Summoner Wars Mega #7: Cave Goblins vs. Swamp Orcs
Setup / Rounds 1-2
(We’ve oriented the board for maximum viewing pleasure and consistency: flanks are entitled “north” and “south” rather than “left” and “right” so you can lose yourself in the lush foliage [or vines] of the narrative without the constant need to reorient yourself. If you desire to view the action in greater detail, you can click any image to view a larger version. Finally, everything here is written by Dan.)
A lot is riding on this game. After six matches, Somerset and I are tied with three wins apiece, so whoever takes the lead here will at the very least go home with a draw next week, and could possibly win the entire tournament. A loss here erases any chance of absolute victory. And since I begin with a Savager in a forward position and a chance of scaring away any tiny goblins that come to hassle him, I really want to go first. When Somerset rolls a 1, I think it’s a sure thing — then I roll a 1 as well. At least the tie-breaker roll has me win with 2-1. I disappoint her by announcing my primacy in the turn order.
My initial goals are clear enough in concept, if somewhat tricky to properly execute. As a Swamp Orc, I need my Vine Walls to grow out to every corner of the board (though preferably towards the Cave Goblins’ corners) in order to provide spots to activate most of my units’ best abilities. Put simply: with Vine Walls, I am a bit more powerful than your average faction; without them, my troops will be severely outnumbered, overpriced, and many sans abilities. I’d also like to create a long horizontal line of these Vine Walls across the board (correction: horizontal to me. To a viewer, my goal would be a long north-to-south blockade) to block access to the swarming goblins and their love of attacking from multiple sides.
To accomplish Mugglug’s vision of Itharia turned into a reeking swamp, I first send my Savager forward to Somerset’s starting Wall. There he can chip away at it with his powerful attack (which he does, landing a full 3 wounds), and any goblin trying to dislodge him will first have to go up against his Fear ability, which causes them to be discarded on a roll of 5+ when they move adjacent to him. This should put a damper on any early aggression. I also move my Shaman up to the spot south of my starting Wall, where he shoots at and kills the farthest-forward Cave Goblin Fighter, and then in turn is attacked by the Hunter right behind him (to try and turn him into a Vine Wall, as he is next to a Wall I already control), though this attack misses.
Somerset responds by putting up a second Wall to the south of the one my Savager is hammering away at, then begins marshaling her troops into position for a push forward. In both the north and south she rearranges the position of her Slingers, and she moves her Berserker back to kill her rearmost Fighter for magic.
Two can play at this game of wall-building! I put down my second Wall across from hers so that only a single space fills the gap, then play Vine Growth, which lets me place a Vine Wall next to a Wall I control. I choose the one I just built, and place the brand new foliage in front of it, thus blocking the forward summoning spot she just made for herself. Then my Shaman scoots around the southern edge of the new Wall with my Hunter hot on his heels. The Shaman tries to blast the Berserker from a distance and misses, so my Savager makes up for it by putting another wound on Somerset’s starting Wall.
Somerset’s plans are two-fold. In the north she pushes forward her Slinger and Fighter, hoping to figure out a way to dislodge my Savager before he brings her Wall down; and in the south, her Berserker is interested in stopping my creeping advance in its tracks, which necessitates the death of my Shaman. This is her first Swamp Orc kill of the game, though the downside is that his corpse fertilizes the growth of my second Vine Wall.
My next turn isn’t very exciting, since I’m mostly saving up magic for some later surprises. My Savager continues beating on the Cave Goblins’ starting Wall, giving it two more wounds, and in the south my Hunter stalks forward into the vines, which activates his Ambush ability for an extra attack die. Unfortunately, this isn’t enough to kill the Berserker, who he merely wounds.
Somerset decides she needs to take a risk to get rid of my Savager, so she has her Fighter run by — and he manages to overcome his fear of the brute and get past. She also moves forward a Slinger in the south so that the Hunter becomes the hunted, and is killed by attacks from both the Slinger and the Berserker that he failed to ambush just moments earlier. My Savager also takes an unlucky stone to the head courtesy of the northern Slinger.
This leaves me in a pickle, as my expensive troops are stretched thin by goblins who now have the run of the battlefield. I have nothing in the south and I don’t want the goblins to trim my Vine Walls back, and in the middle/north I want my Savager to both kill some easy goblin prey and get rid of that Wall once and for all. Fortunately I’ve saved up a tidy bit of magic, so I summon a Swamp Beast in the north and a Conjurer in the south. Swamp Beasts carry the spores to begin a brand new swamp, placing a Vine Wall when killed, so I move it around to the north where it will seed a new colony if it succumbs to goblin attacks. My Conjurer can burn up Vine Walls to increase his attack (or to become a ranged attacker), which isn’t very helpful since I don’t yet have enough to spare, but he’s my cheapest source of 2 life points, so he’ll have to single-handedly hold off my enemies down under. He kills a Slinger (new Vine Wall!) while my Swamp Beast kills a Fighter and my Savager comes one wound short of knocking down Somerset’s starting Wall.
