2018 Clash of Kings – A fall from grace

Clash this year was a whopper. 80 players attending and, naturally, some absolutely stunning armies in attendance. I had a fantastic time yet again and really enjoyed the entire weekend.

Coming into the event I had some big shoes to fill. Last year I managed to fluke myself to the number 1 spot and people were calling on me to deliver once more? Could I do it? Could I lift that trophy again? Could I retain my spot as the number one champion?

Spoiler: no I couldn’t, not by a long shot. Here’s a lot of words on the many ways that I screwed up at the weekend…

Listbuilding

Taking my Abyssals was pretty much a given. I’d been running a very similar list to last year’s winner throughout this year and it’s served me… alright. Not brilliant, but alright. I had the choice between taking what I’d been using all year, or try and come up with something a bit stronger.

I decided to try and do something stronger.

A list which has been working its way around the US meta revolves around Abyssal shooting allied with Twilight Kin chariots (for even more shooting and a bit of melee punch) run by Nicholas Mikelonis. It went unbeaten at Lonewolf (though didn’t have big enough wins to get a podium placing), so I figured I would try and copy it. I digitally sculpted and 3D printed the chariots, I acquired Mantic horses and I managed to track down a couple of boxes of OOP Mantic Twilight Kin archers for the crew.

And then I lost all hobby motivation and couldn’t be bothered finishing them.

I ended up trying a double Archfiend list (well, Archfiend and Ba’El). Double dragon lists still do reasonably well so I figured this could work. Very low on drops, very low on unit strength, low on Inspiring, but with a lot of shooting including 10 lightning bolt, decent anti-shooting capability and 2 combat beasts flying round the board… Could it work?

  • Gargoyle Troop
  • Lower Abyssal Horde w/Hammer of Measured Force
  • Tortured Souls Regiment
  • Abyssal Horsemen Regiment w/Brew of Strength
  • Abyssal Horsemen Regiment w/Potion of the Caterpillar
  • Chroneas
  • Efreet w/Heart Seeking Chant
  • Archfiend w/Wings, Lightning Bolt, Brew of Haste
  • Ba’El

No. No it couldn’t. Sorry, spoilers again there. It was a terrible list and I regretted taking it by the middle of the 1st game.

Game 1 – Simon Clifford (Ratkin) – Push

This was a challenge game since me and Simon rarely get to play each other, despite chatting online about KoW all the time. Simon was running a list archetype that I’d actually suggested to him a while back and he ran with the idea. The list basically boils down to this: Sheer. Fucking. Nerve.

Put enough nerve on the board and your opponent simply can’t deal with it. He was running 4 slave hordes, 3 shock troop hordes, 2 death engines, 2 weapon teams and a couple of other characters. That’s a lot of nerve to chew through. Especially when you rely on high strength, elite attacks to do damage over volume. And especially when you have the Hammer of Measured Force vs De2 Slaves.

We were playing Push with two loot counters each and immediately the biggest weakness of my list became apparent. I simply did not have enough units to spread out across the board and I couldn’t cover everywhere at once. I could only offer a couple of speedbumps on either flank (the Abyssal Horsemen) to try and delay him if he tried to push his Loot counter down one, while the rest of my forces took up position nearer the centre.

My game plan was basically to let him get his Loot over the line if he put it on the flank (which he did), however I would concentrate on breaking the centre and getting enough of the loot counters over to scrape a win.

Unfortunately, this meant settling into a grind in the middle, which was naturally an issue versus Sheer Fucking Nerve. I had the Hammer of Measured Force vs a wall of De2 slaves. It was embarrassing to charge the slaves (admittedly hindered), deal just 2 damage yet take 6 damage back in the counter-charge… Oh how Simon grinned!

I had a potential breakthrough towards the end of the game where my Archfiend and Ba’El were able to jump right over the top of Simon’s rats into a Shocktroop horde hiding at the back. While I knew the counter-charge would hurt, I felt it was more important to get them up-field. When Simon counter-charged, I fully expected him to go into Ba’El in order to disorder him and stop him using his anti-shooting special rule on the nearby Death Engines, Bane-Chanter and Weapon Team.

He didn’t know about Ba’El’s special rule, and charged the Archfiend instead. Ba’El did what he does best, hopped away and screamed “FROM HELLS HEART I STAB AT THEE!” All of Simon’s shooting shut down for a turn.

Ultimately this gave me a little breathing room but not enough.

