The Rage Ghosts
This week I was able to get in a game with an opponent I don’t get to see often. We used to get games in fairly regularly when I lived further south, but its been a while, and I was glad to see Protectorate on the other side of the Table. He brought Durst and Feora 2, While I brought Zaal and Makeda 2. I didn’t know what to take, to start off with, but as we talked and I learned a little more about what a protectorate player wants and doesn’t want to see on the other side of the board, I got a better idea of where I needed to go.
The Protectorate – Skorne matchup is interesting. Its the two opposite ends of the synergy spectrum facing off, with Skorne looking to build up the greatest potential battering ram and just crush the enemy from the field, and the Protectorate looking to deny your ability to do anything of substance to their army while whittling your army down.
The Durst list had a pretty solid selction of paladins who’d be vulnerable to nearly everything in my Zaal list, but would be able to shrug off an enormous portion of Makeda 2’s army on feat turn. With two Templars and a Devout, he’d be sitting at a massive arm 25 against every melee attack that my army could deal out. Feora, on the other hand, is going to scorch the earth. Both lists, actually a vast majority of Skorne lists, have a pile of infantry,and she is just gonna set them on fire. Bonded Redeemer, Vanqisher, Temple Flameguard and Zealots all simply apply fire to the nearest target. That is, if they don’t just die.
He locked in his list, and I locked in mine after a brief discussion of our Strengths and Weaknesses, and we got to it.
Hakaar the Destroyer
Vassal of Menoth
Holy Zealots (max)
-Officer and Standard
Choir of Menoth
Visigoth Roven and Company
The scenario was Outflank, and I won the roll. The last thing I wanted was to be lit on fire in my DZ, so I took first turn. He choose the side I was standing at, we swapped and I started deploying.
I keep getting stuck with houses. Ah well, I set up the terrain, its only my fault.
I Put one unit of Immortals towards each zone, a little on the flank, and my battlegroup in the center, with the Extollers. I’d learned to be more frugal with my soul tokens, as Zaal’s Soul Tap ability would let me give each Ancestral Guardian 2 souls before they got to their second activation. I knew fireballs would be comin’ my way somewhere, so I angled a shaman to either side to bodyguard my AG’s He Deployed his Zealots on my left, with the Reckoner and the Vanquisher, followed by Feora. The Choir and Orin Stretched the middle of the board, and the bonded Redeemer began the right flank, on the opposite side of the forest. Next was Rupert, the Temple Flame Guard and finally Rhoven and Co. were anchoring the far flank.
Standard movement and positioning. I take a little less time this time in figuring out where I want everything, and how. Battlegroup advanced to surround the house, with Zaal putting Awakend Spirit on the Far Shaman, allowing him to help provide somewhat limited relief to the bombardment that my troops are going to receive. Ancestral Guardians, able to advance deploy, take little advantage of it and move in front of the units. My two Immortal units then move up, one abreast the forest, the other careening towards the hill. Marketh tosses Inviolable Resolve on the Jade Immortals.
His turn, as well, is fairly simple. Nearly everything runs into position, with Feora putting up Escort. The Redeemer, however, Banks a thousand shots into my Terracotta Immortals. The direct shots and scattered damages fail to kill any models, but they do light a number of Immortals and two Ancestral Guardians on fire. Not my favorite state to be in.
I’m on fire, but my immortals are too stoic to stop, drop, or roll. Instead one burns to death and prevents me from performing a vengeance move. Thankfully, the one Ancestral Guardian that burns takes but a single point. I let Inviolable resolve lapse, so that Marketh can cast it again later in the turn, saving fury.
