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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Havoc Game 4 AAR - Chapter 1 Finale

NOTE: UPDATED with pictures!  Dec 20, 2015
NOTE: I'm going ahead and posting this without pictures for now.  I hope to come back and add them.  As noted below, when this was written we were expecting a baby in two weeks.  Well, that was two months and two weeks ago!  It's taken me this long to find time just to write it up and post it and I'm afraid it might be another couple of months if I took the time to finish the pictures.  So here's the narrative and hopefully the pictures will follow. Enjoy!)

Intro

This game didn't turn out quite as expected (well, except for the part where I lost -- although my wife insists it was a tie. More on that later), so it provides a fitting end to this chapter of our ongoing Roman versus Amazon battles.  It introduces two new factions and I think the next games will feature one or both of them -- and might segue into a bit of Legends of the High Seas battling (I've had the rules for a while but have never actually played them).

All this being said, we also have a baby due in 2 weeks or so.  So gaming time might be...limited for a while. :-)  

Scenario

One thing I like about Havoc is that it's so easy to slot in different miniatures and still have a balanced game.  My wife has had several mermaids painted up and recently added some Cthulhu-ish piratical types from Reaper Miniatures.  And also one neat figure that is like the figurehead from a ship.  From the desire to use these figures came the scenario and also a bit of a retroactive continuity applied to the previous games.



It turns out that this was not a Roman invasion of the Amazon lands.  It seems instead that the Romans were shipwrecked!  They decided to split their force -- fast cavalry rode ahead of a main body to try to cut through the land and back to civilization (the demise of this force was the subject of games 1 and 3) while a smaller band stayed with the sailors to try and parley with the natives and eventually repair the ship.  This led to game 2, where the desert nomads were trying to sell a Troll to the Romans and to the current game.



We open, then, on the following scene:  At a troglodyte village, the Roman prefect Cornelius "The Butcher" Tacticus and a small bodyguard are negotiating with S'slith The Destroyer for supplies and perhaps to gain some new recruits.  While the Butcher has never seen such creatures before, the advantages to the Empire of having troops who have natural armor and are at home in the marsh are obvious!  But how well do they fight?  Their negotiations are interrupted by a runner who throws himself at the feet of S'slith and rasps and hisses what is clearly a warning.  The Amazons are on the move and are about to attack the village!



Meanwhile, back onboard ship the crew is making repairs as best they can when suddenly the lookout cries from the top of the shattered main mast -- "Thar she blows!  Wakes spotted a-stern!"  













Setup

The small Roman legion and Cornelius "The Butcher" Tacticus start within the village.  Arrayed around them are 16 Troglodyte skirmishers with "The Rush" Named attribute.  S'slith the Destroyer, the magus S'stinky the Small and a standard bearer round out the force in the village.  Just outside, 3 heavy cavalry mounted on salamanders stand ready -- though, oddly, they seem rather small for a troglodyte...  


Out at sea, 9 sailors (count as crossbowmen) take aim at the approaching school of sea creatures -- mermaids, cthulhus, shark-men and other sea creatures -- and prepare to defend their ship under the direction of their Captain (a Fencer).

So there are 2 areas under attack simultaneously -- a land battle and a sea battle.  At sea, the Roman ballista mounted on the ship can fire to support the land battle.



Special Rules

The Amazons, since they were attacking, had +1 die to roll for Momentum on the first turn.


The Living Figurehead:  The Living Figurehead is a magical construct on the Roman ship.  When the ship wrecked in a storm on the coral of the Amazon island, the Figurehead sacrificed herself to beach the ship on a sandbar to ensure her sailors would live through the gale.  She now lies lifeless and inanimate, her wooden body frozen like the statue she started as.



Special Objective:  The Cthulhu Magus watched the ship die and is fascinated by the strange magic held within the Living Figurehead, Tempestia Pallentides.  He wishes to retrieve the Figurehead and take it for further study.  To that end, he has gathered a raiding party of mermaids, shark-men and other creatures of the sea.  His objective is to USE 4 AUGMENT TOKENS to bring the Living Figurehead back to life (as a Behemoth).  However, should this be accomplished, the Shark Knights will rise to bring balance back to the sea -- represented by 3 Shark Knight Heavy Cavalry.


