Summoner Wars Mega #2: Vanguards vs. Mercenaries

Tragically, there won't be a Swear Count for this one. There was only one swear. And it belonged to Somerset.

The starting setup.

Setup / Rounds 1-2

(As before, the flanks will be from your perspective, so they’ll be called “north” and “south” instead of “left” and “right.” Vanguards are VG and Mercenaries are Mercs, because typing their names over and over again quickly becomes tedious. Also, you can click to embiggen any of the pictures. Everything here is written by Dan, playing the Mercs, with a few interjections by Somerset for the Vanguards.)

As always, the game begins with a lot of tension over who will go first. In this matchup, neither side has a particularly aggressive setup — the Vanguards are in a firm defensive posture with Sera Eldwyn and a Priest in the middle of a tight formation, and although my Mercenaries have both of their Stone Golems out on the wings, they’re “Slow” and can only attack if they move just one space, so there isn’t much they’ll be getting done in the first turn. It seems we’re fated to have our first roll be a tie, this time with 6s, and then I win on the next with a 3. I decide Somerset can make the first move, since the Vanguards usually don’t have much to do on the first turn anyway. Turns out I’m right. Other than moving her southernmost Guardian Knight down one square, all Somerset does is have her Priest and Guardian Knight attack her Stalwart Archer to transform it into magic. Which is about as productive as one can hope for from the Vanguards’ first turn [Sigh. I should have reread my pre-play write-up and remembered that I wanted to be aggressive and move up. —Somerset].

On my turn, I move both of my Stone Golems inwards and push my Rune Mage up close enough to reach Somerset’s Wall on the next turn. The Rune Mage also takes a potshot at the Wall, just for kicks. I also have a Stone Golem clobber my own Apprentice Mage; that, along with two cards from my hand, leave me with 3 magic to the Vanguards’ 1.

Not willing to let my Rune Mage dominate the center, both northern Guardian Knights march forward together, making a line with the starting VG Wall. Somerset also positions her Priest so that he can move to and heal any of her front-line units within a single turn. I respond by placing a Wall in the north as far forward as possible, and rushing up both of my Stone Golems — so quickly they can’t attack this turn. Somerset’s ability to summon is now impeded by a Stone Golem on one side, a Rune Mage on another, and her own troops on the rest. With neither of her backup Walls coming to hand, her first priority becomes uncluttering her starting Wall and getting rid of my obscene Rune Mage.

At the end of the second round, the VG have 3 magic and my Mercs have 4. Other than one soldier from each side having been transformed into magic by their own allies, and other than a single wound on Somerset’s Wall, nobody has made any attacks.

I have to say I agree with the camp that feels Rune Mages are overpowered. I like their ability, since it counters turtling, but they should have 1 life. As is, it's much too difficult to get them off your Wall once they've latched on.

Round 3.

Rounds 3-4

The Vanguards’ course is clear: they need to move against the Rune Mage that’s poised to Siphon energy from their Wall before that Stone Golem can lumber forward to protect him. So even though she’s likely sending one of them to his uncontested doom, Somerset moves both of her upper Guardian Knights forward. One of them then attacks the Rune Mage — only to miss. Whew! Too bad her other Guardian Knight is able to wound the Stone Golem in the south.

My response is exactly what you’d expect: I use the Rune Mage to steal one of her magic points, then have the Stone Golem bash the Guardian Knight into the ground — and just like that, the early game is going my way. Somerset isn’t easily beaten, however. She shifts her southern line to surround the Stone Golem there (who, incidentally, hasn’t managed to hit anything), and summons a dangerous Cavalry Knight in the midfield and charges it into the gap left by the fallen Guardian Knight.

The traffic jams of Itharia are far more interesting than our own.

The gridlock.

Nearly the entire board, everything but a single open lane along the northern edge, is now a staggered gridlock.

Somerset gets lucky as her Cavalry Knight rolls 2/2 on my Rune Mage and puts an end to that menace once and for all. Ah well. And between her Guardian Knight and Priest, the Stone Golem I have positioned to threaten her southern flank is wounded even more.

