Vanguard Diary 3 – Mustering For Battle

This is the third part of my Kings of War Vanguard diary (you can find the first and second parts here), where I chronicle my journey into the game.

This time I talk about Vanguard as a game and putting together my forces for my first games.

The Game

Before I go much further in this series, it’s worth taking a bit of time to talk about how Kings of War Vanguard works as a game.

Kings of War Vanguard is a fantasy skirmish game which sees warbands of 5 – 15 or so models clashing on the tabletop. Often the warbands will be trying to achieve certain objectives, such as freeing a prisoner, holding a strategic position and so on.

Each of the models in your faction costs a certain number of points to add to your warband. Standard games are 200 points, with simple grunts costing around 8 points and powerful commanders or monsters costing perhaps 40 points.

Each type of model has its own reference card which contain its points costs, its statline (which represents how good at fighting it is, how brave it is, how well armoured it is, etc), and any other special rules which may apply.

[Unit reference cards]

The game uses 8 sided dice (d8’s) to resolve combat. Each model has a target number that it is trying to beat for a given roll (so, lower stats are better [with the exception of Speed and Wounds]), and the results of the dice roll will tell you if you’ve succeeded or failed. Some abilities and special skills can let you reroll certain dice or will modify the dice rolls in other ways, which represents certain characters being more skilled than others etc.

An example roll might be something like this:
Model A (an archer) wants to shoot at Model B (a monster). Model A is a reasonably skilled shot with their bow, and so when they attack they roll two 8 sided dice (2d8) and hit on rolls of 5+ (as noted on their reference card). Model A rolls two dice and rolls a 7 and a 2: one miss, and one hit.
Someone less skilled with their bow might only roll one die to attack or need a higher target number.
An archer who was more skilled might have extra training which lets them reroll rolls of 1, roll more dice to hit or hit on rolls of a 4+, and so on.

It’s a slick and simple system, one that will be familiar to anyone who has played this kind of game before.

One of the most unique aspects of Kings of War Vanguard are the Power Dice. Power Dice allow you to activate powerful abilities during your turn, such as moving a group of models together, taking an action out of sequence, activating your warband’s unique special ability, adding dice to an attack and so on. At the beginning of every round you’ll roll your Power Dice which will determine how much power you have available to you that round. There are three levels of power dice: red, white and blue, with blue being the most powerful. Every warband is granted three red dice, but adding certain models to your warband can grant you extra dice. Additionally, if you have any commander type models in your warband, they each allow you a reroll of one of your power dice, as long as they are still on the table (this is a nice way of representing the tactical acumen of leaders on the battlefield).

[8 sided dice, Power Dice, and unit reference cards]

Another feature that’s worth mentioning is the ability to Fatigue your models. When a model activates, it can perform either two short actions (such as walk, fight, shoot etc), or a single long action (such as run, cast a lengthy spell, etc). You can choose to push your model a little bit further by declaring that they will perform an additional short action, though it can’t be a repeat of one that you’ve already performed that turn. This will cause them to become fatigued. If they are fatigued at the beginning of their next activation, they can only take one short action (this represents them being tired from exerting themselves previously). In the end phase of each turn, you can use Power to remove fatigue from your models. The choice to fatigue your models is a really interesting aspect of the game, as it means you can always push just that little bit further if you need to, but it may leave you wanting in your next turn. It is a mechanism that can certainly lead to some interesting tactical decisions (and a series of interesting decisions are what make a good game, in my view).

Each round progresses in a series of alternating activations: one player chooses one of their models which has not yet activated that round and performs their actions, with play then moving to the next player, who picks one of their models to activate, and so on, until all models have activated. Once that happens, the Power Dice are rerolled and a new round begins, with the game continuing for a set number of rounds as specified by the scenario.

You can download a free version of the Kings of War Vanguard rules here.

Mustering For Battle

As these were to be our first games, we decided that we should go for something slightly smaller than the standard game of 200 points, so we settled on 100 points. (Handily, the rulebook contains rules for making a 100 points warband, which breaks from the normal restrictions that a 200 points list is subject too).

The plan was to try and play a few short games. It was felt that this would give us the best chance of getting to grips with the rules without getting overwhelmed. With this in mind, I set about creating my warband.