In the Pre-Game Ritual, each player was awarded a token for having a finely painted army.



Turn One

Despite the advantage, the Amazons lose momentum and the Roman player (me) is kind of lost.  I've noticed that for our games I spend so much energy on setting up the scenario, re-reading the rules, getting army lists together -- that I usually get a bit lost when it actually comes to playing the game.   In this case, I started with a defensive move -- firing the ballista at the Amazon berserker line and narrowly missing both the aimed-at berserker and the standard bearer just beyond her.  In response, the Amazon Cavalry Archers volley-fired and hit the Troglodyte command squad -- in a nightmarish deja-vu scene from game 3, my main Named character, the Magus, and the standard bearer were all in danger on Turn One.  In fact, I spent a Havoc token to save S'slith the Destroyer, and the poor standard bearer went down with dozens of Amazon arrows piercing his scaly hide.   


After that, I quickly moved the skirmishers to form a defensive line and moved S'slith and the Magus into cover.  Not a good start.  



The rest of the phase was simply advancing other troops -- the only notable action came when "Rick the Eye" (this pirate figure was named for my friend Rick way back in 2005 - nice to see the figure back in action after a decade!) nailed the Deep One, Varag, with a fine pistol shot made as Rick dangled from the railing.

Phase Two.  The focus stays on the sea battle as the mermaids (light cavalry) and toad-man (heavy cavalry) are within charge range.  They swarm aboard and massacre 3 of the crew, though the Roman artillery crew manages to hold off the charge of the toad-man, Grogomon, long enough for the Fencer to join the fray and slay him (in the Assault phase) using a combined attack and 3 Havoc tokens.  Rick the Eye sets his sights on Captain Cthulhu the Destroyer (Z'ur'dri the Destroyer) who is shielding the Cthulhu Magus (Acthirralb Z'aiolko).  The magus is making a bee-line for the Living Figurehead and barely notices when Rick the Eye's shot rings out and ends the Captain's tentacly existence (despite Havoc tokens used in defense AND being in cover - really bad luck for the Amazon player).



On land, the Troglodytes close with the Amazon berserkers and MASSACRE them to a man -- er, a woman.  The Roman victory celebration is measured in micro-seconds as the Roman player (me) realizes that the Amazon player (my wife and mother to my child) forgot to add in the MAD die from being close to the Amazon standard bearer.  3 Havoc tokens are awarded to me for what becomes known as the Resurrection battle and that one MAD die makes all the difference as only 2 of 6 berserkers are taken down.  



The Amazon light cavalry archers, robbed of their volley fire targets, charge the troglodytes on the Roman left flank.  Carnage ensues as 3 troglodytes are taken out due to impact hits.



It's kind of at this point that I realize I made a big error in positioning.  My trogs are only going to be able to take on the Amazons in two-on-one battles -- and I realize with a sinking feeling that if I lose momentum next turn they are going to be cut to pieces in one-on-one battles before I can get them out of the way.  



The sound of the Amazon Musician "sounding the maneuver" brought me back from my reveries.    



An Amazon heavy cavalry and a Knight Furioso (a demon) charged into contact with S'Slith the Destroyer and the Troglodyte Magus (respectively).  This looks bad -- although the Magus does have 4 Augment tokens.  I realize he actually has a chance to win the battle if he spends the tokens on himself - but I really need him to help out S'slith as well.  

The Roman troll is charged by another Amazon heavy cavalry and the second Amazon Knight Furioso (Skyclaw, a harpy).  The remaining heavy cavalry cut effortlessly through the Roman Legion and by the time Impact hits and the assault phase are resolved, only 2 remain standing, effectively eliminating them as a fighting force.  The Butcher manages to stand his ground against the impact hit and in the assault phase lives up to his name as he butchers (with one Augment from the magus) the heavy cavalry who dared to charge him .