My Mercs are now faced with an open Vanguard summoning spot right in the middle of my main line. This is problematic for a couple reasons: first, I’ve been saving up for a champion but can’t currently afford the one I’m holding, and second, because other than that champion, I’m only holding event cards, which means I don’t have anything to plug the gap with. Furthermore, that spot isn’t actually reachable without moving one of my Stone Golems two spaces, which would mean it would forfeit its attack for that turn. The solution is to use Rallul’s (my summoner’s) ability to Draw Power (meaning cards, in this instance) by injuring a nearby Wall. The only Wall within range is the one I began with, so I add two wounds to that in order to draw two extra cards. Somerset glares over the table when I grin about this. Oh well, I’m content as I place a Bounder, a frogman soldier whose ability is to leap three straight spaces, even over units (though not over Walls). The Bounder leaps straight from where he was summoned to the very spot that the Rune Mage occupied only a short time earlier. The line is held! Even more than held when the Bounder and Stone Golem gang up on the Cavalry Knight that had done in their buddy the Rune Mage.

You may notice Somerset's awesome Vanguard die. You may also notice my sad not-Mercenaries die. Plaid Hat *must* make Mercenary dice!

Round 5.

Round 5

Both of us are now having some personnel problems. My opponent has a massive gap in the middle of her line, but I don’t have enough Mercs to exploit it, and one of my crucial Stone Golems is on the verge of collapsing. In order to attack the northern Golem without fear of reprisal, Somerset moves Sera Eldwyn forward and her Guardian Knight back, creating a defensive position that means anyone getting close enough to strike Sera will be forced by the Guardian Knight’s “Protector” ability to attack him first. Sera wounds the north Golem while her Priest kills the one in the south.

Now I can sense an opportunity — to land a hit on Sera herself. To this end, I play an Apprentice Mage. These guys are cheap and weak, but I can spend a magic point to either give them +1 attack or a ranged attack. So I move my remaining Stone Golem south, hoping to replace the one died last turn, and have my Apprentice Mage run forward and fire wildly at Sera Eldwyn — and, luckily, land a wound.

This is the point when turns begin taking a really, really long time.

Round 6.

Rounds 6-7

At this point I’m operating under the assumption that Somerset can’t afford one of her expensive champions, at least not for one more turn. Which makes it particularly painful when she plays Summoning Surge, which activates when she has fewer units on the board (she has 3 to the Mercs’ 4) and moves 3 cards from her discard to her magic pile. Suddenly, she has 9 magic, and can quite easily afford some summoning. Which she does, with the champion Jacob Eldwyn. Oh crap. Jacob is Sera’s brother, and he’s a punk, especially with his common-hashing ability “Heaven’s Rain,” which has a chance to do one wound to every enemy within 2 spaces. And, of course, she activates that, killing the Apprentice Mage and wounding the Bounder that’s still sitting in front of their Wall.

In response (and probably in panic), I’ll admit I make a mistake. I summon a champion of my own, Rygos, right across from Jacob. Then I play an event that will do damage to just about everybody.

This was a bad application of this event, but I'd been holding it since the first turn, so I was eager to dump it at the first useful opportunity.

Fury of Godshome.

It’s called “Fury of Godshome,” and it lets me move up to 3 wounds from each Wall onto an adjacent common or champion unit. This is mostly good, since it means the last Guardian Knight is killed instantly and Jacob Eldwyn draws two wounds off of the very Wall he was just summoned to… but it also means Rygos himself is given two wounds, from off of Rallul’s starting Wall. “Whoops,” I say. Somerset reminds me that that we’re playing with no takebacks.

After such a mistake, I can’t just keep Rygos back and hope Somerset forgets she can heal Jacob, so I charge my champ forward, hoping to kill him before he can deal more damage [I was really nervous about this Rygos character, getting  a free ranged attack on my summoner after killing Jacob would have been brutal. The game would have been over at that point. —Somerset]. Unfortunately, Rygos is having an off day and only lands 2/3 of his attacks, leaving Jacob barely hanging onto life with a single hitpoint. On the other hand, my Bounder and Stone Golem in the south finally get rid of the pesky Priest that’s been alive for the entire game, leaving the south end of the board entirely unoccupied by Vanguard units. Not that that helps much in the middle, where Somerset finally blocks our northern flank with a second Wall, summons a Cavalry Knight, and positions Jacob and Sera so that Jacob can predictably murder Rygos, get healed by Sera, and make half the board almost totally secure.