In the end, Simon got both of his initial loot counters over the half-way line and into my half on my left hand flank, giving him 4 points. Little I could do about that! I held onto my two initial counters but on my half. In my last turn though, Ba’El jumped on the counter in the middle while remaining in Simon’s half, giving me 4 points as well for a draw.

This was a really fun game and I was so happy to see Simon take the 2nd place trophy. I think if he had known what Ba’El could do, charging Ba’El and grounding him rather than the Archfiend could have won Simon the game. I also thought that he could have done to be more aggressive with the Death Engines. While he has given them the shooting upgrades, they are still formidable in melee. He might have even been able to charge Ba’El in the flank on the key turn if he’d tried. Still, great game and very well fought!

Draw! 11-9

Game 2 – Rich Tomlinson (Brotherhood) – Loot

I’d played Rich at the South West Clash 2 where I achieved a victory and he was using the same list as last time – a horde of archers and a whole host of various Knight regiments with some supporting heroes and a couple of Forsaken Beasts.

Rich stacked his right hand flank with a bunch of knight regiments and the archers. I decided to put my knights and Ba’El on this flank to keep him tied up, while I put the rest of my army in the centre to take the two loot tokens here.

I was mostly successful on my left flank with the knights holding Rich at bay at first, however my centre collapsed pretty much in a single turn. I got the initial hit in with various units, but unfortunately I bounced off and Rich rolled very well for his nerve tests in the counter-attack. In any other army I would have had the units to make up for this and the nerve coverage to ward off the high nerve rolls but unfortunately that just wasn’t the case here.

With my centre collapsing, my left hand flank fell soon after leaving me with just an Efreet in the middle of the board trying to do as much damage as possible.

Loss – 2-18

Game 3 – Miguel Ruiz (Dwarfs) – Dominate

Three games in and I already hated my army list. I had too few units, not enough hitting power and not enough Inspiring coverage. Perhaps the third game would give me some respite?

Miguel was playing a beserker heavy Dwarf list, with two regiments of brock riders, 3 regiments of beserker infantry, a horde of Bulwarkers, 2 flame belchers and 2 bombards. He deployed with his brock riders on my right and the infantry and flame belchers taking up the centre. Certainly a tough wall to crack! I deployed my knights on the right with the archfiend facing his brocks and my infantry, breath attackers and Ba’El in the centre.

Unfortunately for Miguel this just seemed to go from bad to worse. Ba’El jumped out wide on my left flank in the opening turn, while I sacrificed my gargoyles to roadblock the Brock Riders on the right. In my third turn, Miguel had advanced his Bulwarkers too far forward, which gave me a charge with my infantry in the front (with hammer of measured force to wound on 4’s…) and my Archfiend in their flank. Horde go bye-bye!

At the same time, Ba’El was able to spot and hit a flame belcher behind Miguel’s lines. Both combats were very short lived and with the Horsemen mopping up on my right hand flank and my Efreet and Chroneas mopping up Beserkers on the left, Miguel had very little left on the board at the end of the game.

Victory – 18-2

Game 4 – Robert Phipps (Abyssal Dwarfs) – Invade

Rob was one of my chosen contenders for winning CoK, so I was absolutely disappointed to see him on as low a table as me! Disappointed enough to take it easy on him and grant him an easy win? Nope!

Rob was running what was essentially a De6 wall with a unit of Grotesques, Halfbreeds, a couple of gargoyle troops and a few individuals running around.

This started out badly for Rob with me using Lightning Bolt to kill one of his gargoyle troops and wavering the other (before taking it out in the next turn). From here I was able to dictate the pace of battle with a speed and manoeuvrability advantage that he just couldn’t match.

In the end I was able to pick the battles I wanted, when I wanted and with high Crushing Strength and Piercing across the board, combined with the Hammer of Measured Force, Rob just wasn’t able to stand up to my assault.

Victory – 20-0

Game 5 – Martin Rabourne (Nightstalkers) – Occupy

Martin’s army had two void lurkers (dragon equivalents), a couple of troops of Phantoms, two hordes of Fiends and then a whole bunch of shambling infantry.

Most of the objective markers were concentrated in the centre of the board with one flung out on the right. I had my cavalry and Ba’El on my left, facing down his fast units (Void Lurkers, Phantoms and Fiends), my infantry in the centre with the breath attackers and the Archfiend and Tortured Souls on the right.