Of the battles in the assault phase not already mentioned, I prioritized the following -- S'slith had to live, it would be great if the Magus survived, and the Troll...was on his own, probably.  And that's pretty much how it worked out.  S'slith the Destroyer, despite spending his Havoc tokens, is taken down by his heavy cavalry opponent.  S'stinky the Small summons his  spellcraft and succeeds in sucking the life-source of the Succubus into his sorcerous sphere!  (Using all his remaining Augments to boost his own attack rolls).  And finally, the Troll kills the heavy cavalry he was facing but is in turn brought low by the Amazon Harpy.  (At least he managed to kill something before dying this game!  see game 2)


Turn the Last, also known as the Cleverly Named Turn Two

So to recap -- both players have lost their "Destroyer" Named characters and neither managed to actually do any destroying.  Both players spend tokens and the Amazons emerge victorious with Momentum for this turn.

And the Roman tactical error with moving the skirmishers ensures this will be a quick game.



The Amazons open up with more sea creature carnage as the deadeye crossbow shot of sea hag Zephyre Wavenhair takes out another sailor, and the mermaids (Meradwyn, Sealanna and Laenaya) run roughshod over the remaining sailors, including Rick the Eye whose eye was unfortunately distracted by the mermaid's great beauty.  Only Nimble Jack and the Fencer remain for phase 2, though not before a few more lesser sea creatures  are taken out by pistol shot.  













On land, the Amazon Behemoth (Medusa) charges the Magus only to be charged in turn by the Butcher.  (Some modern revisionist historians may claim that the Butcher was actually running away from the Harpy Skyclaw when he accidentally bumped into the Medusa.  Were the Butcher still alive he would have these historians put to the sword.  Regardless, this clever application of the Third Law did mean that the Harpy was left without a target for her fury).





The Cthulhu magus, Acthirralb Z'aiolko, hiding behind Skull Rock, charges up his magical energy and prepares to summon life back into the Living Figurehead.  

Phase Two

The Amazon Musician again sounds the maneuver and send the Harpy winging across the battlefield to charge the Roman heavy cavalry (the one bright spot for the Romans last phase)  The remaining two heavy cavalry cause more carnage amongst the cavalry archers and one manages to trample into the Harpy.  The Amazon chariot mows down the last two troglodyte skirmishers.

At sea, Nimble Jack kills the mermaid, Sealanna, but is ridden down by her sister, Laenaya.  The Amazon Cthulhu Magus unleashes his spell and the Living Figurehead comes alive.  

And while the Shark Knights rise from the depths at the stern of the vessel, who is to say whether it is the magic which attracts them or the blood in the water?









In the Assault phase, the Behemoth  unleashes an 11 MAD dice attack, boosted by Havoc tokens and 3 Augment from the centaur magus.  The Butcher and the Roman Magus are cut to ribbons. 

The Roman heavy cavalry with lance is just the thing to kill the Harpy, finally.  And the Fencer aboard ship kills the last mermaid, Meradwyn.


It's pretty clear how this game is going but we decide to play one more turn and it's a...









CUT SCENE!

I force a cut scene and we take 2 last moves to end the game.  The Amazon Sea Hag Zephyre Wavenhair fires her crossbow to kill one of the newly arrived Shark Knight heavy cavalry.  The remaining Shark Knights chase her down and get their revenge.  







And in the final move of the game, the Fencer uses his last remaining Havoc token to leaps from the gunwales, slide down the broken mast and skewer Sharkey the Amazon shark-man (Zigmal the Tooth) before Zigmal even knows there is a threat.



AFTERMATH

So remember those "small" troglodytes?  The heavy cavalry on salamanders and S'stinky the Small ?  Turns out they are actually goblins!   One of the remaining knights raises his visor, looks at the carnage the Amazons have just wreaked upon their opponents and says in a suspiciously Bronx accent, "Well, that's the end of Stinky, boys. We better be's gettin' back to the Boss.  He ain't gonna like this.  He ain't gonna like this one bit."   
Outcome: The Amazons, in pursuing the Romans back to their ship, have inadvertently set off a turf war with the orcs and goblins, who consider this their territory.  They are now aware of two threats -- the Romans and the Amazons. The Amazons clearly have won the land battle ... for now.

