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This is the fifth entry in a series of battles between me and my wife that we've been posting on my blog, Space-Biff! This was originally published there on 21 January 2013. If you enjoyed this session report, head over there for the complete series, including pre-game deckbuild discussions, pictures, alt-texts, post-game chats, and other articles!
Setup / Rounds 1-2
(I imagine you know the drill by now. If not, we’ve oriented the board so everything will make sense from the viewer’s perspective. Flanks are “north” and “south” rather than “left” and “right.” You can embiggen any picture if you want a better view of what’s going on. And everything is written from Dan’s point of view as the Shadow Elves.)
For this match, my agenda on the initial roll is to go first. I usually prefer to go second, but my Shadow Elves begin with a veritable army already on the board — six common units in addition to Selundar! — and I’m not a fan of that for a couple reasons. First, it decreases my deckbuilding options; and second, it means that a number of my one-life units are out in the wind, ready to be turned into easy magic, especially if Somerset goes first and get a string of luck with her Fighters before I can hunker down a bit. So when she rolls a 1, I have a glimmer of hope… until I roll a 1 as well. Then we tie again with 4. My old heart isn’t going to take much more of this. Then she beats me 5-1 and, after an excruciating wait while she examines the board, she informs me she’ll be going first. Bah!
She does what I would have done, even though it’s risky — the Tundra Orcs love some risk, after all. Only able to move two units, she brings her northern Fighter down to the spot between her starting Wall and my Swordsman, and moves her southern Fighter forward a single space, standing south of the same Wall. She has the latter Fighter attack the Wall (her own), dealing a wound and activating Fury, which basically lets Fighters take their entire move and attack over again if she succeeds the roll, which in this case lets him rush forward to my starting Wall. He kills my front Swordsman before failing his second Fury roll. Whew. Just one more to go. Her second Fighter attacks her own Wall and misses, which apparently enrages him. He runs forward to the space north of my Wall, hits it, and fails Fury.
Okay, that was a mouthful. A few more mentions of “Fury,” “Fighter,” and “Wall,” and we might have a tongue-twister on our hands.
I’m feeling lucky. She did get a string of annoying hits, but the only effect was a single dead Swordsman and a wound on my Wall, and I can turn the presence of two low-life Fighters to my advantage.
To that end, I position all of my northern units to provide multiple angles of attack on the two invading Fighters: my Swordsman uses his Swift ability to run behind the top Fighter, while my Ranger moves forward and my Scout heads north. The Swordsman kills one while the Scout takes out the other (I would have liked for my Ranger to get the kill, since that would have let her use her Shadow Arrows to jump to the dead Fighter’s safer space, but she missed). This, coupled with a single built card, gives me three early magic to Somerset’s one. I guess your orc gamble didn’t pay off this time! I’m just relieved she didn’t do some real damage with that darn Fury ability; a turn-one victory would have made for an extremely short writeup.
On her turn, Somerset places a Wall near the back middle, creating a nice little nook for Grognack to hide in. Her Shaman also moves forward and rolls 1/2 on my Ranger, which normally would have killed it, except the Shaman’s ability is more of a disability — his Unwieldy Magic means a single miss spells a miss for all his attempts.
Now it’s time for my Swordsmen to go to work. As happens once per game (at least I always do this), Somerset has forgotten that they can move three spaces, so on her turn she left her Smasher standing around. My Swordsmen charge forward and kill it without needing to roll dice because of his Sluggish disability. I’m getting a good start, in control of the entire southern half of the board, at least for the time being. I also have Selundar kill my rearguard Ranger and build 2 to magic, giving me 8 and Somerset 3.
That magic disparity is annoying Somerset, so on her turn she plays it safe. Her Shaman makes another attempt on my Ranger, which once more fails by missing one of his two attacks, and builds a sizable 3 magic.
