Vanguard Diary 4 – To War

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

In this post, I talk about my first games of Vanguard. These games were played at the Milton Hundred Wargames Club. You can follow along with our club’s Vanguard story here.

Game 1 – The Clash at the Abandoned Farm

For our first game, my opponent (Dave) and I decided to keep things straightforward by simply having a fight. There’d be no objectives or special scenario: instead we’d clash in the middle and see what happened. I would be facing the Basileans, noble and righteous defenders of good; which seemed an appropriate first match up (the Nightstalkers and the Basileans are the two forces fighting on the front cover of the rulebook).

The table was set up with a few small farm buildings, with some walls and a small field. It increases my enjoyment of a game to imagine the story behind it, and here I thought that perhaps there had been reports of a group of terrible monsters rampaging through farmsteads further down the valley. One lucky farmer managed to escape and make his way to this small cluster of buildings to raise the alarm. The farmers fled to a local keep to seek aid, and the protectors of the realm dispatched a small force to intercept the strange creatures.

We set up our forces facing each other, with our strongest units (my Butcher, flanked by the Scarecrows, his heavily armoured Ogre Palace Guard and Spearmen) aligned to move down the centre of the battlefield.

I moved my Butcher forward, running my Scarecrows to stay slightly in front of him.

A Basilean crossbowman and a member of the Sisterhood moved into a courtyard to take up a firing position. The Crossbowman loosed a shot at my Butcher, striking him square in the chest. Thankfully, his thick hide held strong and the bolt had no effect.

I moved my two Reapers to the left of my main force, aiming to flank the two Basileans who had taken up position in the courtyard.

The Basilean Sisterhood Scout, a skilled archer, took another shot at the Butcher. Her shot was true, despite him being surrounded by a mass of inky black shadow, but still his thick skin held fast and no damage was caused.

In what would turn out to be a decisive move, I ran my Scarecrow forward to attack the Spearman who was flanking the Ogre Palace Guard. I activated my warband’s special ability – Dread. By spending a Power point, I can cause any enemy model within 3″ to make a nerve test, and if they fail, they are marked as Activated (basically, they are too scared to act this turn). I targeted the Ogre Palace Guard with this ability, and though he is brave, an unlucky roll saw him fail his nerve test, meaning he was left shaking in his boots for a turn. The Scarecrow was promptly cut down by the Spearman, but it didn’t matter, he had done his job.

One of my Reapers swept into the courtyard and managed to slice through the member of the Sisterhood, who fell in a flurry of bladed limbs. The momentum of the kill saw it following up into the back of the crossbowman, who would be promptly ripped apart next turn. (if you attack a unit from behind you get added bonuses to penetrate their armour, so being able to flank a unit feels great).

The battle in the centre of the farm was less one sided. The Butcher charged at the Basilean line but despite being my best fighter, only inflicted a single wound.

The Ogre had by this time shaken off his fear and charged into the side of my Butcher, almost killing him outright with a swing of his mighty spear.

Though there was a brave fight back in the last moments of the battle, the writing was on the wall for the Basileans. With my Reapers having cleared the courtyard and now joining the fray from the left, and my Phantom sweeping in over the building from the right, there was little that could be done and the last of the Basileans were cut down, still swinging their weapons to their last breath.

The Nightstalkers were victorious, and rampaged off into the darkness.


Post game analysis

That was really fun! The rules work well and are intuitive. And though there was a bit of rulebook-flicking (inevitable in the first game of anything), we soon got to grips with it.

It was a great showcase for the facing and flanking rules, with my Reapers moving into position to cut down the crossbowman who was firing at my front line. The facing rules were something that I was keen to try out, as I’ve not played a skirmish game that features them before, and I thought they worked really well.

The key moment in the game, for me, was charging my Scarecrow forward and using my warband’s Dread ability. That enabled me to effectively lock my opponent’s best unit out of the game for a round, meaning I could move much more freely while not having to worry about a huge armoured ogre wrecking my day. It’s by no means a guaranteed thing: you have to spend a Power point to activate it, and then your opponent has to fail their nerve roll, but if it comes off at the right time, it can be quite a game changer.

Game 2 – Places of Power

The second game that I played saw me going up against the Forces of the Abyss controlled by Chris. I would field my second warband this time, the one featuring the Mind-Screech.