At sea, the creatures of the deep have been awakened by the Cthulhu Magus.  This will no doubt lead to some naval combats, as my wife has a band of pirates painted to go with her sea creatures.  And I have a long dormant fantasy pirate collection of miniatures with Orc, dwarf and Pi-rat (skaven) pirates plus the conventional(?) skeleton and human crews. The Cthulhu Magus looks around at the carnage -- just about all of the sea creatures had given their lives to protect him, allowing him to get to the Figurehead and restore her powers, bringing her to their side. But what does Cthulhu care about a little bloodshed? He has what he came for. He sounds the signal and swims off in retreat with the Figurehead and last remaining sea creatures. The pirates, with their surprise shark knight backup squad, have won this front ... again, for now.

Tactical thoughts

I lost the game by not realizing my biggest strength -- mobility.  With 16 skirmishers, there should never have been a case where they were involved in a one-on-one battle.  But I got panicked by the early success of the Amazon heavy cavalry and the threat of the Knights Furious.  After that. it was all over.  



When we set up the scenario, I thought I'd have a decent chance at the land battle and would probably have trouble in the sea battle until the Shark Knights were released (who were 1/3 of my army points).  In the end, having so many missile units (I used the Crossbowman profile to simulate the pirate's pistols) and one good Named melee unit (the Fencer) worked way better than anticipated.  



The Amazons won the land battle handily and the Romans won the sea battle, so we tied there.  The Amazons gaining their objective of the Living Figurehead gave them one more point for the win.


House Rules

Momentum rule

We used the rule suggested by Brent Spivey (in a comment to a different AAR on this blog) of giving the player without momentum an extra die in the momentum roll for the next turn.  We like this rule, as it seems to force a better back-and-forth of momentum -- or if you really want sustained momentum, you have to spend the Havoc tokens to be able to keep it (or be really lucky!).  We'll be using this going forward.



Artillery no-guess rules


A discussion on Delta Vector led to my developing "no guess" artillery rules which were used here for the first time.  It worked splendidly and got rid of the one bit of the Havoc rules that I just really didn't like -- the "guess the distance" rule for artillery.



For this game, I used a RAT of 2 for artillery crewman because I didn't want it to be too overpowering.  It was actually a little under-powered.  My new recommendation is to use RAT 3 for trained artillery crew.  If that crew should be killed and then replaced by regular infantry, then the replacement crew only has a RAT of 2 (which was another niggle that I didn't care for - that artillery crew could be replaced by regular infantry and yet retain the same skill level - which was actually the skill level of the player at guessing distance).   

I also reduced the initial impact hit from 10 to 8 because I think the rolling to-hit will actually be more accurate for most players.  This needs a bit more play-testing, as I only managed a single artillery shot this game.  But my gut feel is that the slightly reduced hit is still scary enough.   It still feels right, so I'm going to keep it as is for now.  





Artillery with To-Hit rules

Artillery crewman now have an RAT of 3.  Should the crew be killed and regular infantry re-crew the artillery, then their RAT is only 2.



Reduce the initial impact to 8.    (Drop the 10 from the sequence, in other words. One "bounce" is lost)



Roll to-hit based on the target model RDF as normal.   



On a miss, roll 1d6.  On 1-3, the shot is short.  On 4-6, the shot is long.

Roll 1d6 and move the target back or forward along the path from the artillery piece in accordance with the results of the first roll.



Example.  I miss and roll 1d6, scoring a 3.  The shot falls short.  I then roll 1d6 again and score a 4.  I move the impact point back 4 inches from the target on the line which intersects the artillery piece. 



This does mean that the original target could be hit if you are lucky in your deviation and bounce rolls!
  

Thoughts

It's interesting how introducing my wife to wargaming has led me to re-examine my own relationship with miniatures.  She isn't interested in collecting armies -- she wants to buy neat miniatures and create her own theme that ties them together.  After years of collecting miniatures in the same pose and painted the same way for Warhammer fantasy, I was really quite envious when she just went to Reaper and bought all the cool miniatures that I never bought because they didn't fit the army list.   What was I thinking? 

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