"To enter a world of poetry and violence"

(Warning: This is a book review... The book in question is a novel, not a rulebook, nor a history book, it's even literature....)

Some time ago I read a small review in my favorite Dutch newspaper of a recently translated book by Roberto Bolaño. Having read and thoroughly enjoyed '2666', I was even more pleasantly surprised when I found out that a theme in the book was wargaming. In a word: A must read!

In the book the main character plays (rather fanaticly) the game "Rise and decline of the Third Reich", a classic Avalon Hill game. Apparantly mister Bolaño was a gamer himself and the way playing the game is depicted shows this; the game and the thoughts of the gamer are "true to nature" and feel realistic, even for a gamer like me :-)
Googling around I found this article on the book and other books referring to wargaming, so there's another shortlist of books in need or reading..)

Once more mister Bolaño managed to entertain, confuse and hook me and lead me into a bizarre and disturbing world, not unlike ours. The best way to describe it I found in this review: "To read Roberto Bolaño is to enter a world of poetry and violence.."

And last but not least, a service for (nearly all of) our readers, a link to the book in the local library...


Plans are nothing, planning is everything

This is not a battle report, instead it's gonna be a brief reconstruction of the 'strategic' planning that my fellow general Ludo and I carried out.. Which ultimately led to our cunning plan... that off course failed as soon as the battle started...

Ludo and I were facing Tom's Ogres, in a 1000 + 1000 vs 2000 points battle. We used PBE Games dice roller to determine the scenario and scenery for the battle, that gave us the 'Battle for the pass scenario'. A suitable scenario, since the battle was to be played at my home, and a smaller battlefield fits so much better at our table... Taking into account the size of the table, both sides rolled twice for scenery, ending up with a 'Mist wreathed swamp' and 'Tower of Blood' to be placed by Tom and a 'Raging Torrent' and 'Altar of Khaine' for the forces of evil (that's us!).

So we knew the scenario and conditions for the battle, the lay out of the battle field and its terrain features (but not the exact location of these features) and the type of army we were facing. Furthermore we found out on the interwebs that Tom would field a 'shooty' Ogre army...

So Ludo and I started planning our armies... First decision to be made was what combination of armies to use. Ludo could field a Vampire army or a Slaanesh daemon army, I had the choice between Daemons or Warriors of Nurgle (Having played mono-Nurgle-armies the last 10 years I feel a bit awkward since the release of the new Army books.. All of a sudden I changed from fluff gamer into power gamer...).
And here our adventure in planning started, resulting in a long hectic mailthread..

Plan 1
Our initial choice was the Vampire/CW combination. At that moment we did not know that Tom was heading for a 'shooty' variant; our main fears were that we would be 'out magic-ed' and the big monsters that were spotted on his painting table.. We were also considering that big blocks of skeletons, zombies and chaos warriors would lead to congestion on the battlefield. So we would need to arrange just a few big 'anvil' blocks and some hard hitting (coping with the high toughness of the Ogres) units with a small frontage to sneak through the lines..
Plan 2
To cope with the big nasties that were supposed to be painted and battle ready by now (Stoned Horns, Mourning Fangs..?) we would field a secret weapon: A deamon prince of Slaanesh! This guy/girl could just fit in a 1000pts, but no upgrades would be allowed.. So a naked prince (fully in theme with Slaanesh). A bsb herald with a small body guard of Daemonettes and two units of Seekers all fitted nicely without breaking the point limits. The daemon prince looked like the only option available for Slaanesh daemons to 'hurt' Ogres and with its speed should be able to pick its fights, supported by the Seekers. Nurgle daemons would support this attack sending in Drones and infiltrating Nurglings. The anvil of the combined army would be formed by a block of Plaguebeares with two heralds inside.
Plan 2b
Then we found out that we were lacking magic defense (and offense, but that was a lesser concern) and that the new rules stated that generals and bsb only supported units devoted to the same God.. So, out went the Nurgle daemons, in came the Warriors. The WoN part would have to take care of magic defense (one level 2 wizard), the main anvil (unit of warriors), some distractions (hounds, marauder horsemen, spawn) and some extra hitting power (knights). All in all not too bad (and in hindsight, perhaps the most potential combination?). But then our spies found out that Tom's army was all about shooting (and probably some magic too...) So time for:
Plan 3
Since the nude non flying prince would be shot to pieces before getting into combat AND there was no way we could organize some sufficient (sufficient for our kind of dice rolling...) magic defense, we would go for an ALL OUT attack variant!! Fully chaotic to the max!!
So into the Slaanesh part came the Fiends and an extra herald to replace the daemon prince. Two heralds would join the daemonettes creating some sort of flanking anvil-in-emergencies block and a speedy threatening group combining the Fiends and Seekers. The Nurgle half of the army would also go for top speed, taking Hounds, Marauders on Horse and Forsaken(!) as core and adding Knights with a Lord(!!!) on steed and a exalted hero in a chariot as extra hammers (who needs anvils anyway?)!
The plan was simple (for once.. does this mean we're in fact learning?): Charge in as soon as possible, safety is to be found in close combat...

Plans are nothing
So, how did we fare? Eventueally we managed to fight off a bloody draw (and dare I say, we were a bit better positioned than the Ogres at the moment when we ended the game). So not too bad, considering the firepower of the Ogres. Six leadbelchers, Ironblasters, a Scraplauncher, a Harpoonist on top of a nasty beast and not to forget 60+ Gnoblars threw in some considerable firepower, making short work of the poor doggies and horsemen, and forcing the Chaos Knights once to roll for panic.. On the other hand, magic was slightly less impressive, certainly when a early miscast resulted in a three level degradation of the poor cook.
Slaanesh deamons turn out to be very good at killing off Gnoblars, but failed to hurt Ogres.. My Lord with his knights retinue performed under expectations (I'm really not suited to play elites), though this was just a bit emphasized by the Scrap Launcher rolling double ones in two successive rounds of combat....
Heroes of the day (for me) were the few remaining dogs that forced a big block of ogres out of the game by blocking the charge into a much more important unit. They died horribly for doing this, off course, it's a dogs life...
If we did not have to cope with the big horny monster, crushing Forsaken and only to be halted by the block of Daemonettes, the plan would have worked (but not as we had forseen ;-)
The Fiends and Seekers managed to execute a nice flank attack, killing the Gnoblars and tying up some Ogre units. On the other flank, the Lead Belchers, Iron Blasters and nasty unit with the Slaughtermaster were kept out of combat and if (and that turned out to be a back if) the Knights had managed to support the Seekers and Fiends, it could have been a decisive attack. In reality the Scraplauncher slowed the Knights down for almost three turns, buying time for the Ogres to rearrange their battleline...

Mistakes and questions
After reading the rules one more time I'm still not sure if we handled the close combats involving monsters and chariots right. I think the rules state that an opponent can choose to attack either monster or rider, in which case the Daemonettes for example should have attacked the rider instead of the T6 monster... On the other side, the Ogres could have attacked my exalted hero instead of the chariot. But I'm not completely sure, so rules lawyers, please enlighten me! ;-)