I'm not normally a particularly big fan of the "narrative battle reports" that people sometimes do, largely I think because the demands of describing what happened on the table tend to get in the way of writing a good story, but I figured I'd give it a try. I am however going to switch between telling the story and talking about the game; hopefully that way I can get a bit of the best of both worlds. Fair warning before I start: I generally don't take the fluff too seriously in this game.
Prelude: In Which The Players Assemble
Kell Bailoch walked into the tent, lighting a cigarette with his trusty ZippoTM. A junior Winter Guard officer coughed pointedly, jerking his head towards the "No Smoking" sign. Kell pretended not to notice.
"We got intruders boss. Ugly ones too; and that means somethin' comin' from me!"
With a bestial grunt Orus Zoktavir rose from the table where he had been busy devouring a large plate of raw meat and reached eagerly for his precious Lola, his left eye twitching disturbingly. Kell swallowed nervously and started to back out of the tent.
I was running the same Butcher list as before, only I dropped Beast down to a regular Juggernaut in order to be able to afford to run my new Drakhun:
The Butcher Of Khardov
Bob's Nyss Hunters
Alexia and the Risen
Drakhun (no dismount)
Makeda crested the rise and stopped to scan her surroundings. Still no sign of her favourite pet baby elephant. The Beast Handler who had carelessly allowed it to escape had already been severely punished in the most horrible way possible for a Paingiver; with a gentle massage set to a background of soothing music. His screams of agony still rang in her ears. She continued the search, her retinue close behind.
My opponent was running:
Paingiver Beast Handlers
Gobber Bellows Crew
Chapter The First: In Which The Armies Meet
Makeda stepped out of the trees and into a clearing, her forces clustered around her. She sighed as she saw what waited her at the opposite tree line. Clearly this was not going to be as easy as she'd hoped.
"There they are boss! Just like I told you!" Kell indicated the distant
force. Zoktavir growled intelligibly and grinned, a thin line of drool
running down his chin. He started forwards, his army spreading out
My opponent won the roll and opted to go first, deploying centrally. I put the Nyss on the left, planning to flank around the house (one lone hunter ended up far from his buddies, positioned to receive Iron Flesh). I put Butcher in line with my flag, his jacks around him. The Risen and Drakhun went in the center.
Chapter The Second: In Which Many People Run
The two armies rushed towards each other, each side eager to see the colour of the other's blood. The opposing spellweavers muttered (or in Butcher's case belched) words of power, enchanting their forces to empower them in the battle ahead. Already ahead of the main force, Kell fired his enchanted rifle, claiming first blood for the humans. The blood was red; Kell was slightly disappointed about that.
He advances, with Defender's Ward going on the Nihilators.
I put Iron Flesh on the Nyss, Fury on the Kodiak. I try not to over-extend myself. I want to put the Drakhun somewhere that he'll be ready to counter-charge so I put him a little forwards, but don't want Molik to kill him and fate-walk away, so I put some Risen in front of him. Smart, huh?
Chapter The Third: In Which The Dying Starts
Filling their lungs with blood and thunder, the Nihilators surged forwards to strike down the unholy abominations that shambled forth before them. Effortlessly they struck down the pitiful creatures, clearing a path to the Khadoran commander. Kell and the Nyss responded with a barrage of bullets and arrows, claiming more of the foreign devils. Using foul magics the likes of which man should not meddle, Alexia summons a powerful warrior from the lands of the dead. With a mute cry he charges forwards, striking Makeda's enslaved cyclops a terrible blow.
He only manages to get a few Nihilators into the Risen, but it turns trying to jam high MAT reach models with Berserk using Risen is not a good plan.
I'm being very cagey here; I'm don't want to underestimate Molik Karn's threat range and I don't want to throw the Drakhun away for nothing. Speaking of which, I can't get impact attacks because he's too close, so I just advance and attack a Nihilator, missing with both attacks. MAT 8 FTW, right?
Alexia crafts a thrall who charges Molik Karn and rolls hot for damage. I advance my jacks close enough that he can get to the Kodiak or even the Juggernaut with the Gladiator; let the heavy-trading begin! Butcher moves up to the flag and scores a point.