I thought it’d be a good opportunity to try out a few different units, so I put together two separate lists. Though there is some overlap between the lists, with some units appearing in both, I felt that these would be varied enough to get a good sense of things.

Warband 1

  • Butcher – with Heavy Weapon (36ps)
  • Reaper – with Lucky Charm (17pt)
  • Reaper – with Lucky Charm (17pt)
  • Phantom (14pt)
  • Scarecrow (8pt)
  • Scarecrow (8pt)

This warband was all about close combat. The Nightstalkers don’t have a huge amount of ranged units to choose from, so I thought I’d go all out by going for a purely melee focused warband. The Reapers are quite deadly (with a 3d8 melee attack hitting on 5+, with Crushing Strength (1), which helps them slice through thick armour), so having two of them working together sounded like a nice idea. I gave them Lucky Charms which would allow each of them to reroll one dice, once per game. The Phantom is fast and manoeuvrable, with his ability to Fly over terrain and other models.

The real powerhouse of the warband is the Butcher, who has a mighty 4D8 attack, hitting on 5+. He has a hefty 4 wounds and quite good armour, so I was confident I’d be able to get him into combat and do some damage. With this in mind, I paid an extra 3pts to arm him with a Heavy Weapon, meaning his already-very-good Crushing Strength (2) became a whopping Crushing Strength (3)! Crushing Strength works by increasing the difficulty of the armour roll that your opponent needs to make to stop any damage you inflict upon them. Someone with decent armour might have a 5+ armour roll. With Crushing Strength (3) that 5+ would now become a 8+, greatly reducing their chance of success. It also made thematic sense for a big hulking beast like that to carry a heavy weapon.

Something else that’s worth noting is that every Nightstalker unit has the Stealthy skill, meaning that any ranged attacks that target them are at -1 to hit (so a person who would normally hit on a 4+ now hits on a 5+). This represents them being surrounded by a cloud of viscous darkness, and I think it’s a really cool ability. The trade off is that they aren’t quite as good in close combat as some of the other warbands, but they have lots of cool special rules to make up for it.

Warband 2

  • Mind-Screech – with bandages (33pt)
  • Shadowhound (22pt)
  • Reaper (16pt)
  • Reaper (16pt)
  • Horror (12pt)

With this warband I wanted to try something a bit more varied.

It started out with the Mind-Screech; a powerful wizard. The Mind-Screech has access to two spells by default: Lightning Bolt and Hammer. Hammer is a ranged attack that if it hits, rather than doing any damage, it knocks the opponent down, which leaves them vulnerable and means they have to spend an action in their next turn getting to their feet. Lightning Bolt is a powerful ranged attack capable of blasting apart enemies from a distance. Both of these spells require a long action to cast, but the Mind-Screech has a unique ability called Draw Dark Power, which means, for the cost of a Power point, it can cast a long spell as a short action. This means that it can potentially cast both of its spells in the same turn (unlike other actions, cast is an action that can be repeated in a turn, though you can’t cast the same spell more than once in a turn). The downside to the Mind-Screech is that it has no way of defending itself in close combat, which makes it quite vulnerable. I’d have to try my best to ensure that it stayed out of harm’s way. Taking the Mind-Screech would let me try out the magic system in the game, as well as giving me access to one of my cooler units.

Next I added a Shadowhound. These are a really fast unit (with a movement speed of 7″ per turn, giving them a charge range of 14″) with decent attacks. They have an ability called Bloodlust, which means they get a bonus when attacking a creature that has already been wounded. The plan would be to try and hang back with the Shadowhound before pouncing on something that had been wounded by my Mind-Screech, swiftly finishing it off. The Shadowhound also has a very respectable 3 wounds, meaning it should be able to hold its own in a fight.

I am very fond of the Reapers, both as a model and as a unit, so I knew I wanted to include two of these in this warband too. For their points cost they punch well above their weight.

The last unit to be added to this warband was a Horror. Not much of a fighting unit themselves, they have a skill called Bane Chant, which means that any unit within 6″ of them (but not themselves) gain the Vicious special skill, which allows units to reroll hit rolls of 1 in melee. The plan would be to keep the Horror near my Reapers, ensuring that they were that extra bit effective in close combat.

What’s next?

Find out how my warbands got on in their first games, in Part 4 of my Kings of War Vanguard diary.

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