The Cave Goblins do excel at replacing casualties. Somerset places a Fighter in the north and a Slinger in the south to stand in for the troops she just lost, and gets lucky as her new Fighter emulates his predecessor by bypassing my Savager’s Fear ability. She also plays Goblin Horde Attack, which gives her troops extra dice to roll when they surround their enemies — in this case, my Swamp Beast is torn to shreds by two puny 0-cost goblins. At least his death plants a Vine Wall in the north.
Now that I have a few Vine Walls to work with, it’s time to take advantage of them. I summon two Shamans, one in the south right between a Berserker and a Slinger, and the other right in the middle of the board. These guys are handy, only taking wounds on rolls of 5 or higher so long as they’re next to Vine Walls.
I’m also a little nervous that if I don’t kill Somerset’s northern Fighter that he’ll be able to reach Mugglug, my Summoner, with a Goblin Rush event, so I move him farther south to avoid any opportunistic attacks. Then my southern Shaman attempts to finish off the Berserker and fails (this is the most resilient Berserker I’ve ever seen), and my northern Shaman turns the very same Fighter I was worried about into a Vine Wall. Whew! And, finally, my Savager finishes tearing down that Wall he’s been attacking the entire game, opening a road straight to Sneeks and paring down the available Cave Goblin summoning spots by half.
Of course, my Savager is now as unprotected as Sneeks, and Somerset isn’t about to let him survive the offense of tearing down a Wall. She summons a Climber between the Savager and her Summoner and plays Goblin Rage, which lets her 0-cost commons make an extra attack. Between the Climber and the now-raging Slinger, my Savager is killed — Vine Wall! Her southern Slinger uses its two raging attacks trying to take down my Shaman, but he’s wrapped in protective vines and he survives the onslaught.
My vines are beginning to engulf the battlefield! My northern Shaman pushes forward into the jungle while in the south my Conjurer also climbs atop a Vine Wall, coming face to face with the Berserker that has survived a dozen… er, a handful of Orcs. Both kill their prey — the Shaman takes out the Climber, spreading a Vine Wall around the north end of Somerset’s last Wall, and my Conjurer finally deals the death-blow to the Berserker.
In addition to a southern Climber, Somerset summons the first champion to the battle: Scagg, who loves to use his voodoo powers to Curse people. A vengeful Slinger gets lucky in the north and one of my Shamans is killed. No matter, that gives me another Vine Wall! Also, the tone of the fight seems to shift. This is no longer a battle; it’s gardening. To clear some space, Scagg begins cutting away the vines that have crept around their Wall.
I’m hopeful that if my foliage keeps up its momentum (which despite being gradual and creeping is still momentum), I’ll be able to choke out any summoning spots for the Cave Goblins! At least that’s the plan for now. To keep the pesky Cave Goblins away from my vines, I summon Murk in the south. Like many Swamp Orc champions, he’s weak without Vine Walls, but once they’re in place he rolls an extra die when he attacks anyone adjacent to them, which is a great deterrent against those who want to prune them back. Another Vine Growth event spreads the vines beneath Scagg’s feet, locking him in place unless he chances the thorns to escape. My Conjurer is a Vinemancer, a common additional Swamp Orc ability, so he moves easily through the vines to make way for Murk, who pushes forward and kills the Climber that was blocking the growth of my jungle. Between that and my Shaman blasting the southern Slinger, the Vine Walls have now crept around three sides of the Cave Goblin Wall.
But there is new determination in Somerset’s eyes. Since she can’t summon — her other Wall is blocked on three sides by vines and on the third by her Summoner — she places her third and final Wall in the south, right in the path of my advancing swamp. Sneeks launches into action, moving north and hacking the brambles from Scagg’s ankles, then the freed champion destroys the vines he had been trying to dislodge from the northern side of their Wall. The southern half of the battlefield may be a desolate marsh, but the Cave Goblins are reclaiming the north.
I summon a Hunter in the north to use the remaining Vine Walls to his advantage, and play my final Vine Growth to block the summoning spot in the very south. This will let me summon around Somerset’s southern flank (heh, just realized what a double entendre that is) if she doesn’t notice it or if I can spare the manpower. My Hunter and Conjurer converge in the north and set to their grisly work. Even with his Ambush ability, my Hunter misses the Slinger by a mile, so it’s a relief that my Conjurer manages to finish him off and replant a Vine Wall in his place. I also need a bit of extra magic, so Murk thanks my Shaman for his service by murdering him and transforming him into magical currency.
Turns out Somerset has noticed my backdoor, so she summons a Fighter down in the south to block any chance of movement there, and another in the north to replace her fallen Slinger. She then moves the Fighter into position, puts Scagg at the back, and Sneeks himself moves forward to beat the stuffing out of my Conjurer. He’s obviously successful (Sneeks is a badass), and then he uses his Sly ability to swap places with Scagg, whisking him out of harm’s way.
I’m really feeling the high cost of my units now. I have a good chunk of magic, but I can only afford one or two units every couple turns, not the replaceable horde Somerset keeps throwing at me. And it seems she’s now got Sneeks figured out — his ability to dart forward and hit for massive damage, only to Sly away to the back, can really take my unimpressive champions down a peg or two. I’d like to take out her units without exposing myself to more of that. Which makes my Ensnare event perfect for the occasion.
