On Sunday I had my first real game of AoS using the starter box. We pretty much just played through the missions included in the book to get a taste of how the game is. Really the first few missions are tutorial missions in order to get you used to the rules, in fact they include rules to play the first mission solo which I thought was a nice touch. I’ll just give a brief review of the first few missions and then go into a bit more detail of the latter ones. I apologize for not getting more pictures; since everything was unpainted, I wasn’t about to build my entire set and then paint it all in one day ;), the pictures just didn’t turn out all that cinematic.
So the first scenario is just the Lord-Celestant vs the Khorgorath and the Bloodstoker. The Lord starts in the center of a 2′ x 2′ board with the Chaos on a board edge. As you’d expect this goes really quick as whoever goes first basically charges the other. I won the initiative roll off and thanks to the Lord’s 10″ move I charged first turn. He proceeded to roll really high on extra charge attacks and damage and I took out the Khorgorath right away, and then took out the Bloodstoker the next turn. Not much more to say here ;). Eternals victory
Second scenario was the Prosecutors (flying guys) against two 10-man units of Bloodreavers played on a 2′ x 4′ board. The Eternals win if they make it from one side to the other, or kill all the Chaos. Chaos wins if they kill the Prosecutors. I killed both 10 man units thanks to some kiting with the Prosecutors. Again fairly simple game, as it’s supposed to be. Eternals victory
Third scenario is a survival type. Played on a 2′ x 2′ board, the Eternals get the Lord-Relictor and a 3-man unit of Retributors. Chaos gets a 20-man unit of Bloodreavers and a 5-man unit of Bloodwarriors. We ended up with a hill in the center that was arcane (so didn’t do anything in our game). The game lasts for 3 waves, each of which last 3 rounds. After each wave all the models are reset to their starting positions, Chaos gets everything back at full strength, the Eternals keep what they have and don’t get wounds back. The sides deploy at opposite sides. Unfortunately I confused Retributors with Liberators so I started with 3 Liberators for my first turn. He went first and ran straight forward, and I moved towards him. His Bloodreavers had a much better run so I ended up charging them with my Liberators, my Relictor failed his charge. I killed a few of his Bloodreavers and he did a wound to me. During his turn I noticed my mistake and switched the Liberators out for Retributors, but since I made the mistake I didn’t push for the extra damage. During the next 2 rounds he killed 2 Retributors and wounded the last. My Relictor made it on top of the hill and held off the Bloodwarriors. At this point I discovered how important cover can be as the Relictor had a 2+ save on the hill. We reset and I ran to the hill as fast as I could. My last Retributor went down fast but thanks to lightning and healing storms and the 2+ save my Relictor survived the entire wave. I rolled low for my run on the 3rd wave and didn’t make it to the hill, my Relictor only had 2 wounds left and I failed my healing storm. My opponent charged me and I didn’t last much longer. Chaos victory.
Fourth scenario was a 2′ x 2′ board again. I had the same units as the last game plus a 5-man unit of Liberators that were held in the celestial realm (deep strike reserve basically). Chaos had the same as well in addition to the Bloodsecrator (best name ever). My liberators were able to be placed anywhere on the board during one of my movement phases at least 9″ away from an enemy. Whoever had more models within 6″ of the center of the board wins. My units deployed within 3″ of the center, and he deployed on a board edge. I placed them close to his Bloodreavers and tried to charge and failed. I just castled with my other units in the center. He charged my Liberators with his Bloodreavers and I discovered how scary that unit is with the Bloodsecrator supporting them. I believe he misread the rules so his Bloodreavers only got 1 extra attack (I think they should have gotten 2 extra attacks), he managed to kill 1 Liberator and wounded another. He was out of charge range with the others. Basically he mopped up my Liberators with his Bloodreavers, then focused on my other units and wiped them out fairly quickly. Chaos victory.
