So in my final game at club before the tournament I decided to throw everyone completely off whack by going for yet another different army...
I kept with my forward line of heroes. The casket on pegasus hero was dropped, as in about 6 attempts over 2 games I had failed to roll the 4+ required to capture a single spell. I opted for another low level wizard with a scroll, just as a bit of extra magic defence. I stuck with the mob of spearmen and flagellents. To make up my core choices I took a couple of 10 man free company fighter squads. These would act as a screen for the two larger units. Sure, as they weren't a detachment if they broke they'd cause panic checks... but one unit was lead by immune to pschology Karl Franz, and the other was a bunch of raving nutcases who are looking forward to the apocalypse... so no problems there. Where the army really came alive was in the special and rare choices. 3 Great Cannon, 2 Mortar, and a Helblaster in a pear... no wiat, plus another 2 steam tanks. My basic plan was to deploy Karl and spears central, claim a hill with most of the war machines (within Karls leadership range) and put the flagellents and steam tanks on one flank. They would then arc round. If they got charged in the flank none of them would care, and it potentially putting anything advancing on my guns and spears with a rather nasty problem in their own flank.
The game started badly for me. Rich had taken a very mobile army, and in an unheard of move for him, actually came running towards me! Teclis came and did his usual annoying irresistable bullshit, and Rich got incredibly lucky. The spell hit everyone in my unit of 30, needing 4s to wound. He wounded 22. Out of 30!!! So 16 dead spearmen later, my big strong unit looked a lot more managable. He also killed the helblaster crew that were just cranking up their organ for Tyrion, and that left an eagle and a pain in the arse threatening my war machine mound. His bolt thrower also managed to damage one of the steam tanks - nothing too serious but it meant I had to play a little more carefully with it.
My movement involved starting my flank attack with the steam tanks and flagellents. My magic phase started spectacularly badly with a miscast followed by a double one... there goes one of my wizards then. My shooting phase was far better though. My guesses proved to be right where I wanted them, but with that amount of cannons you're gonna get some misfires. The first buried a cannonball at the feet of an eagle, the second messed up the mix and failed to fire at Tyrion. The third did better, as two surprised elves looked at the charming rustic woodshavings on the floor around them and wondered where their bolt thrower just went... The mortars dropped quite well, picking a few spearmen off one unit and halving the other in size.
Rich advanced still further into the valley of death... though a little less deadly a valley with an eagle and Tyrion playing merry hell with my war machine crews. Here is where the problem in my battle plan emerged. My flanking force were nowhere near a position to stall the enemy. I'd never known Rich to advance before, and Elves can be bloody quick when they want to be. He was getting across the table far too quickly for my liking.
My next turn I pressed on with a steam tank towards Richs hill where his archers and bolt thrower sat. The flagellents and other tank continued towards their flank position, even if they were a little late. The mortar did some more sterling work on the spearmen, while the other misfired. The cannon also had a slight problem. They overshot their target of the knights... behind them however some random mage tried to play "catch" much to the amusement of the cannon crew...
Rich finally got his knights to charge. A counter charge from one of the detachments flanked him, while the other detachment was held by the spearmen charging it. They'd been moved forward to make sure the spearmen couldn't flank my spears, so it was worth it. His other spearmen also charged the flaggellents. They soon regretted this decision and fled, eventually being run down by the flagellents in my turn.
The spears held and a long combat began. The knights had an excellent armour save, but apart from a strong charge were not dealing enough damage and were being dragged down bit by bit. Unfrotuantely in the early rounds I won, but he stuck it out. In later rounds he won the fight, and eventually broke the unit when they were piled into by spearmen and Tyrion, and the ongoing challenge with the BSB had rednered most of my units unable to fight. Meanwhile my healthy steam tank battered his archers and ran them off the board, forcing his war machine crew to flee. Some free company fighters then went and dismantled the bolt thrower. The limping steam tank turned back towards it's own lines and fired a shot over the combat at the very extent of it's range. It was a beautiful shot, curling over a unit of spears, landing just to the side of his dragon princes, then bouncing clear through the unit. The unit was wiped out.
As the fight turned against the Emporer in the middle the steam tank tried to return to lend aid. The flagellents also came back towards the centre but it was a manouverability battle they weren't likely to win. The other steam tank meanwhile, having seen off the threat from the Elf hill, trundled across their back lines in pursuit of the other bolt thrower crew. In Richs final turn he overcame the spearmen and ran down a lot of points worth of characters (later VP work figured out that with points destroyed, plus bonuses for killing the general and capturing standards, that victory had won him 1200 points. Out of an eventual total of 2190 or so.) The spearmen pusrued but at great cost... they left themselves open to a charge by the steam tank. It did massive damage, dragging the unit below half strength, but being stubborn they held. the other steam tank forced the war machine crew to flee, effectively counting them as destroyed. The flagellents, with nothing to do, advanced into the area of my right flank.
It was close so we added up points. Rich had done a lot of damage, especially with that late collapse from the spearmen (oh to have started that fight with my full rank bonus... damn Teclis and his irresistable bloody everything!) but I had forseen it being a close finish. Therefore my free company fighters had held their ground on the elf hill. In moving after the fleeing war machine crew, the steam tank had put itself in Richs other starting quarter. The flagellents had one of my quarters, while the final steam tank contested my other quarter. This capturing of table quarters garnered me 300 VPs, for a total of 2200 something apparantly. Which technically puts it as a draw, but Rich said minor victory... it's been so long since we checked VP i can't recall if that was him misreading or whether there's a club house rule to always give a result... it was certainly how the playoff between Wez and me was decided at the last tournament, the game technically being a draw. Either way, from the dreadful start I had and that disasterous late collapse from the spears, it felt good to be on the winning side of a draw, especially given it was by something as simple as manouvering, something that Rich hadn't even realised I was doing. I doubt he'll let that slip by him come the tournament.
Speaking of which, that was my last game at regular club night for a few weeks. With the tournament less than three weeks away, I have to take all I've learned from the last few weeks and plan out an army. I've tried horde. I've tried gunline. I've even tried Cavalry. One thing I've noticed... apart from in the cavalry army, the nobles were the first to run every bloody time!!! So not too impressed by them! Given I had Karl Franz and Kurt Herlborg leading my knights in my cavalry army, if THAT's what it takes to make those ponces stick around... they aren't looking a likely feature of my army. The strength of an Empire army is in the core troops and the detachment system. One on one your troops are pants compared to everybody, but if you can get a flanking countercharge that gives you a 5 point lead for Combat Resolution before a punch has been thrown (3 ranks, 1 flank, 1 outnumbering - presumably) then suddenly they look a lot more impressive. Another good thing is the cannons and mortars, but they definitely require a fine eye for distance. I'd say I've got that eye... the other aspect is hoping you don't misfire. But given the amount of cannons you can pack, you're gonna misfire... you just have to hope not to misfire the crucial one.
Anyway, I have some army planning to do. See you guys at the tournament.