So I respond by playing “Reform Stone” to pull a Stone Golem out of Somerset’s discard pile and place him right in the middle of the gap that I was getting worried about, then summon a Spear Grounder, who can use her long spear to attack adjacently through the crook of Walls in the north to poke at Jacob Eldwyn. Which means that after all those turns and all that effort and all those lives lost, we’re back to a gridlock in the center — with the one exception that the Vanguards now have a champion.

Suddenly I realized I might lose. Badly.

Round 8.

Rounds 8-9

Even though my Mercs are gradually sneaking around the south end of the Vanguard Wall, things have never looked quite so dire, especially since my draw pile is beginning to look a bit thin. Fortunately, Jacob is proving very adept at missing his Heaven’s Rain ability. Not that he’s going anywhere — Sera’s constant healing is leaving him one wound from death turn after turn, and there’s this little vein in my forehead that’s starting to bulge from the stress.

In fact, the entire eighth round basically consists of both sides attacking and missing their targets. It’s pretty pathetic. Worse, rounds like that mostly benefit the Vanguards, since Sera is able to drag Jacob even further from the brink of death.

I still have my secret weapon though: While everyone else is busy missing each other, my Stone Golem in the south has now crept around to the Vanguard side of their starting Wall. Soon I’ll be able to unleash my diabolical plans [I’m a fool! A fool! Why didn’t I kill that stone golem? Stupid, stupid oversight! —Somerset].

This is a confusing pic, I'm sorry. We took like 5, with cards facing different directions, and it never got better.

Channeled Summon temporarily turns Dan’s Stone Golems into Walls.

The plan is the event “Channeled Summon,” which transforms my Stone Golems into Walls for a single Event Phase. Suddenly my Mercs have a champion behind Vanguard lines — it’s Duggle the Dwarf, of course! And he waddles over to Sera and gives her a brand new wound. Somerset finally draws and places her third Wall, sealing off access to the south, though I’m hoping it’ll be too late to matter. The match is still fairly balanced, especially since I’ve all but run out of cards and have only 2 magic to Somerset’s 7.

"Duggle duggle," Dan says, obnoxiously. Somerset rolls her eyes.

Round 10.

Rounds 10-13

Things begin to turn around for my beautiful opponent. Not only does she summon Archangel and send him to trash Duggle, but Jacob Eldwyn finally lands Heaven’s Rain again, wounding everything. Well, nearly everything: I lose a Stone Golem and my long-suffering Bounder, and both the Spear Grounder and Duggle take a wound. Duggle also finds himself on the receiving end of Archangel’s holy blade and Jacob is once again healed. Tit for tat: Duggle lashes out against Sera again, giving her two more wounds — only two more and she’s dead. And to seal the deal, now I play my second Channeled Summon and suddenly there’s yet another Stone Golem behind enemy lines.

Not that Somerset intends to sit back and let that happen. She shuffles her troops around, putting Sera behind Jacob and Archangel:

It looks more desperate than it is, barring excellent dice. Which are exactly what happened.

Sera, protected by her brother and Archangel.

The next few turns are a blur as both sides mash together in a wild conflagration of blades, magic, and blood. An empowered Apprentice Mage and Duggle manage to get lucky and finally kill Jacob Eldwyn before he can be healed yet again, and I breathe a massive sigh of relief. Archangel strikes down Duggle. Sera runs for her life and hides in the corner, and is safe for a while as my Stone Golems reposition. In an act of furious vengeance, Archangel slays the Apprentice Mage that killed Jacob.

Even so, it isn’t enough. There was a point when both Somerset’s champs were alive that the fortune of the dice could have ruined me, but there isn’t anything left to do but push in past Archangel and end the game. With two cards left in my hand, none in my draw pile, and only three in magic, I summon a Time Mage and walk him straight through the Wall that divides my side of the board from hers.

Cue bad Dr. Who jokes.

The Time Mage!

Between my brand new Time Mage and a methodically-moved Stone Golem, Sera suffers her last two wounds and is vanquished.

For the time being, anyway.

Posted on December 30, 2012, in Board Game, Game Diary and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Good writeup! This game grows ever more tempting… And looking at some other reviews, it sounds like it’s fairly universally well thought-of.

  2. Yay for Mercs! The next match is coming soon, and I’ll guess Phoenix Elves. They’re one of the easiest factions to play, while the SG require a bit more finesse.

  1. Pingback: Summoner Wars Mega #3: Phoenix Elves vs. Sand Goblins « SPACE-BIFF!

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