Chapter The Fourth: In Which Many, Many Mistakes Are Made
Overcome by the chaos of war, Makeda's control slips and her beasts lash out in a wild frenzy. Ducking under the Basilisk's clumsy swing, she clamps down on them with her will. In her moment of distraction however, she ordered the Titan to attack the wrong target; realizing her error, she reached out with her magicks to protect it from the inevitable retaliation.
My opponent forgot to take the fury off the Krea, which frenzies and attacks Makeda herself. Even with the backstrike bonus it misses. Karn was similarly neglected; he rolls boxcars and frenzies too, killing the Thrall. The Gladiator charges at the Drakhun rather than a jack; poor thing dies without claiming a single kill. I guess my opponent was worried about it's mobility making it a threat to Makeda? The Nihilators kill off my Risen and take a swing at Alexia but miss; one attacks the Butcher and does nothing. He feats, puts Defenders Ward on the Gladiator, and scores a point.
So now his Gladiator is in range of both my warjacks. I don't want to put them both into it however as that leaves nothing between an empty Butcher and a bunch of Nihilators. Besides, I shouldn't need them both if I use the feat. So I pay for Iron Flesh, drop Fury, and give the Juggernaut two focus. I wanted to put another thrall missle into Karn, but I need to clear the Nihilators or else his feat will bring them back, so I put three Risen into the farthest Nihilator's back arc.
Butcher feats, casts Full Throttle, and smacks the Nihilator in front of him, but it Toughs. The Risen manage to kill their target with a CMA, then Alexia burns one to kill another Nihilator. The Kodiak lumbers forwards and vents steam, killing one Nihilator, but the other one toughs. For some reason I pushed him up to the wall then turned his back to it; I had some idea of buying more attacks if any survived, but since I had no focus that clearly made no sense. Kell finishes off the Risen in front of butcher, and puts shot into the last one, but it toughs again. One Nyss Hunter is in range and takes a shot (which only broke armour thanks to the feat...), but it toughs a third time and there's nothing left that I can put into it. The rest of the Nyss CRA into Karn, doing a little damage.
The Juggernaut charges the Gladiator. Because of Defenders Ward I need eights to hit, but that's OK, I'm getting boosted attacks thanks to Full Throttle. The charge attack misses, as does another of the axe attacks, and damage rolls on the attacks that do hit aren't particularly hot, leaving it very much alive.
I made a big mistake and downright forgot to contest his flag, allowing him to score easily. Meanwhile his last Nihilator was too close to my flag.
Jughead had been feeling left out. His massive metal body was too slow to keep up with all the smaller, faster squishies, who were having all the fun. But finally his chance had arrived! He charged forwards, empowered by his master's will. He repeatedly struck his target, his axe biting deep into it's flesh. But the enemy's magic protected it, and he was unable to kill the four-armed beast.
Meanwhile, Timmy was trying to get back to his feet. A blast of heated steam had knocked him down and scalded his skin, leaving him in agony. Not that agony was anything new to him. Looking around, he realised that he was the last of his brothers still standing. Even as he tried to rise, a bullet struck him in the abdomen, followed a heart-beat later by an arrow to the knee. Gasping, Timmy sank back down, his vision starting to turn black.
In that moment, Timmy's life flashed before his eyes. He saw his father, training him in the ways of the blade. His mother, who first taught him how to snap a neck. His friends who had fought beside him so many times. And in that moment, he decided: he would not fail them. For all their sakes he would fight! He would make his house proud, he would distinguish himself in battle, and he would carry the memory of his fallen comrades forever as a stone Immortal! Running on nothing but pure willpower, Timmy forced his eyes open and once more started to rise.
Chapter The Fifth: In Which The Balance Starts To Tip
A Timmy rose to his feet, he saw him comrades also start to stir. They had survived after all, protected by Makeda's magic. They wasted no time in moving to attack, striking at the hulking warjack in their midst. With his brothers beside him, Timmy swung with new-found strength. The Kodiak stumbled as his blade severed a bundle of pipes in it's leg.