My quandary is that I want to push and land some early hits on Grognack while I have this early momentum, but I don’t want to subject myself to early Freeze events or lose a bunch of units to her Walls, which Grognack can transform into offensive tools with his Walls of Ice Shard ability. So I move my southern Swordsmen forward to a spot where they should be able to move to Grognack in a single turn if she forgets their ability again (not going to happen) and finally have my Ranger shoot back at the Shaman who’s been flailing magic into the atmosphere for two rounds. I land a hit.
Somerset summons a Thwarter (an excellent choice, given the high attack of my Swordsmen) at her back line to block my access to Grognack through the southern gap, and pulls back her Shaman to defend him from the north. Her run of bad luck continues as her Thwarter moves out and misses one of my Swordsmen and she fails to activate Grognack’s Walls of Ice Shard attack.
I place a Wall in the north, as far forward as possible. My thought process is that it will let me summon units to push forward to some easy Grognack wounds, but of course I’m forgetting about how easily the Tundra Orcs can plop down their frigid defenses. At any rate, I move up my Ranger in a probably too-bold maneuver, and my Scout moves onto her side of the board, which if she survives until the next turn will let me move 4 units during my movement phase rather than just 3 — not that it would be much of a perk at this point. Or 90% of the time. My Swordsmen also attack Somerset’s Thwarter: the first attacks with 1/2 and thus misses (the Thwarter is like the defensive cousin of the Shaman; unless you roll all hits against him, you miss everything), but my second Swordsman gets lucky and lands both attacks, killing the foul orc. As the fourth round ends, I’m feeling pretty confident, especially since I have 10 magic to Somerset’s 6.
Turns out my confidence is overinflated. Somerset summons Bragg, who makes the Freeze event cost even more to get rid of and Ice Walls significantly harder to dislodge. Then she puts down an Ice Wall in front of my northern Wall, which I had hoped to use as an offensive springboard, and has Grognack use his Walls of Ice Shard, which finally activates and kills my northern Ranger and one of my southern Swordsmen. Fortunately, I’ve been holding these Shadows events for a long time, so I can steal those two dead units over to my own magic pile. Still, my plans for an early offensive success are more than a little blunted, especially when Bragg kills my last Swordsman. The only justice to the matter is that I was holding all three of my Shadows events, so Somerset is deprived of his magic too. This means I’m holding 13 magic, possibly the most I’ve ever had at one time.
“You little pill,” she says.
Since I’m feeling a little desperate to keep the pressure on, I summon the massive Hydrake in the north and run him over onto the Tundra Orc side of the board. Somerset’s response is to seal him in with another Ice Wall (she also places her third and final Ice Wall in the south), and by moving a Smasher and her injured Shaman next to him, Hydrake is completely unable to pursue Grognack as he flees towards the bottom of the board. The Shaman once again rolls 1/2, though the Smasher lands two wounds. Hydrake barely feels a thing, but he has little chance of catching up with Grognack in the immediate future, so he consoles himself by using his multiple heads to finally rid the world of its most inaccurate Shaman and severely wound the Smasher.
Also, now that I have Bragg and Grognack sprinting into the south, it seems like a good time to reposition my Scout and move Selundar north to where he’ll be a little bit more out of the way.
The next two rounds continue to be defined by Grognack and Bragg being chased by Hydrake, Benny Hill-style, into the corner. Grognack does strike him from a distance with his Walls of Ice Shard, but Hydrake finishes snacking on the Smasher and keeps lumbering in pursuit. Somerset plays Freeze on Hydrake, which I pay three magic thanks to Bragg to remove.
Unfortunately, my focus on getting close enough to Grognack has left Selundar in an uncomfortably vulnerable position. I can’t move him anywhere without placing him closer to one of Somerset’s Summoning Spots (opening in May). Worse, she’s as gleefully aware of this fact as I am painfully aware of it, and she plays Reinforcements to lay down a Charger and a Fighter right in the middle of the board, where both are within range of Selundar if their abilities allow it. Thankfully, the Charger fails to get his Burst of Speed, but the Fighter kills my Scout, gets Fury, moves to and hits my Wall and gets Fury, and then moves down to Selundar and wounds him before finally running out of anger. The first Summoner wound has been dealt, and the blood isn’t the color I envisioned (I assume Tundra Orc blood glows blue).
