Alliances Mega #1: Hogar’s Run
Deals have been struck. Some benevolent, some… well. It was always inevitable that once the Summoner Wars began in earnest, the sixteen factions who found themselves in possession of summoning stones would seek alliances, no matter how desperate or ill-motivated. And when it’s between the Tundra Guild and the Cave Filth, that’s one fight you sit back and let run its course.
The Setup: Chilly Dwarves vs. Subterranean Mutants
If nothing else, our battle is evenly matched in the sense that Somerset and I have both been assigned factions we aren’t comfortable with. For my part, I’ve never much liked either the Guild Dwarves or the Tundra Orcs, and Somerset has been known to call The Filth’s mutations — and I quote — “really gross.”
The setup helps alleviate some of my worries. While Hogar, the summoner for the Tundra Guild, doesn’t bring the most impressive ability to the table (his walls are a little harder to damage), and his Scribes will probably be one of the first common units to get the boot once I start customizing my decks, the other opening commons are much more interesting. The Marauder is a solid 2-attack fighter whose attack becomes ranged once he has a Rune Event — more on those later — and my pair of Ice Golems use the same mechanism to transform into roving Ice Walls, great for summoning new troops behind enemy lines. Paired with Hogar’s tougher walls, the Ice Golems seem like they could have real potential.
The Cave Filth are another matter. Somerset isn’t too pleased with the starting lineup for her summoner (The Warden), consisting of three Prisoners and one Taskmaster. The Prisoners cost nothing to summon but come saddled with the disadvantage that they might not be willing to fight for their captor, in which case they’re sent to the Warden’s Prison Pile. The Taskmaster can spur other common units into moving and attacking, though his lash makes them easier to kill. Neither of these are particularly impressive, though it’s the Filth’s mutations that make the faction work. For those who don’t know, mutations can be placed atop regular common units, transforming them into killing machines with a wide range of possible abilities. Success for the Filth revolves around how well they mutate their troops, so a few wimpy Prisoners are less a wimpy start and more a powerful blank slate upon which to compose your bloody symphony.
Well then. Here we go.
Rounds 1-3: From Below
From the very first move, I decide to play the Tundra Guild aggressively. I’ve faced the original Filth often enough to know that an unchecked mutant quickly becomes an unstoppable mutant, so I march my southernmost Ice Golem and Marauder forward, setting the pace for upcoming turns. Unfortunately, the wild haymaker and subsequent miss from my Ice Golem also set the pace for coming turns, letting Somerset’s Prisoners slowly chip away at my Ice Golem’s hide.
It’s a back-and-forth shoving match for a couple rounds, though it’s my Tundra Guild fighters who are slowly giving ground. I push my second Ice Golem forward and Cave Filth Prisoners push back, robbing my Marauder of his youth and slowly weakening my Ice Golems. Then, on only the second round, Somerset breaks into one of those wild grins of hers — the telltale sign that she’s saved up enough magic for a mutation.
It’s called a Burrow Mutant, quickly subsuming a Prisoner’s body to reveal a surprisingly cuddly creature. Its abilities are less cuddly: it rolls four dice when it attacks, and can also move an extra space and through enemy units, though its attack decreases with every space it travels. That last slight downside to the Burrow Mutant’s ability doesn’t give me much confidence; since my Ice Golems are right there waiting to be brutalized, it doesn’t need to travel at all. I breathe a sigh of relief when its first attack on one of my Ice Golems barely scratches the big guy.
That Burrow Mutant presents a lot of firepower for only the second round, so I scramble to figure out a way to counter him.
Enter Rune Events. When placed beneath my troops, these bestow special abilities. Some of my guys even get extra perks, such as how my Ice Golem turns into a walking Ice Wall when he’s been given a Rune. With the Burrow Mutant rearing back for another swing, I give one of my Ice Golems the Rune of Shielding. Now he’ll only take wounds if Somerset rolls a hit on every die result — perfect for avoiding a high-attack mutant with adorably thick forearms. The (enormous) downside to this Rune is that it disappears if the chosen unit takes even a single wound, so with a pack of Prisoners running around, my brand new Ice Wallgolem could be short-lived.
Certainly his nearby buddy is. Somerset plays an event called Overwork on her Burrow Mutant, giving him an extra die that turn. She then avoids the Rune of Shielding by attacking my only other remaining Ice Golem… and lands a full five hits. “I should have just attacked the one with the shield!” she curses as I breathe a sigh of relief. The Overwork card then sends her exhausted Burrow Mutant to her Prison Pile.
At this point I think I’m doing okay. I have a second Wall set up at the south end of the board, and even though I’ve lost a couple Ice Golems, at least that dang Burrow Mutant is out of the picture. But there’s that smile again, telling me she has something horrible planned.
It’s a second event. If it wasn’t enough that her Burrow Mutant got a free turn during her event phase, now she plays a card called Enlist, which pulls the Burrow Mutant out of Prison and puts him right next to The Warden. Turns out that bugger isn’t out of the game. Just out of harm’s way.
Rounds 4-6: Surrounded
The next couple rounds are dominated by Somerset’s cheap Prisoners closing in from all sides as we both accumulate magic for the next big twist. My push into her territory hasn’t gone so well, so I begin to pull everyone back. Hogar hasn’t killed off his lowly Scribe for magic because I’m still waiting to see if his ability will pay off — you get to draw a card when you play a Rune — but soon I decide he’s more useful as ethereal mana and have Hogar bash in his skull.
