The Ninth Age Dawning – A the Ninth Age BatRep and First Impressions

It’s been so long since we played any Warhammer Fantasy, but little interest has there been since the game was shattered with the End Times and the death of the world that was. Finally, me and Mr. Easter, got through the Ninth Age rules, just to try them out. Read on to see how the game went.

When it comes to doing something Warhammer Fantasy for the first time there’s one tradition, nay, ritual that needs to be fulfilled; My High Elves must face the Dark Elven scum forces of Mr. Easter. If this does not come to pass the World stops turning, the Turtle dies, time stops and we all wither away and blow out into deep space. True story.

Luckily, me and Mr. Easter had both read through the Ninth Age rules and were rather equally uncomfortable.  And so we set on our adventure to save the world.

The 1500 point Highborn forces were:

A Prince on Griffon (Armour of Destiny, Dusk stone, shield, lance)
A level 2 Wizard Apprentice with a scroll (Path of Nature)

10 Archers with musician
30 Spearmen with full command
2 x 5 Reavers with bows and a musician

20 Flame Wardens Maiden Guard with full command

2 Reaver Bolt Thrower

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☠☠☠The 1500 points Dread Elves☠☠☠

A Commander on Peggy with a magical cloak (for a 3++)
A level 2 Wizard Apprentice with Skullsplitter (Path of Darkness)

20ish Corsairs with full command
14ish Crossbowmen
5 Dark Raiders with crossbows

20 Tower Guards

5 Warlocky riders (well, only the champ is warlocky now)

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I set up the terrain, this was not according to the rules which recommended 6″ between but it was ok’d by Mr. Easter. I picked the top right corner and the Dread Elves set up first. The Secondary Objective was Grab a Flag (grab three flags that you selected after deployment). We each put a few units out one-by-one, after which Mr. Easter put out the rest of his army invoking a 6+ to his roll to seize. That git! So the druchii got the first turn…

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After deployment

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When vanguarding I messed up a bit, moving the Reavers in the middle of the board into Move+Crossbow range. I had even measured it out. Otherwise from this shooting it was just a slight move and the Druchii were done with their first turn.

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↑ My first turn was similar, but I sent the last one of the Druchii Raiders fleeing (left). A miscast when casting Iron Skin on the chariot killed a few archers.

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The Dark Elves move up again, putting the Hydra in a threatening, but covered, position in the forest. The crossbows try to put a dent in the Iron chariot but fail. The Warlocks cast Black Dart on the chariot and miscast. I hope for something spectacular and don’t try to stop it even though I know it will be his last spell. A few wounds on the casting unit is taken in exchange for the chariot.

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The commander is threatening the Highborn flank.

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The chariot charge the corsairs, bolstered by the wizards enchantment (Iron Skin again).

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Without taking a wound it runs the corsairs down (a steadfast Ld 8 test is hard sometimes)

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The rest of the Highborn lines remain fairly stationary, the two blocks actually backing up a bit. A reaver unit is just out of the image putting a volley into the Warlocks, failing spectacularly.

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The crossbows take down the last Reaver, while the rest of the army close in. The hydra tries to charge the Spearmen but fails.

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The Prince on his Griffon and the Chariot threaten the crossbowmen from two sides. The Reavers are still harassing, and failing at it, the Warlocks. (Above they have been moved incorrectly as the March test was forgotten, this was fixed by leaving them to the right hand side of the Warlocks.)

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A picture was forgotten so we move quite a bit ahead with only one image. The Crossbowmen shot at the Chariot opening the flank for the Prince as they aim. They leave the Chariot with one wound and have no time to stand and shoot as it runs into their ranks. In combat they cannot get a wound in and are run down by both Prince and Chariot. The chariot thus captures its second flag.

The Hydra charged into the Spearmen, but hit them with a wet towel. They somehow manage to win, but the Hydra won’t budge with it’s snake eyes leadership test. The wizard turns the Spearmens’ skin into iron. The Hydra finally got a taste for elf flesh and tear them to bits, hurting them worse than before and actually win despite of the magical augment. They hold.

Augmenting the Spearmen the Highborn wizard is utterly drained after a Miscast and cannot cast more spells. The archers move out of the threat range of the Peggy commander.

The Warlocks, to the left just outside the picture, charge into the Reavers but lose one of the three remaining under the Reavers defensive shots. The Warlocks then try to drain the strength and weaken their opponents but miscast. (Of course I let it go again, Isha smile upon me.) And they all are evaporated in eldritch fireworks.

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The Hydra then gets poked properly by the elves, loses combat and flees. The Dark Elf Sorceress Miscast. (Let them bleed themselves brain dead I say!) And a few Tower Guards fall. Arrows take another few.