My only recourse is to summon Taliya, whose annoying ability is to send one adjacent common unit per turn back to its owner’s hand. After Selundar kills the Fighter that just slashed him, I have Taliya send the Charger back to Somerset’s, which is much easier than killing the darn thing, and simultaneously gums up her hand and means she’ll have to pay if she wants to use him again.
I’m also worried that Somerset finally has more magic than me (4 to 1), so I build a few of my more potent cards to ensure I have three magic on the next turn in case she decides to Freeze me again.
Okay, so here’s the situation. Things look fairly desperate for both of us. Selundar can’t move anywhere without placing himself in danger, but he also can’t stay put. Grognack is still being pursued by the unstoppable Hydrake, though I fear it may push him and Bragg right into Selundar. In essence, we’ve transformed the board into a gigantic clock of doom, with everything shuffling clockwise out of the way of my three-headed beast. The problem is that we can’t keep running in circles forever since Somerset has a mountain range of Ice Walls up in the north. My one chance is that I haven’t drawn either of my Stalking Advance event cards yet. These events let every Shadow Elf unit move one space — Hydrake could catch up to Grognack!
Then Somerset does something that wrecks any chance of Hydrake doing much of anything. And it makes us burst into laughter, even though it makes my situation considerably more hopeless.
She places her final Wall.
Hydrake is penned in, and Bragg is his jailer! He could get out, but it will require him to either sit around chomping on a regular Wall for a few turns (which I suspect I do not have) or taking his chances attacking an Ice Wall, which he can only hit on dice results of 5+.
At least the comedy of the situation lets us sit there and laugh for a while. The game had been getting a little tense.
Once we’ve calmed down, things heat right back up. We’re both at the bottom of our draw piles. Somerset uses Reinforcements again to send another Fighter and Charger after Selundar. This time the Fighter hits Taliya, Furies, and then fails to hit Selundar or get Fury again, while the Charger gets his premium rush and hurls himself across four spaces to give my Summoner his second wound.
I finally respond with a few Summoner-wounds of my own. Grognack is in a forward position, so I place a Swordsman in the south and a Hunter in the north, and use Stalking Advance to get them both close enough to move up to Grognack in one turn. My luck holds out and both of them land their attacks on the Tundra Orc Summoner, leaving him half-dead in one bout. Selundar also kills the Fighter that’s milling around next to him, and Taliya sends the Charger back to Somerset’s hand for the second time. I wonder if it hurts to be summoned and un-summoned multiple times?
Even though I’ve gifted my enemy a few wounds, I’m crestfallen when Somerset brings out Ragnor, the champion version of a Fighter, complete with the same Fury ability. If she gets lucky and strings that ability over and over, she could win the game this turn.
Fortunately, she doesn’t. After Grognack retreats to a position out of my summoning range, Ragnor kills my Swordsman but fails to get Furious about it. Walls of Ice Shard misses my Hunter, so on my next turn I use her to attack Grognack again, wounding him further. At the same time in the Hydrake Pen, Hydrake is smashing away at an Ice Wall to little avail. I’m beginning to worry that I’ll wear myself out with these cheap shots on Grognack, especially when Bragg wipes out the Hunter on the next turn and Ragnor creeps ever closer and Grognack slides into the southeast corner, as far from my Walls as possible. Oh, and Somerset plays Freeze on Selundar, ensuring I’m not going anywhere.
Well, I could, but I’d need to spend most of my final magic reserves. I have 4 stockpiled, and I have one shot at victory.
I spend everything on Xaserbane, a glass cannon champion who can Sneak up to four spaces so long as he’s the only unit I move. With Ragnor dangerously close to Selundar, I play my second and final Stalking Advance event, which basically lets me move Xaserbane five spaces. Right into Grognack’s face.
If Xaserbane lets me down, I’m out of options. So it’s a particular relief that he doesn’t. Grognack is killed by a puny elf.
David Malki drew this!
Great report! That was a good game... nice and close.