Here, I’m at my lowest. I cannot foresee anything but all my troops burning to death over a number of turns while my Solos and warbeasts are whittled down and destroyed. I need to shut down that Redeemer, and I need to do it with extreme prejudice, or I can’t stay in the game. I bolt my Kovaas straight towards it, hoping to scare it, or at least make it think twice about keeping its position, knowing that it was going to be engaged the following turn. Both the units came into the zones semi- aggressively, trying to make sure that even though I was going to loose upwards of half of the unit, that I was able to capitalize on the other half the next turn. Hakaar took front and center, with the rest of the AG’s falling back to supporting position, ready to counter-attack into the advancing lines once the battle was at hand. Zaal moved up and touched his toes into the zone, making damned sure that he would commit to this zone and fairly confident in my ability to blow up whatever he stuck in. Sadly, that left my Shamans a bit stuck in the back, and they just popped the Krea animus again and called it good enough.
One of the things that makes Feora so dangerous is the amount of fire she brings to the table. Simply the volume that she can put out is astounding, and they are all a form of second bite at the apple, as they are good enough to kill the model it lights on fire, with another attempt, often better this time, during my turn. The amount of models he lights on fire each turn is astounding.
Zealots pop their mini-feat and zip into my lines, jamming in or killing almost the entire Jade unit, and engaging the Ancestral Guardian in the process. The Temple Flameguard advance, pop their minifeat, and sit in the zone in shieldwall and armor 21. The Vanquisher lobs a shell out and, from what I remember, misses again. While the Redeemer was setting the world on fire, the Vanquisher was having a little bit of a rough day. The Piper Put Heroic Call on the Flameguard, and Rhoven and Co. charged into position, with one of them (I assume Giaus) failing his charge on the Kovaas . The Redeemer, still open for this last turn, lobs another four shells at my poor army, thanks to the Vassal, and lights another half a dozen models on fire, including one of the soulwards. Feora advances towards the far zone, keeping herself on in the forest in case of stupid Shinanigans.
Finally! I get to get into combat! Well, except with that one unit that is gummed up by those stupid zealots. I, honestly, have no idea how to deal with them in Skorne. I normally just have Bile Thralls. Fire gets to me a little, though, and three more Terracotta Immortals drop, along with a Soulward. A different AG takes a single point of damage from the fire. Loosing guys and not getting vengeance is really irritating.
I start the turn off with the obvious, the charge of the Kovaas into 3 Temple Flameguard and the Redeemer. Charging pow 14’s and off we go! Thresher on the charge is always a good way to get more souls for more attacks, and this case is no different. Except for the fact that I don’t kill a single flameguardbetween tough and poor damage, miss Giaus, and only barely scratch the hull of the Redeemer. Thats… not looking good. Next, I send my Ancestral Guardian on my right flank into the Temple Flameguard. He’s got the same chances to hit and kill as the Kovaas. With three souls I should kill something, right? Turns out, the Guardians were following the lead of the Kovaas, and, once again following poor rolls and good tough checks, left not a single body on the ground after spending all three souls. Well, at least I can get my Immortals into combat! Charging 13’s only need, what, 9’s to kill? Except that the Set Defense rule exists, and rolling 9’s on two dice is extremely hard. Not a single temple flameguard goes down in that zone. so much for getting an early 2 points. My shamans, now in the back of the army and unable to really contribute defensivly anymore, shift to offense. One Strikes down the Piper, and the other takes aim and shoots Feora, though he’s unable to dent her with Escort and two focus camped. The central Ancestral Guardian ran forward to a safe position, loaded up with souls, and camped.
The Jade Immortals get the go ahead, and after having Inviolable resolve placed on them again, two shoot over to tag the Vanquisher while the other just shuffle around, praying to live through the inevitable Zealot counterattack. Hakaar lends his swords to the vanquishers demise and, with a combo strike and three additional attacks, leaves it with thirteen health. I just wasn’t getting the work out of this turn that I needed. Finally, the soulward, the Krea and the Raider shuffled around a bit and Zaal abandoned his post at the edge of the zone to tip-toe in and try to off Rhoven. Just like the rest of the turn, It just didn’t cut it, and Rhoven lived.
This counterattack was going to be brutal. I had just over half of my original units left, and they were engaged with 10 models each. My lights were having to go toe-to-toe with the Heavies on the board, and my Ancestral Guardians were all tied up.
