to the normally anomic Clutch Warden, the Mage Priests agreed. What she hadn’t counted on however, was their willingness to give command to such an obviously impassioned Warden.
Now sick to her stomach, Artakl rose to her feet. She had thought this place long deserted after the Abyssals had moved from the Edge and she had come here to scout out the origin of this world-wide plague. “Hunt only what you know, lest you be prey” Itzi, her crafty and wizened mentor had instructed. So here she was, gathering intelligence on this most fearsome of prey. An exotic and unwholesome smell wafted through the shattered land and Artakl twisted her head in alarm. She wasn’t alone. The smell of death, hot on the heels of hellfire was gaining potence as the wind turned to the south. She had to get back to the others. The dead had come. And if Artakl had her way, here the dead would stay.
This was a 2500 point game played over Universal Battle, an online platform for playing tabletop games. One of the best things about playing over Universal Battle is being able to play people from all over the world so lots of different lists pop up all the time. Baldarov has been on Universal Battle for a while now but has just recently come back after a few months hiatus. It has been a long time since we played each other.
We played the Loot! scenario at the Edge of the Abyss. I will give some pre-game thoughts, a turn by turn overview of the game as it went and then some closing post game thoughts. So without further ado....
Lists and Deployment
The three statues in the middle of the field are our three loot markers. Baldarov placed the first marker just north of the frozen lake and I placed the other above the rightmost forest.
I’ve played the Empire of Dust a few times now but never a list quite like this! It is extremely resilient, has great tactical flexibility and has tools to threaten in both combat and at range. Definitely one of the more well thought out lists that I have faced. While there is plenty to like about this list, it does lack in both speed and crushing strength. If I can survive the first few rounds of catapult and elite skeleton shooting relatively unscathed I should be able to wear down his tough units with my Rhinosaurs and/or lancers. I do tend to struggle playing against surge so working out how to safely approach flanks and get some good combination charges off may be easier said than done. Overall, this is a great list and is so different to the super elite Mortibris, mummies and pharaohs that I’ve played against in the past. Kudos to Baldarov for constructing such a unique and scary list!
Deployment (from left to right)
Salamanders: flying clan lord (courage), ghekkotah regiment, tyrant regiment (headstrong), Orlaf, Artakl, lancers (haste), ghekkotah horde, clan lord on drake (elite), flying battle captain, 2x lekilidon, herald (rally) unblooded regiment, mounted clan lord (slashing), ghekkotah regiment, ancients on rhinosaurs (pathfinder)
Empire of Dust: skeleton archers troop (elite), enslaved guardians, high priest (heal), chariot regiment, revenant champion (inspires skeletons), restless souls regiment, skeleton archer horde (elite), pharaoh on chariot (regeneration 4+), scavengers regiment, skeleton archers troop (elite), 3x catapult, revenants regiment (vanguard), skeleton spearmen horde (vanguard), high priest (vanguard), revenant regiment (vanguard)
After deployment, the Empire used vanguard to move up their right flank to just behind the forest, ready to guard loot from eager Salamanders.
Turn 1 (Empire of Dust)
Disorganised Salamanders take time to organise their lines and prepare themselves for the undead attack and the Empire takes the initiative by shambling forwards. All three loot markers are within easy reach for next turn. Shooting is accurate but surprisingly ineffective as a catapult hits the unblooded salamanders but does minimal damage. The untried troops are shocked to have taken casualties so early and waver.
Turn 2 (Salamanders)
Salamanders move up as aggressively as possible, ensuring that if their undead opponents want to capture any loot, there will be consequences. Lancers are reluctant to come within range of the elite skeleton archers and stay out of range, happy to act as a second wave if required. The flying clan lord fires a great bout of flame into the enslaved guardians but ancient runic armour protects the powerful spirits inside and no wounds are caused. Artakl manages to cause a few wounds to a chariot regiment and lekilidons fire their angry darts at some unsuspecting revenants.
The undead slow their advance and reorganise their lines. The right flank secures a loot objective and scattered shooting is able to put wounds on the flying clan lord, ghekkotah horde in the forest, a lekilidon and unblooded. While the others are able to shake off the negligible damage, the unblooded are again shaken by the unerring accuracy of the catapults hurling fiery death at them from a far off hill. While it seemed they would be routed by the terrifying projectiles, a nearby herald was able to rally his troops and restore some amount of order in the regiment.