The fifth scenario is basically just a normal game using all the models from the box. Played on a 4′ x 6′ table with all the normal rules. I deployed near the center of my table side, with one unit of Liberators on the left flank, and also put my Prosecutors in the celestial realm. He basically deployed across from me, or I deployed across from him ;). I finished putting my models down first so I had initiative first turn. Moved my flanking Liberators towards him. My Lord-Celestant became befuddled thanks to a nearby terrain piece so the rest of my units kept back near him. I placed my Prosecutors 9″ away from his Bloodsecrator and threw hammers at him. In the charge phase they charged the Bloodsecrator which they easily made thanks to their 3d6 charge. They managed to take him out, but his Khogorath was within 3″ and was able to pile-in. He killed 2, and I rolled high in the battleshock phase so the last one fled. As expected he charged straight for me and we ended up meleeing near my deployment area. I did slow down his Bloodreavers with my flanking Liberators. Combat order and placement ended up being huge factors, as did our use of special abilities. The Lord-Relictor’s abilities in particular are very important, obviously healing a unit can have a huge effect as can getting the lightning storm off. The latter especially because it adds a -1 to hit modifier to the target unit. It was fairly close for most of the game. The tipping point came when my Lord-Celestant got free after killing the Khorgorath. I then charged him against the Khorne Lord hoping to take him out. He managed to get the Lord down to 2 wounds. Luckily the Khorne Lord only did 1 wound to my Celestant, unluckily he then rolled a 5 on his special ability roll and sent my full wound Lord-Celestant to warp. I had read this ability the night before but totally forgot about it, this was a huge mistake. After that he outnumbered me and mopped up the rest of my forces. If my Lord hadn’t died I most likely would have won. Chaos victory.
We didn’t play the sixth scenario as it is basically the fifth one but allows for more models. Instead he played an Undead force against my Eternals. We just played straight out of the rules so no scenario or anything. He tried to pick units that would give a good game against me, he had two 20-blobs of skeletons, 10 dire wolves, 5 blood dragons, vlad, and Mannfred (the regular on foot version). Basically we just deployed across from each other. I put my Retributors in the celestial realm though. I won the roll-off and moved towards him a little. I got my Prosecutors in range to throw hammers at the wolves and I placed my Retributors 9″ away from his left most Skeletons, but I failed the charge against them. This is running long already to I’ll just summarize. He charged my Retributors with the skeletons and Vlad and wiped them out, they managed to kill Vlad once, but he has his stupid ring that bring him back to life. He also has a -2 rend so they didn’t stand a chance. His wolves and knights tied down my other units fairly fast due to their high movement. Blood Dragons are terrifying. They get lots of attacks, do lots of damage, and have a 3+ save against non rending attacks. PLUS their standard lets one come back during their command phase. My Lord-Celestant and Lord-Relictor made a heroic effort but I didn’t manage to take out the unit. The Liberators were a decent tarpit and managed to take lots of damage from the Blood Dragons, put in the end weight of numbers from the rest took them down. Undead also have crazy easy access to summoning, he only summoned wolves but it only takes a 5 to get the spell off. Anyways Undead victory after a nice melee in the center.
So now that I played a decent amount of games I can say I really like the game play. You may have noticed that most games degraded to a grand melee in the center, which a lot of naysayers claim will happen every time. However keep in mind that the starter box has 1 ranged unit in it, and that unit does better in CC. With both sides wanting to get into CC of course that is what will happen. After this and watching a few more Bat. Reps. I think ranged units will be very important. I will definitely be getting some of the box wielding Eternals when they come out. I still love how they handle the stats and such. Getting rid of the chart is so much better IMO, I love not having to ask all the time what the toughness of a unit is. Movement and model placement is actually very important and I fell will add a lot of depth to the game as I get more experience with it. Hero abilities will also change how the army plays quite a bit as well and I look forward to experimenting with more generals. I am also really looking forward to the “battle plans” they are coming out with. Even though they used simple armies the scenarios in the book were pretty fun and added some nice variety. The basic game type in the main rules will get boring really fast, but I think the battle plans are what will add longevity.
There are a couple things that I have concerns about though. Of course a big one is army building. I don’t know if they should add points as I think it’s time to experiment with that paradigm, but there should be something. As it stands right now I can’t see any reason to take Liberators over Retributors. Retributors have the same save, attacks, and wounds but hit on 3+ vs 4+ and they do 2 damage with a -1 rend. Also, as much as I like the concept, measuring from model to model is just clunky. Continuing to use the base for measurement just makes more sense IMO.
One thing that makes me optimistic is I can think back on the games I lost and think of ways I could have won (dice willing). Even the last game against the Undead could have been a victory. A big issue was I didn’t know how great the Blood Dragons were and I deployed my Retributors against the Skeletons just because I liked the thought of them crushing them with their huge hammers. What I should have done was used them against the Blood Dragons as their damage and rend would have countered them nicely. I absolutely expected to make mistakes like that though since it’s a new game and a new army. I can’t wait to get more games in and to add to my collection. In the future we’ll probably have to use some kind of army framework but we’ll see. All in all like I said I really enjoy the game and it’s a nice change of pace. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. Thanks for reading this huge wall of text and hope to see you next time!