My game plan was to hold the left hand fast units off using my cavalry and Ba’El while my Archfiend swung in from the right hand flank. Unfortunately I screwed up on the right and accidentally left my Archfiend in charge range of a horde of butchers. While they didn’t kill the Archfiend, it did mean that I was grounded for a turn and had to sacrifice the Tortured Souls so that my Archfiend could regain fly and continue on to press the left flank.

By the time I was able to get my Archfiend free and moving again, Martin was already chewing my knights apart. A decent nerve test on my Lower Abyssals and the centre had fallen too.

If I hadn’t messed up with my Archfiend, could I have won? I think it’s a distinct possibility, yes. It would be far from certain since the weaknesses of my army would have still been a significant detriment, but I would have stood a better chance.

Loss – 6-14

Game 6 Harris Dewsnap (League of Rhordia) – Control

Harris set up with two battlegroups. One was a static shooting group that set up in the centre with a horde of archers, 2 regiments of riflemen, an organ gun and a couple of support units. On my left flank he set up a couple of Iron Beasts, a horde of Dogs of War, a Duke on Winged Aralez and a horde of Honour Guard. My cavalry and Ba’El set up on the left, everything else on the right.

My game plan was to hold the left flank up for as long as possible, stopping him from using his units to capture anything other than the two left hand control zones, while my Archfiend and Tortured Souls hit the flank of his static shooters.

In my second turn though I spotted an opportunity to jump Ba’El over the top on the left and face the flank of the static shooting group. At the same time my Archfiend got into position to flank the shooting group as well. With almost all of the units in that group having Reload and being unable to pivot and shoot at the flankers, there was little that Harris could do to stop the collapse of the shooting group.

On the left I was surprised to see Harris refusing to engage and actually backing off from my Horsemen regiments. He could have used his Dogs of War to get right up in my face, block my movement and force an engagement. I would have been unlikely to break the DoW in one hit and the counter-attack from him would have been devastating.

He didn’t though, and with Chroneas and my Efreet redeploying to that flank, I was able to keep him from advancing his units forward to capture more zones at the end of the game.

Victory – 17-3

Results

With 3 wins, a draw and 2 losses I wasn’t holding my breath for a decent placing. In the end I came 18th out of 80. Not terrible, but a major fall from my overall win last year.

I was very happy to see Simon come 2nd overall as mentioned earlier. His list was solid and a great proving of the “Sheer Fucking Nerve” list archetype. Tom Robinson, unsurprisingly, took 1st place.

I was really chuffed that our team, Northern Kings, once again scooped the best team award. Me, Adam and Paul had all done relatively poorly on day one so we were glad to have a comeback on day 2 to get the award.

Northern Kings also sponsored two additional awards this year – Best Mantic Unit and Best Mantic Hero/Monster. We had some amazing entries to this. Perhaps not as many put on the judging table as we’d have liked (seriously people, just enter a unit even if you don’t think you’ll win) but the winners were very well deserved.

Thoughts on my list

Terrible. Absolutely terrible. I tried to be clever and it just didn’t work.

I think the Abyssal Archfiend is poor value compared to some other dragon equivalents. Whether that’s because the other dragons are undercosted or Archfiends overcosted (or a bit of both) is up for debate, but point for point the Archfiends aren’t as good as dragons. A double dragon list might work, but a double archfiend list is overpaying. I also think that the Abyssal list doesn’t have the heavy hitters that other double dragon lists would have access to (Mounted Sons of Korgaan, Drakons etc). Horsemen are good all round, but they don’t hit hard enough or have the manoeuvrability to use their hitting power to its maximum extent.

So yeah in hindsight the list was built around an archetype that the Abyssal army list as a whole doesn’t really have the tools to perform with. Add on that I had so few units on the board and had such little Inspiring coverage… Yeah I just couldn’t control the board and didn’t have the hitting power to brute force anything like an Elf or Varangur double dragon list would have.

So, what next?

Gaming wise I will continue to use my Abyssals for the forseeable future. I am excited to see the Vanguard units and what they bring to the army. I’m hoping for some harder hitting melee options, so it will definitely be interesting to see what the stats are for Hellequins and Despoilers. Until these units are ready I will probably fall back onto the list that I used last year that had just the one Archfiend but had more units on the board.

In the more distant future, I have an army sat on the sprue that I’ve been intending to build for a long time. Very much a modeller’s army and there are big plans for it…

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