This event kidnaps two of her commons and places them on Vine Walls within a certain range. Which means I can nab her two Fighters and bring them to me for easy magic rather than pushing forward and exposing myself.
The one in the north is pulled back to my Hunter, who then moves off of his Vine Wall to catch it by (further) surprise. The southern one finds himself in the middle of my vast tract of Vine Walls, and right next to a grumpy Murk. Neither one survives the encounter.
Somerset isn’t easily deterred. She summons another Climber, who hops over the Wall he was summoned to and straight into the vine jungle. Then she continues to work at hacking back the growth, succeeding in getting rid of two more Vine Walls. My growth in the north is getting severely thinned out.
I use the remainder of my magic to summon Glarg and a Hunter. I put both in the north, Glarg behind my last patch of vines, the Hunter in front of it. Glarg becomes more powerful when hiding amidst the vines, so when I also play Ambush and move him forward onto the Vine Wall right in front of Scagg, he gets to roll 4 dice — all of which result in a hit on that pesky enemy champion. My Hunter takes a potshot at Sneeks and misses, and I decide to abandon an invasion of Somerset’s bastion through the south, and instead move Murk north to kill the Climber that’s hiding in the jungle.
The Cave Goblins are quick to respond. Krag appears behind their lines, and the troops painstakingly rearrange themselves: Scagg falls back while Sneeks and Krag move forward. Krag kills my Hunter and Sneeks batters Glarg for 3 wounds and then swaps with Scagg, once again placing himself out of danger.
Worst of all, at the beginning of her turn, Somerset played Goblin Invincibility. Until the beginning of the next turn, I’ll only be able to deal wounds on rolls of 6.
Goblin Invincibility always introduces a dose of uncertainty. Right now is no different. Do I fall back and let Somerset tear up the rest of my Vine Walls, or do I chance proximity with supercharged goblins, likely dealing no damage and taking serious wounds? I decide my best bet is to keep my Vine Walls intact, and I hope I’ll be able to land two 6s on Scagg and finish him off.
At least I can make my troops a bit hardier too. I play Vine Guard, meaning anyone next to a Vine Wall can only get hit on 5+. Not as good as Invincibility, but I’ll take what I can get.
Once that’s done, I move my surviving Hunter forward, moving him across a Vine Wall in the process to activate his Ambush ability. Murk also moves north, surrounding Scagg on three sides, and about to be attacked by nine dice. My Hunter misses, Murk misses, and Glarg lands 1/3. Scagg lives!
Scagg celebrates by wounding Glarg with his Curse, then moves back to let Sneeks get into the action. Krag misses Murk thanks to my Vine Guard event, Scagg shoots at my Hunter for one wound, and Sneeks lands two wounds on Murk then trades places with the Fighter who’s lingering at the back of the battlefield.
Somerset mentions that she’s going to lose for sure, and I’m not so certain. Sneeks is hashing my champions, none of whom are especially tough. I even move Mugglug north, thinking he’ll have to get into the battle personally. Then I have a good string of attacks: my Hunter finally brings down Scagg, Glarg kills the Fighter that swapped with Sneeks, which lays down another Vine Wall, and Murk gives Krag 3 wounds. Then I put everything into magic but one card, hoping that it will be the source of my salvation. Krag slugs Murk back for 2 wounds and squeaks something about how I don’t have a real chance, especially now that Somerset has put Reeker down in the back.
Here’s my last hope: Blerg. At 7 magic, he’s even more expensive than most of my other champions. He’s one of my rare units who can’t move easily and fluidly through Vine Walls, but he’s able to consume enemies to either heal or to increase his attack value, and I’m in absolute need of some extra firepower up there, what with Sneeks darting in and out of combat. I also play Ambush, which lets all my units gain the same ability as my Hunters for the turn — including the ability to temporarily move through Vine Walls. This is perfect for Blerg, who charges through the swamp, gains an extra attack, and batters Krag. Then eats him, gaining a permanent +1 to his attack value. With Krag out of the way, Murk can finally hit Sneeks at range, dealing the first two Summoner wounds of the game.
Somerset responds with Goblin Horde Attack and surrounding Blerg with Sneeks and Reeker. I cross my fingers because she’ll be rolling 7 dice and he has 6 life points. Turns out crossed fingers actually work, because he only takes 5 wounds, and on the following turn he tries to kill Sneeks again — only to roll 1/3. Murk fares better with 3/3, and my lone Hunter pokes Reeker for good measure.
But my champions are waning, and Reeker is still nearly full-health. Sneeks kills Murk and Reeker finishes off Blerg. I only have Glarg and a Hunter left, with Mugglug gradually crashing through the vines to reinforce his minions.
Of course, I only needed one more wound on Sneeks, so I shouldn’t have been as nervous as I was. Maybe I was thinking back to my complete inability to kill Somerset’s Summoner in our previous game, but this time Glarg lands the final blow, killing Sneeks and ending the match in my favor.