A Beast Handler sidled up to Molik Karn and whispered in his ear:
"That robot said you have no depth perception!"
Enraged beyond all reason, Karn charged forward to lend his strength to the Titan. Bringing his blades down on the machine's shoulders, he severed vital conduits that controlled it's arms. Between the two of them they finally managed to put the crippled Juggernaut down. Alexia, her focus on the Nihilators, suddenly found herself in reach of the Titan's armoured gauntlets. She tried to dodge back, but a lucky blow clipped her head and sent her reeling into the dirt.
With a combination of Molik Karn, the Titan, the Nihilators, and the Tyrant Commander, he finished off the Juggernaut and Alexia and crippled the the Kodiak's movement. The Gobbers and Paingivers came forwards to jam my last warjack.
So this wasn't good. At the start of my last turn it had looked like I was going to be able to get ahead in attrition by killing his Gladiator and Nihilators, but now the Gladiator was still alive, his Nihilators were back (well, half the unit anyway), and my Juggernaut was dead. The Kodiak was tied up, so it fell to Butcher to get me back in the game.
I upkept Iron Flesh but didn't hand out any focus. Butcher charged the Gladiator, which annoyingly still had Defender's Ward. It took two focus to kill it, leaving Butcher on three. Seeing a chance, I put Fury on the Nyss and camped one. I was able to charge four Nyss into Molik Karn (Valachev didn't have line of sight, but he ran in to block the path to Butcher). After a couple of misses (damned re-rolls!), my last Nyss connected and needed to do just a few points of damage to finish him. At four dice minus six, he rolled... six.
Yay. The rest of the Nyss put some damage on the Krea. The Kodiak vented steam again, between that and Kell I killed the Tyrant's standard bearer and two or three Nihilators.
The Butcher let out a roar of pure rage - they were breaking his toys! Charging forwards, he swung his axe at the bipedal elephant creature. Overwhelmed by his ferocity, the creature fell at last.
The Kodiak, suddenly finding itself surrounded by enemies, vented scalding hot steam once again. It proved to much for the already-injured Timmy, and this time when he fell, his eyes did not open again.
Meanwhile the Nyss, infected by the Butcher's fury, surrounded the Cyclops. Despite their numbers he somehow managed to evade most of their blows, but a few landed, and those few exacted a heavy toll. It was ultimately only due to the incompetence of Craig, Cylena's second cousin who she didn't want to bring to the fight but her mother insisted, that Karn survived their onslaught. Valachev himself could perhaps have finished the job, but he didn't want any icky blood on his nice shiny hand-engraved blade, never mind his expensive Ermine-trimmed cloak. But hey, at least he gave them some moral support.
Chapter The Sixth: In Which The Death Toll Mounts
In the middle of the flashing melee, Molik Karn caught sight of the Gladiator fall.
"Spartacus! Noooooooooooo!" he cried out in anguish. The memories hit him in a flood; Spartacus stepping in front of the Paingiver's barbed whips to spare him the blow. Spartacus tackling a charging Scythean to protect his flank. Spartacus dragging him from the battlefield after a pair of heavily armoured dwarves had crushed his knees with their hammers. A single manly tear rolled down from his single manly eye.
Knocking the Nyss out of his way, Karn charged the big Khadoran. Time and time again his blades found their mark, cutting through steel and flesh.
My opponent cleared some Nyss with Makeda to try to spare Molik some freestrikes, cast Carnage, and trampled an Enraged Karn over the remaining Nyss to reach Butcher. His dice were having none of it however, and Butcher was left with a single damage box. He put everything that could reach into finishing the job, including a boosted Muzzle cast by Marketh, but everything pretty much just missed or bounced off. Oh, I think the Krea died to free strikes (I believe he was trying to walk out of melee in order to paralyze Butcher?).
Caught by surprise, Zoktavir almost fell to the rampaging Cyclops. It was only luck that spared him the worst of the attack. Gathering himself, he delivered a mighty blow in return. Already wounded, it proved too much, and Karn lost consciousness, to fall at the Butcher's feet.
