Saturday, September 15, 2012

Battle of Grave Crossing

This was a Hostile Realms battle we fought at my place on Saturday.  Jed brought his Undead and Greg and I matched him up against a Middle Kingdoms army.  The Middle Kingdoms are a Hundred Years War-based fantasy army.

Like most Piquet -based games, the actions of the armies are driven by card decks which are created from their army lists.  The Middle Kingdom army had 3 Optional cards: Look to the King, Uncontrolled Charge, and an extra Courage! card because they were fighting the fearsome Undead.  The Undead had an Uncontrolled Advance, an Ineffective Missilery, and a Brilliant Leader card because Jed rolled up the Necromancer King as a Skilled Commander-in-Chief during army generation.

We created the battlefield terrain and deployed the commands using Piquet's excellent "Theater of War" campaign rules.  1750 points of Middle Kingdom attacking 1600 points of defending Undead.

The Undead are an interesting army since many of their troops cause Fear, they don't take morale checks, don't pursue, and they never rout.  We did play that they could be disordered, but they never retreated from melee.   We weren't sure if they could be routed from a "double disorder".  In retrospect, they probably can't.  So the skeletons tend to fight grimly in battle to the last bone, stopping the momentum of their attackers with sheer weight of Undead numbers.

The Middle Kingdoms army was led by King Jean himself, mounted on a pegasus.  The King was a very capable warrior, but an average commander (he was also only half-painted).  His army consisted of 2 commands: a large left flank command of mounted, heavily armored knights led by a warrior priest and a center infantry command of pike-armed commoners, royal archers, crossbowmen, handgunners, foot knights and a cannon.  The infantry was commanded by Johne of Orc.  Maybe her enthusiasm could stiffen the resolve of this hodge-podge of social classes.

King Jean led off the battle by challenging the evil Necromancer General to a personal combat between the two front lines.  The Undead overlord was smart enough to turn down Jean's chivalrous challenge, even though his refusal boosted the morale of the Kingdom knights as they began to taunt the Undead forces as cowards.

Frustrated that he wasn't able to end the battle with a single swing of his sword, Jean ordered the infantry to capture the village of Grave Crossing in the center of the battlefield while he rode the skeletons down under the thundering hooves of his heavy knights.

The hills were Class II hills.  The villages were Class II terrain capable of holding up to 3 units each.  Since the Undead were the defenders, they could deploy on the right half of the table.  The Kingdom troops deployed on the left table edge (picture below).  The strip of table in between was the combat area.

Western end of the table at game start.
  Undead left flank faces off against the Kingdom's right flank

Skeleton cavalry and monsters on the Undead left flank.

Pike blocks from the common ranks backed up by missile troops,
guard archers, and dismounted foot knights from the poorer noble families

Kingdom mounted knights wait for the signal to charge.

Undead right flank at game start.

The Kingdom pike blocks attempt to close with the Undead.

The mounted knights of the Kingdom left flank advance across
the battlefield.

Close up of the Undead archers waiting for them.

Chariots back up the Undead center.

Close-up of the Undead center front lines.
Skeletal giant smashes into a unit of foot knights.

The giant routed the knights next to Grave Crossing, but was
shot by handgunners and routed during its pursuit,
because it was double disordered.  We later determined it
probably shouldn't have pursued.  Oh well.
It took the Kingdom knights quite a while to charge across the battlefield and attack the Undead right flank.  In the meantime, Johne of Orc pushed her infantry toward Grave Crossing.  The powerful blocks of pike men marched toward the skeleton cavalry and made contact with them.  Unable to draw a Melee card, the Kingdom pike men hesitated to fight the frightening skeletons.  The tightly packed infantry were ravaged by ludicrously effective Undead bow fire.  After the pikemen were disordered by the missile fire, the flip of a Courage card forced them to take a Courage check because the skeletons caused Fear.  The units failed the check and routed from the battle line.

