Another valiant charge against a wall of guns, hoping to survive the hail of lead. That's what I expected when Matt challenged me to another game...and frankly that's what we got.
We'd moved up to 2000 points and so my army needed to change. My forces consisted of a Level 4 Prophetess (Heavens), a Level 2 Damsel (Beasts), a BSB, 2 units of 8 Knights of the Realm, 5 Knights Errant, 30 Men at Arms, 20 Peasant Archers, Grail Reliquae and 18 Battle Pilgrims, 3 Pegasus Knights and a Trebuchet. I'd borrowed some Knights from Matt and so was able to present more targets and hopefully split his fire (remember with horror what happened to my Knights last time).
Matt had changed his composition too. Having learned from last time that cannons hurt knights, blocks of infantry are difficult to shift and my Prophetess was a real threat his army list was: General of the Empire, a BSB, a Level 2 Wizard (Metal...boooo!), 2 Engineers, a Warrior Priest, 40 Halberdiers, 20 Halberdiers, 10 Handgunners, 8 Outriders, 10 Empire Knights, 2 Cannons, 1 Rocket Launcher, 1 Hellblaster Volley Gun. So, I could expect a barrage of lead as I advanced towards blocks of troops I'd struggle to break whilst Hochland Longrifles attempted to snipe my General. I'd better be quick.
The scenario was Meeting Engagement (again!) and I deployed first. I spread out to split Matt's fire and deployed as far forwards as I could. The Pegasus Knights were in reserve. Matt deployed a far back as he could whilst bringing his guns to bear. His Wizard, one of his units of Halberdiers and a Cannon (hooray!) were in reserve. he would get first turn because I was praying (there was no way I was facing cannons without the blessing), but at least there'd be on less cannon shooting.
The game began with Matt's reserves arriving and his troops opening fire. Despite a direct cannon hit on my BSB's unit of Knights, a double 1 to wound saw the projectile bounce off. Men-at-Arms and a couple of Knights fell to the barrage. The Prophetess was predictably targeted by snipers, but managed to shrug off a wound with the Opal Amulet. However, most damage was done by the sinister statue in the middle of my lines. In fact the statue would eventually break the Peasant Archers and severely weaken the Damsel's unit of Knights.
My troops rumbled forwards (although I failed to charge the Outriders) with the Knights Errant moving around the flank of his line. My Trebuchet answered his fire by dropping a rock straight on the head of Matt's General; killing him instantly! The Prophetess, who'd run to safety behind a building, managed to successfully cast Comet of Cassandora just behind Matt's line. Time for the second volley.
Matt advanced his smaller block of Halberds forwards with his Knights to threaten my central block of Knights. Matt did manage to cast Enchanted blades on his big block of Halberds, making them a very bad target for my other block of Knights. The Comet of Cassandora hit, pretty much wiped out the Handgunners, killed one of the Engineers and put wounds on two war machines. Another round of shooting saw relatively few casualties (another cannonball bounced off the Knights' armour) and it seemed like I was getting off a bit lightly, although the Knights in the centre did fail a panic check (the shame!) and run back towards the Statue. The highlight of the round (for me at least) was the Hellblaster exploding.
t was time to charge. The Knights Errant slipped behind the enemy lines to charge one of the cannons whilst the Men-at-Arms and the BSB's Knight unit both charged the Outriders (I know, my bravery knows no bounds!). I also remembered to bring my Pegasus Knights on. My magic consisted of a couple of buffs and hexes whilst my shooting now slipped into the realms of obscurity for the rest of the game. Predictably, both combats went my way; the cannon crew were wiped out (panicking a nearby engineer) and the remaining Outriders fled, not to return.
With his flanks and most of his shooting gone, Matt tried to secure his line against my roving Knights. The large unit of Halberdiers advanced to the corner of the Grail Chapel (clearly looking to force a fight with my Knights). The smaller unit of Halberds turned to face the Pegasus Knights whilst the Empire Knights refrained from charging the Grail Reliquae (which had been steadily advancing up the centre) because it would expose their flank to the, now rallied, Damsel's unit of Knights. Searing Doom was cast and ravaged the Pegasus Knights, leaving only one left.
The Knights Errant continued their heroic advance by charging the Rocket crew. The Grail Reliquae rushed into combat with the Empire Knights and the last Pegasus Knight supported them with a flank charge. The Men-at-Arms took possession of the Grail Chapel whilst the BSB's Knights reformed. I focused my magic phase on supporting the Grail Reliquae with Iceshard Blizzard and Harmonic Convergence. The Knights Errant won again (the heroes!) and, despite the last Pegasus Knight being killed, the Grail Reliquae not only beat the Empire Knights but broke them, ran them down and chased off the still fleeing Engineer into the bargain.
Things were looking bleak for Matt as he advanced his big block again to force events against my BSB's Knights. The smaller block moved to threaten the Grail Reliquae and the Searing Doom cooked three of the remaining four Knights Errant.
It was looking like I had events under control. I resisted charging Matt's augmented Halberds and the BSB wisely retreated, the Grail Reliquae turned to face the threat of the halberds and the Men-at-Arms popped out the other side of the Grail Chapel to threaten the last cannon. All very sensible. However, I then attempted to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. I've never been able to resist a flank charge and so my poor, humiliated Knights in the centre who'd spent the entire game getting shot, panicked and zapped by a statue charged headlong into the side of the smaller block of Halberds, completely forgetting that they'd lost their blessing. They proceeded to completely fluff all of their attacks, saw two Knights hacked down by Halberds, broke and were then run down (along with the Damsel), panicking the Grail Reliquae (that they'd been trying to help) off the table. "Here Matt, have 600 points!"
With time ticking on, we decided this would be the last turn. Matt turned his poor ignored block around to avoid a rear charge from the Men-at-Arms. Magic was inconsequential and the Cannon's grapeshot failed to kill the last Knight Errant. In my turn the Knight Errant and Men-at-Arms continued to ignore the Halberds and charged the remaining Cannon, slaughtering it handily. However, the crew did manage to bring down the last Knight Errant so it averaged out that I'd not gained anything from this and had simply given Matt another 50 points. With that the game was over.
Totting up the points revealed that I'd won by two or three hundred points. However, if we'd played the final turn, Matt would almost certainly have broken my Men-at-Arms and would have had another go a using Searing Doom to cause havoc. It probably would have ended in a draw.
Although I'd played well early in the game, a silly decision had throw the result into doubt. Had I not charged the Damsel's Knights in, I would possibly have still lost the Grail Reliquae (although they might have won), but I wouldn't have lost the Damsel and Knight and so the victory would have been more secure. I also handed over points for the Knights Errant and the Pegasus Knights too easily and should probably just moved them safe. All of this isn't a problem in a friendly game, but if I ever find myself back at a tournament, I'll need to be a bit more savvy.
So, what have I learned:
1) Discretion is often the better part of valour. Just because I can charge, it doesn't mean I should.
2) Think before committing severely weakened units.
3) Block of troops can be ignored if there's lots of chaff to kill - Knights love to ride down chaff.
4) Present a gunline with as many targets as I can to split (and weaken) their fire.
5) The iPhone, although very clever, does not have as good a camera as my last phone.