Rather than just a straight up fight, this time we decided to play a scenario. We played one from the rulebook which sees each warband trying to control three standing stones. Victory points would be scored at the end of each round for each stone that you control. You control a stone by being in base to base contact with it, with no enemies in contact with you or the stone. The stone in the middle is worth two victory points per turn, and the ones to the side are each worth one.

My warband was smaller this time, which was perhaps not the best idea for a scenario where you need bodies to control points on the battlefield. Rather than spread myself too thin, I decided to have the core of my force go up the centre of the battlefield, with my fast moving Shadowhound flanking up the left hand side.

As the forces neared, my Mind-Screech drew Dark Power from around him to unleash a devastating lightning bolt, which blasted apart one of the Lesser Abyssals that moved towards the centre of the battlefield.

On the left handside, a Succubus Lurker moved to control one of the standing stones and in the centre one of the small imps did the same. I wanted to hang back a little as to not over extend my small force. As victory points in this scenario are scored at the end of each round, this meant I was already trailing 0-3: not a great start.

In the next turn the hulking Despoiler moved into contact with the centre stone, and I thought now would be a good time to strike. The Mind-Screech exploded another lesser creature with its magic, while one of my Reapers charged the Despoiler.

The Despoiler is, as you may be able to guess from it’s intimidating model, quite strong. While my Reaper attacks were bolstered by the added momentum of the charge, and inflicted a wound on the huge beast, its retaliation sent the Reaper reeling, almost killing it. Unbeknownst to me, the Abyssal warband’s power means that when they retaliate in combat, they are even stronger, so throwing one unit at such a large and strong creature left my Reaper on death’s door.

My other Reaper moved in and had more success against one of the Flamebearers.

On the left flank, my Shadowhound considered charging the Succubus Lurker, but it was (quite rightly) pointed out to me that where she was positioned was out of sight of my hound, and you can’t charge something which you cannot see. With this in mind, I changed my plan and charged my Shadowhound from the flank into the fray in the centre, hoping that he’d be able to dislodge some of the demons that had taken up residence around the most powerful of the stones.

Though he managed to rip the throat out of an already-wounded enemy, his time in the sun was short lived. The Succubus Lurker, sensing an opportunity, darted over the wall, charging my Shadowhound in the back. She is a very deadly assassin type character, and her skill in attacking from behind saw her inflict an eye-watering 7 wounds, which saw my Shadowhound quickly banished back to the netherworld.

Seeing the destructive power of the Succubus Lurker, my Mind-Screech targeted her with his next lightning bolt and blasted the life out of her.

After a bloody melee in the middle, both of our warbands were down to just two models remaining, which meant morale checks to see if our warbands lost their nerve. My Mind-Screech, clearly intimidated by the wanton destruction caused by the seemingly unstoppable Despoiler, decided that he had better things to do and started slowly floating back towards my table edge. My Horror, the last remaining of my units with courage enough to fight, threw himself at the Despoiler in a last ditch effort to dislodge him from the central stone, but it was not to be. The Horror was swatted away like a fly and the game came to an end, with a victory for the Forces of the Abyss.


Post game analysis

Wow, that was a really different experience.

Though the Mind-Screech was very effective, killing a unit from distance every turn, the rest of my units seemed to have a hard time getting going.

This was due to smart play from my opponent Chris, who seized the objectives early, meaning that I was always playing catch up. I got caught up using Power points for extra attacks, meaning I didn’t use my warband’s Dread ability, which seems key to my success.

Even though the final score line of 0-4 might not reflect it, it still felt like a really close game, and definitely was lots of fun.

Oh and the Despoiler and the Succubus Lurker… those things hurt. Shoot them. Shoot them from far away.


Conclusion

Having played two games now, I think that it’s a really fun system.

The base system of d8’s determining success or failure based on a target number is really simple to pick up, and the good number of skills that a model can have, as well as the ability to give them extra equipment (bought for points in the same way as other models), means that models are more than just a stack of numbers. The special skills give a real sense that some people are more skilled than others or have access to weird supernatural abilities. The addition of the Power Dice which give you access to a range of powerful abilities, and the ability to fatigue your units to push them just that little bit further adds an additional layer of tactical depth to the game.

List building is fun, with lots of options for units and equipment, and each warband seems to have a unique feel.

I greatly enjoyed both of the games that I played, and I can’t wait to play more.

What Next?

Next, we’ll be playing some full size games and, hopefully, perhaps even filming one of them. Exciting times!

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