The Kodiak was starting to get annoyed. These damned squishies just kept getting up! Again he blasted steam around him to try to get rid of the ugly things.
Kell Bailoch, frustrated by the Nihilators refusal to fall to his bullets, spotted a huge warrior bearing down on his employer. Swinging his rifle around, he tried to stop the warrior before it could threaten his meal ticket, but it's armour proved too strong, deflecting the shot.
I left Fury on the Nyss. Butcher killed Karn with a single hit and camped the rest of his focus. The Nyss charged Makeda, who was out of transfer targets, but only three had her in sight and one fell to a free-strike from the Tyrant Commander and another missed. The last one did a few boxes of damage. Kell tried to shoot the Tyrant but couldn't break armour.
Chapter The Seventh: In Which The Battle Is Concluded
With a disturbing sound that could have been a growl or could have been a chuckle, Orsus Zoktavir raised his axe above the falled Cyclops, prepared to deliver the final blow. Suddenly there was a flash of movement in his peripheral vision. His eyes darted to the right just in time for him to see the Tyrant Commander's halberd swinging towards him. The tremendous power of the blow penetrated his power field and struck his badly damaged chest plate. The force of the attack knocked him back, where he fell to the ground, unconscious at last.
Seeing their commander fall, the Nyss Hunters disengaged from their individual battles and converged towards him, intent on carrying him to safety. As Makeda debated whether to try to finish him off, she caught sight of something at the edge of the treeline. It was the Agonizer! Calling what was left of her forces to follow her, she ran towards the rapidly disappearing figure.
As the Nyss warriors struggled to drag the Butcher's massive frame back to camp, a pair of slender masked figures stepped into the clearing before them.
"Are we, like, late or something? Oops, sorry about that!"
"Yeah, you totally would not believe the traffic on the way here!"
"Plus these forests are, like, so confusing!"
"Totally! Why don't they, like, post some signs or something?"
"Yeah, how's anyone supposed to find out where they're supposed to be fighting and stuff?"
So... yeah, I forgot to put the Eliminators on the table. Oops. I don't know what would have happened if I had remembered them, but I will say there were times when it would have been nice to have them. Still, that was a great game; it swung back and forth several times and there were some really tense moments at the end, great fun.
To be fair we both made a lot of mistakes. I seem to get tunnel vision, and focus on things like getting one model to charge another while forgetting to pay attention the the fact that it's currently engaged and will take a free strike. Part of that might be that I tend to underestimate Reach; for example I put Alexia far enough forwards that Nihilators were able to attack her past the the Risen, there was really no reason for that.
I didn't think things through on the turn that I swapped Fury to the Nyss; had I not upkept Iron Flesh (only to knock it off myself with Fury right after) Butcher would have had some four more damage boxes at the end, which I think might have been just enough to survive that last blow.
We both had some bad dice at crucial times, I wouldn't say either of us was luckier overall than the other. His tough rolls on that last Nihilator on Makeda's feat turn stopped him from losing that unit and kept my Kodiak tied up for the rest of the game. His unfortunate Threshold checks took two of his warbeasts out of the game for a whole turn. I kept rolling low when trying to put down his warbeasts, but Butcher killed stuff real good and refused to be killed back.
I'm not sure what I should have done differently. Clearly I didn't make much use of the Drakhun, although losing it to bring the Gladiator into range of my heavy hitters was a win for me (or should have been). Perhaps if I had put both jacks into the Gladiator? Seems I underestimated the effect Defenders Ward would have. Funnily enough I kept rolling sevens instead of the eights I needed (on three dice btw), meaning Beast would have done a much better job there thanks to his single extra point of MAT. Funny how that works.
I clearly didn't make good use of the Nyss; had I been able to put them into the Nihilators they probably would have done better, but I'm not sure how I should have done that, or what Molik Karn would have been doing in the meantime if I had. Alexia's unit just evaporated under Berserk, but still they held them up for a while, so it wasn't such a big waste I guess.