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↑ The Maiden Guard (buffed with Skin of Iron) then charge the Hydra determined to slay it and overrun into the Princes combat to help him out.

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Even with a boosted strength and without the help of the Maiden Guard, as the hydra proves difficult to harm, the Tower Guard’s morale crumble and they flee before the monster. (Even though stubborn with the joined Sorceress.)

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In the end it comes down to this desperate fight as the Commander, infuriated by his imminent loss, charges into the rear of the Queen’s Guard. The hero of the match, the Tiranoc Chariot, bravely then rush to aid their kin despite imminent doom (1 wound left).

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But they all prevail! Hail the might of the Asur! Victory to Ulthuan!

Aftermath
Usually our games are very even. So much that it often comes down to a single roll of the dice. Not this time, as Mr. Easter clearly had forgot to do his blood sacrifice to the Dice Gods. Out of 5 Break tests, usually at Ld 8-9, he failed all but one – the one at the leadership of the Hydra (5?). (Contrary I passed my 2-ish.) Also, while we cast only 1-2 spells per turn with our Level 2 Apprentices we miscast 7 times in the game, Mr. Easter 5 out of 6 turns. Incidentally the miscast-less turn was the first turn, when he was out of range.

It was a fun game? Kinda, there was at least a lot of laughing at the dice. But the one-sidedness took a lot of the joy out of it. We did, however, get a taste of the Ninth Age rules and that was what we were after.

But what of the Ninth Age rules?

The good things
For me a big thing was the Griffon! Getting to share the saves with the riders is very good to get the middle sized monsters valuable. By limiting some magic items to ‘non-large target characters’ or ‘characters on foot only’ a massive save cannot be gained – a 3+ re-rollable armour save with a 4++ ward is nothing to frown at though.

Removing always strike first from elves and giving them a +1 to hit seems to work out nicely. Side note: Dread Elves are not,  at least automatically, Hateful either – so they don’t effectively hit with all their attacks. It’s nice to use more of the to hit scale as well, as Mr. Easter pointed out. I agree.

Magic reworked. This was also a nice thing. It’s clear that the magic is toned down, so I expect no more army destroying auto winning mega-spells (let’s leave that to Pug). Characters also essentially “automatically succeed with their Look Out Sir!” changing the effect of spells wounding all models in a unit, and cannons. While its hard to say how much the changes to the Magic phase means as a whole, we certainly can say that the new Miscast table is nice. Proportionalising self-destruction to the amount of power used to fuel the spell is a nice touch, and not auto-succeeding with an Irresistible Force, although getting a hefty bonus to casting roll, is not a bad thing either.

(Another chunk of warpstone the Ninth Age is awarded for getting SkavenInAZ back into wargaming. Squeek!)

The bad things
A lot of effort has been put into these rules, and I thank all those involved for their work to forge the change at hand to something good. In the end I don’t have some really negative critique. That said, I was a bit disappointed to see the rules so close to 8th Ed Warhammer in the sense that I expected a bigger change. The same core is there with the same issues and the same focuses, both on good and bad. For me the push for larger units (via Steadfast and Horde bonus) is one of the down sides of the 8th edition rules. Arguably this makes the game a bit more expensive, which also was what GW was critiqued for on the Dawn of 8th. Mr. Easter still dislikes the strong focus on characters and is eager to try Kings of War at some point, with characters in a more supporting role and a more block-like perspective. I on the other hand like my heroes legendary, so I guess its a matter of taste.

Another odd ball is the names. While the Highborn army list is giving a glimpse of nice fluff (and the ‘Wood Elf’ counterparts’ tome looks really nice), the names of rules and units seem a bit dangerously close to the mother rule set. Mr. Easter argued that by a simple change of the to hit/wound chart to a value chart (i.e. “Gobbo Archers” hit on 3+ and wound on 5+), but maintaining the core rules otherwise, the distinction between new and old is clearer. Maybe making the rules newbie-friendlier even. This would minimize any potential IP issues with the Mothership, especially if a collaboration with miniature producers is being planned. But right now the Ninth Age is more like a house ruled 8th Ed.

Concluding
Which rule set do I prefer after just dipping my toes? I’d say Ninth Age. The differences are not very big, but still an improvement to some, if not most of the issues that game had. As a lot of effort when gathering a large group towards a common objective goes into organisation I look forward to what a possible 2nd edition (the Tenth Age?) will look like, maybe then we’ll see a larger change. I look forward to more of the game, albeit partly because I just need my ranked combat fix (it was seriously fun to do this again – returning to your roots, sort of), and I will vote for the Ninth Age if it comes to a group decision, but I won’t cry if we stick with 8th edition Warhammer.

Have you tried out the Ninth Age? What do you think of the changes? Who would win in a bar fight? Please leave a comment below. Thanks for reading! 🙂

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