The punishement starts out with Flameguard attacking a number of Immortals, and taking down more than their fair share. Needing 6’s to hit and 8’s to kill, they did an admirable job, especially after pairing up to free the charge lane (seen below) for Cassian onto Zaal. The rest made a big 4 man CRA on to the Ancestral Guardian, though they barely chipped the stone. The group of three engaged with the Kovaas, now solid, drove their spears through him and removed him, too, from the board. Rhoven and Co went next, and they (yes, this is illegal, we didn’t catch it at the time) used negate to remove one of the two fury on Zaal, and then charged him with Cassian. I took 9 damage from the attack, and though significant, I was able to transfer. That nine damage, luckily enough, was enough to take out the Ancestral Guardian behind the forest and put a Kovaas back on the table for me. The Redeemer, going next, peppered my back field with Firebombs, and lit nearly everything on fire, including the raider, the Soulward and one of the shamans. The Vanqisher retaliated with a thresher attack, which took out both of the attacking Immortals and put a few damage on Hakaar. The second attack left the Legendary Warrior with only a single HP. That last HP lead to needing to pull the Reckoner in, and when it connected, that was all that was said about poor ol’ Hakaar. My AG in the forest remained trapped as the Zealots were unable to damage him. Feora moved forward a bit between the two warjacks to get a few more fire tokens, popped her feat, and camped the 4. Thankfully, he was unable to get to the Kovaas when he passed the turn over to me.
So, this was it. I had a few chances to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, but there were a lot of different eventualities that had to happen for it me to be confident, and after that last turn, I just wasn’t. Things started to swing my way when the soulward lived through her fire, learning to stop, drop, and roll. A massive amount of Jade Immortals burned, but I was allowed to make Vengeance attacks with everyone. Sadly, that simply meant that I was unable to kill anything with the vengeance attacks, keeping my Immortal Death Toll surprisingly low.
What really mattered, though, was that damned Warjack in the way. with only 13 HP, It was going to be a test to bring it down, but I really, really wanted to. Though Eyeless sight on the Kovaas from the Soulward would allow me to draw LOS through the forest, if I needed help after the Kovaas went in, there just wouldn’t be any to give him. The Cyclops Raider stepped up to the plate first, and with a hail of reiver needles did 10 damage to the bulky jack! I felt the dice comin’ back to me. Next was the do-or-die. I knew I was taking a massive chance that I could find someway to remove the Jack and get the kovaas, and maybe help, in there. Zaal moved forward, Taking a free strike that he pawned off on the Krea, and tossed last stand on the Kovaas, adding an additional die to both attack and damage rolls. Finally, I had three fury left, and figured that I might as well see if I can tag that Vanquisher for the last couple points. An unboosted hit and a boosted damage later, and the Vanqisher was off, allowing the Kovaas to do his thing. I popped my feat, and unleashed the Rage-Ghost.
The Kovaas was the next, and last, model to activate. now able to easily draw Line of Sight to Feora, I charged through the trees and engaged her at 2″ out. Def 15 and Arm 23 is no joke, but the kovaas under both last stand and the feat represents one of the pinnacles of melee death in the game. Between Last stands additional die and the Feats body-boosts, I was able to commit to 4 dice to hit and 4 dice to damage on each of my three attacks, and was able to put her in the dirt before Rhoven and Co annihilated me. At that point in the game,I was all in, and nothing could have saved me had the turn gone poorly.
The Sound of Inevitability
One of the aspects of Zaal I find the most compelling is that he has a feeling, from my side of the board, of an inevitable conclusion. All I have to do is sacrifice most of my army and get a single model with the ability to buy attacks into the caster, and I can very likely win. Now, it won’t always be the case that I can do that, but it has to be something I have my eye on at every moment.My friend and I were talking, and he plays like a strange twist on Asphyxious 2. Both armies need their models to die, and then have their feat on tap for the rest of the game, popping it at the right time to blow the opponents board or caster clear off.
I am very much enjoying Zaal, and look forward to giving him another spin.