Seeing the advance of the undead falter, the Salamanders seize the opportunity and advance on all fronts. Orlaf and Artakl charge into the Enslaved Guardians and chariots respectively though neither is able to do rout the enemy. On the left and centre, all other units move up in support and both ghekkotah units pick up some loot. The flying clan lord urges his drake to try his breath once more and the fearsome wyrm obliterates the troop of skeletons that had been guarding the undead extreme left. The central drake is unable to emulate his cousins efforts and manages only a couple of wounds on the nearby pharaoh on chariot. On the right, all nearby units ensure they stay either out of site or out of range of the hulking bone giant fast approaching the Salamander lines. Ancients on rhinosaurs team up with a ghekkotah regiment and are able to crush the skeleton spearmen horde. The ancients claim their loot from the now doubly dead warriors. The mounted clan lord nearby fights his own battle with a regiment of revenants and is also able to cause significant damage to the implacable troops. The flying battle captain, enraged at how his new recruits are being torn to shreds barrels into the closest catapult and totally destroys it.
Enslaved guardians and chariots both charge the individuals blocking their path and Artakl is surprisingly ridden down by the ancient wheels of a chariot. Artakl’s sacrifice is not in vain however - the restless souls become even more restless as they are blocked from advancing by the regiment in front of them. Scavengers, thinking they caught the scent of fresh meat, dive headlong into the lancers thereby blocking their advance. The archer horde continues its barrage of a thousand cuts into the ghekkotah horde causing a couple more wounds but most of the volley is caught in the surrounding vegetation of the forest cover. The remaining two catapults mercilessly target the hapless (now very much blooded) salamanders and finally rout the regiment although light shooting is unable to similarly affect a lekilidon. Revenant regiments charge into both the ghekkotah and mounted clan lord and the regiment is wavered by the smell of the unwashed bones of centuries old warriors.
Seizing an opening, the flying clan lord urges his drake into the flank of the restless souls but is unlucky and fails to rout the regiment. Meanwhile, Orlaf seeks to avenge Artakl and sweeps into the chariots flank and opens up the path for tyrants to charge into the enslaved djinn. Again, neither combat is particularly effective and both guardians and chariots remaining standing. Lancers are more successful in their efforts and are able to destroy the scavengers blocking their path and ghekkotah begin their retreat as the clan lord rushes forward to cover for them. A particularly brave lekilidon charges into the bone giant and causes him little more than a few aching bones although ancients are able to trample revenants under their rhinosaurs as they charge into their flank. The mounted clan lord is able to put a few more wounds on the remaining revenants and the battle captain dispatches yet another catapult that had just ruined his newest recruits.
On the left, the undead counter charge their immediate opponents. The flying clan lord is lucky and survives with relatively few wounds though Orlaf and the tyrant regiment are less fortunate. The tyrants waver and Orlaf is completely destroyed. The elite skeleton horde opens fire on the now vulnerable lancers and cause a few casualties while the pharaoh on his chariot takes a moment to regenerate his burns. The bone giant on the right easily dispatches the unworthy lekilidon blocking his way and an undead priest blocks the path of the rampaging rhinos. Revenants are still unable to remove the stubborn clan lord on the far right. The ghekkotah regiment breathes a sigh of relief as a burning projectile arcs over their heads and harmlessly explodes some distance away.
The renowned fury of the tyrants enables them to inflict some damage on the enslaved guardians but even they can see it is a losing battle. Lancers rush in to assist their besieged allies and dismantle the chariots that had claimed both Orlaf and Artakl. The flying drake is able to put the restless souls in a more restful state and the land bound drake is encouraged to engage the skeleton archer horde by his rider. Having acquired what they came for, both ghekkotah units carrying loot begin their retreat from the battle. In some vain hope of eternal glory the remaining lekilidon charges the bone giant but is unable to do more than frustrate the towering monstrosity. The mounted clan lord finds some luck and routs the stout revenants although as the ancients ready their killing blows against the high priest, they hear strange mumblings and find their swings are totally off kilter. The curse of the ageless high priest ensures that the rhinosaurs are unable to dispatch him and their way remains blocked. The battle captain is finally able to avenge his fallen brothers by dispatching the last remaining catapult and crew.