My shielded Ice Golem is then surrounded and picked apart by Prisoners, losing his Rune of Shielding in the process. He tries to fight back and misses, Prisoners ducking beneath his burly arms, and then dies the next round. Somerset sends him to her Prison, just to be a big mean jerk who puts decent people in prison.
Things are beginning to look dire. A riot of Prisoners are closing in on Hogar, a Taskmaster lashing at their heels, and I’m down to just Hogar. I reluctantly summon another Ice Golem and send my summoner forward into battle. A lucky strike from Hogar kills the foremost Cave Filth Prisoner — my first kill of the entire game, a sobering thought that doesn’t do much for my morale. My new Ice Golem’s failure to hurt the second Prisoner isn’t exactly a rallying cry either.
However, Somerset is cautious about her advance. Rather than rushing the rest of her weak troops into Hogar’s chokepoint between two Walls, she holds back and slowly advances her Burrow Mutant, only pausing to dismantle my Ice Golem.
Stupid Ice Golems.
Rounds 7-9: Getting It Together
With The Warden lounging atop his dais of slaves, Prisoners and their Taskmaster ready to blitz around my defenses and a Burrow Mutant within striking distance of Hogar, you might think this is the moment where I become discouraged.
Yes. You would be correct.
However, I have one big meaty trick up my sleeve. And no, that’s not a weenie joke.
It’s a RALDAG joke.
I’ve been building up my magic for quite a few turns now, a process made longer by last round’s literally less-than-worthless Ice Golem. But now I’m able to afford Raldag, the game’s first champion. He’s a meaty sort of fellow, decent attack and hit points, but there are two details that really make him shine. First, with all the bad luck I’ve been having with my dice, the fact that Raldag adds to his roll results when attacking a common unit (and mutants count!) is a huge boon. Second, I juice him up with a pair of Runes, one that gives him an extra die and another that makes his high rolls count for double wounds. Which means that when he lumbers forward and attacks the Burrow Mutant, he’s able to kill it — finally! — in one blue-muscled swing.
Somerset responds by turning her last Prisoner into a Barbed Mutant. This sounds pretty scary, but it flubs its attack on Raldag. After killing the Barbed Mutant by way of reply, off Raldag goes, charging back towards The Warden’s position with all speed. The chase is on!
Not everything is coming up roses, however. While Raldag is pursuing The Warden, chasing him around the Cave Filth’s central Wall and into the southeastern corner of the board, Somerset decides to counter-chase Hogar. Using the Wall that has sat dormant and benign at the top of the map (which is my way of saying I entirely forgot about it), she summons the Soul Eater. This is an enormous terrifying wall of moleflesh and teeth, limited only by the fact that at the end of every turn it must consume an adjacent common unit — or, barring that, someone from the Prison — or it will run away. This doesn’t seem too bad at first, until Somerset also fills up her Prison with a Subjugation event, pulling three poor souls from her discard into her Prison and lengthening the Soul Eater’s life by the same number of turns.
The chase is on! Again!
As Hogar flees the Soul Eater, I eventually manage to corner The Warden between Raldag and another champion summoned from my mid-board Walls, a hero named Zuggdin whose ability does me absolutely no good now that every last Rune has been removed from my draw pile. Still, he’s got a good attack, and between Raldag and Zuggdin, I figure The Warden’s lease on life has just about run out.
Naturally, Somerset has ideas of her own, and even an unwilling Prisoner sent directly to Prison can’t stop her. With one last fresh common unit, she creates a Poison Mutant and gives Zuggdin a nasty case of the poops’n’barfs. He can barely see straight, let alone wound much of anything. She also casts Enlist again, this time using one of my own faithless Ice Golems to block Raldag’s advance on her summoner, and of course the traitor does a better job of hitting Raldag for The Warden than he ever did at hitting Prisoners for me.
Rounds 10-18: Hogar’s Run
What follows is a series of rapid-fire moves, both designed to eliminate the opposing summoner before our own is killed off. Hogar finally faces the Soul Eater, which imparts three wounds before Somerset can’t feed him and it runs off. Over on her side of the board, I cast Avalanche to trap her Poison Mutant in an Ice Wall, kill that traitorous Ice Golem, and pound The Warden’s plump face until the old git turns around and kills off both champions.
This leaves three units on the whole board, separated into a winding corridor of Walls. I’ve got Hogar in my back corner and Somerset has The Warden, both summoners three wounds from death. However, Somerset also has that Poison Mutant trapped beneath an Ice Wall.
Run, Hogar. Run.
No, I said RUN.
Off he goes across the entire board. And there, across the way, The Warden runs down to his frozen mutant and desperately chips at the Ice Wall, piece by piece. He won’t have any spare turns, because if Hogar reaches him before he breaks through the ice, it’s game over for the Cave Filth.
Round fifteen: Hogar runs, and The Warden deals his first wound to the Ice Wall.
Round sixteen: Hogar runs, and The Warden continues breaking down the Ice Wall.
Round seventeen: Hogar runs, and The Warden… breaks the Ice Wall.
There’s still a chance, and Hogar does manage to land another blow. However, The Warden has some magic left over, gleaned from the corpses of my fallen champions. With one last surge of power, the Poison Mutant transforms into a Bone Mutant, dealing two wounds to Hogar. He has one life left, and The Warden only has one attack…
Not much loss, I suppose. I never much liked those Guild Dwarves and Tundra Orcs. An alliance between the two of them had all the more reason to end up dead.
Good game, Somerset!