The Undead rolled well for their sub-commanders and had several Undead lords who must have commanded troops in their previous "living" lives.  The Undead infantry in the center lurched forward and occupied the village of Grave Crossing in the middle of the combat area.  The skeletons would hold this village the entire game, grimly driving off all attackers from its narrow, muddy streets.

Pike blocks rout away from the Undead lines after receiving
missile fire and rolling poorly on a few Courage checks.
 Those Undead skeletons are scary!

After Johne's unsuccessful efforts to rally the pikemen with her Blessed Banner (she rolled a 1!), the mounted knights finally made contact with the undead on the other side of the battlefield.  An Uncontrolled Charge card sent even more impetuous knights charging into combat and two units of foot knights lunged forward to assault the skeletal defenders of Grave Crossing.

Kingdom mounted knights charge into combat led by their
King mounted on a pegasus.
A timely Uncontrolled Charge sends the knights into a headlong
charge against the skeleton infantry.
While the foot knights were repulsed from the village objective, the heavy mounted knights carved a path through the Undead ranks.  King Jean's pegasus soared into the air and carried the King out from underneath a giant pile of shattered bones.  The Necromancer King cackled as he cast a Crush spell to destroy King Jean and his feudal knights.  I explained to Jed that the only way the spell could be a miscast would be if he rolled a "1" on a d4 to cast it and Greg rolled a "6" on a d6 to resist it.....and then that's exactly what happened.  The sun came out from behind the clouds, the sunlight reflected off the golden armor of King Jean and momentarily blinded the necromancer during his preparation of the spell, some arcane verse was spoken incorrectly, and the Necromancer King's head promptly exploded.  A common occurrence in our games.

The loss of the Necromancer King sent a detectable wave of shock through the animated corpses of the undead army.  The army lost 7 morale chips out of its beginning total of 20 and the tide began to turn against the Undead.

The melees on the north end of the table continue as the
skeletal chariots attempt to reinforce and turn back the armored

The chariots ended up on the losing end of this 2 on 1 melee.

The mounted Kingdom knights have destroyed their opponents.
and are looking for new victims.  Just at the top of the picture
 behind the catapult, you can see the smoke remaining from
where the Necromancer General blew himself up trying to
cast a spell.

On the Kingdom right flank, the skeletons hold on to the
village of Grave Crossing and refuse to give it up.
The skeleton cavalry have started flanking the Kingdom infantry,
but it's probably too late.   They're facing a disordered unit of
Kingdom foot knights, a cannon, and some hand-gunner skirmishers

By the end of the battle, the Undead were completely out of morale chips and their right flank was practically gone.  While the Undead cavalry was making progress near the village of Grave Crossing, the Kingdom still possessed almost 16 morale chips and their mounted knights were poised to attack down the Undead lines and gather even more.

The Undead started off the battle well and good tactics combined with hot dice did early damage to the Kingdom's army.  In the end, the Undead had trouble handling the strong melee power and extra-heavy armor of the mounted knights.  The Undead monsters that could have handled them were deployed too far away on the battlefield.  The Necromancer King won't make that same mistake again. And it didn't help that he exploded.

We all had a great time.  These rules continue to amaze me with how much fun they are to play.  Jed had a great time running his Warhammer Undead army during the game and after the battle, we talked for an hour about different ways the Undead could be played and deployed.  Great, great fun.


  1. Really interesting to me to see how the Undead are playing out on the battlefield. The shhould have lots of not so great but resilient skeletons, so the use of Magic and the success of the tough special undead critters should musually be the big factors in their sucess or failure. To paraphrase Gavin in his "Gorbald the Pirate King" scenarios, "Nothing says you're having a bad day like having a spell backfire and blow your head off; says it all, really.


  2. The Middle kingdoms field an interesting mix of troops. Greg's pike blocks rolled poorly for morale, but the Extra-heavy armor and fearlessness of the mounted knights carried the day. Next time, Jed will probably wait to deploy his large creatures until after he sees where the mounted knights end up.