Enslaved djinn are able to rout the tyrants and turn to face the new lancer threat fast approaching. The revenant champion and priest charge into the lancers and flying clan lord respectively but are unable to cause significant damage. Seeing the valuable loot slipping through his fleshless fingers, the pharaoh whips his chariot and stops at the edge of the forest. Skeleton archers on the right are able to flank the lekelidon and bone giant is able to manoeuvre into the rallying herald. Neither charge is successful however and the bone giant roars in frustration as the nimble flag bearer stays just out of his reach.
Seeing the pharaoh on chariot threatening his loot, the flying clan lord and battle captain fly over the battlefield and ram into the stunned emperor, shattering his aeons old construction. Lancers are able to significantly damage the revenant champion but the wily sergeant proves his worth and holds against the odds. While ghekkotah further distract the bone giant, rhinos dispatch the old priest blocking their path, finally ready to face their towering adversary.
With the ghekkotah now out of reach, enslaved guardians content themselves by slaughtering hapless lancers and turning to assist their skeleton allies next turn. The bone giant, bellowing his rage scatters the flock of ghekkotah running under his legs and braces himself for the impact of a rhinosaurus charge.
While ghekkotah make their escape, the battle captain bravely throws himself in front of the merciless djinn, hoping to block them and save his esteemed clan lords. The two clan lords on drakes combine and the skeleton archer horde soon crumbles to dust under the combined fury of their two beasts. The rhinosaurs ride straight into the bone giants legs and snap them in two, crushing him in their unstoppable charge (the curse of the high priest seeming to have lost some of its potence).
Both sides were ready to retire at this point, but fate had other plans. A turn 7 was rolled!
Enslaved guardians and the revenant champion successfully rout the brave battle captain in their way although charges against the clan lord on drake and lekilidon are ineffectual.
In the final manoeuvres of the battle, both clan lords command their fearsome drakes to unleash one final torrent of fire on the hapless revenant champion. After the smoke clears, only singed ground remains. Ancients ride their fearsome beasts one final time into the skeleton archers and rout them easily.
The final score is 3VP to 0VP to the Salamanders for controlling the three loot markers.
Post game thoughts
I really enjoyed this game as there were plenty of swings for both sides throughout. There were a few moments that I thought Baldarov may have had more success using surge to charge a vulnerable flank than going for the obvious option but it is hard to tell what would have happened in the long run. My flying clan lord was very lucky to survive the restless souls (really should have received closer to 6 wounds than 4 and a low nerve result kept him in it). On the other hand, the ancients on rhinosaurs proved how mercurial they can be, totally obliterating an unwounded skeleton horde and then failing to rout a lowly individual. In hindsight, I was also very lucky to survive the catapults as well as I did. They hit fairly often but the blast damage was quite low on all but one result. Only the unblooded regiment took significant damage from them. Thanks Baldarov for an engaging game and coming up with such an interesting and competitive list! While I don’t want evil to win (boo! hiss!) I wish you all the best with your remaining games.
A thin hand broke through the rubble of twisted spokes and broken platforms. The ruins of ancient chariots were painstakingly set aside as a slender frame twisted up and out of the battlefield debris. Dazed and holding onto consciousness with the tenacity of a survivor, Artakl slowly came to her feet. Blinking back stars she collected her memories from before the darkness claimed her. What had she been thinking? At the time, she had thought of nothing but disabling the chariots, using her superior speed and reflexes to cut the cords and break the couplings of the ancient transports. The skeletons aboard the chariots had been slow and it had almost been too easy to avoid their clumsy swings. Artakl silently cursed. For a moment, just a moment, she had allowed herself to become prey. Swinging behind the hitching, she had been about to slice the reins from a driver when one of the horses had lashed out with its hind legs taking her full in the face. She had thought the long dead horse a mere puppet, having long since lost any of its former instincts. Wise Itzi would be ashamed. She had not known what she hunted and she had become the prey.
Scanning the battlefield she took in the sites of broken bones by the score, raptors in pools of blood and dry feathers floating on the wind. With a hunter’s trained eye she sensed movement and to her relief saw one of her lieutenant clan lords atop his fearsome drake checking that the bones of long dead warriors were fully broken by marching up and down the line of corpses. Artakl released her breath. It seems they had defeated the restless dead of Ophidia. But judging by the lines of corpses that now dotted this scarred land, the cost had been high. Too high.