Alliances Mega #2: Stinking Swamps
As the next phase in the Summoner Wars continues, with alliances being struck between the sixteen previously-disparate factions, what do you get when the undead Fallen Phoenix invade the lands of the Swamp Mercenaries?
Whatever else it may be, it’s going to be stinky.
The Setup: Materialistic Orcs vs. The Undead Fairy-Princess
Once more unto the breach.
This time, I’m working with the rough-and-tumble Swamp Mercenaries, a faction of sexy-muscly orcs, boarboons (boar and baboon merged through horrific and illegal genetic manipulation, one supposes), turtles, rats, and frogs. My summoner, Glurblub — whose name I hate typing with a fury similar to Glurblub’s hatred of soggy sandwiches — is a variation on the original Swamp Orc summoner Mugglug. As Mugglug, anyone who died next to a Swamp Orc Wall turned into a dreaded entangling Vine Wall, gradually planting summoning spots and protection for your units across the board. Glurblub, on the other hand, is a bit more hands-on: he has to personally destroy an enemy unit to create a Vine Wall. While his ranged attack makes it possible to create far-flung colonies of Vine Walls, it can still mean occasionally exposing him.
My opening military seems decent. The Boarboon is most powerful right when he’s summoned, but he’s plenty tough otherwise. Two Swordsmen make up my rearguard, though both are Slippery, able to move through other units. And my flanks are dominated by Swamp Rats, cowardly little fellas who can run away to one of my Walls after attacking, though their cowardice also means they won’t let me blast them for magic. They just run away to my discard pile instead. Which, in a way, makes them the first sensible troop in this whole crazy war.
Meanwhile, Somerset is examining her own forces. The much-maligned Prince Elien has apparently gotten so used to everyone hating him that he’s gone and allied with Ret-Talus of the Fallen Kingdom, the big bads of the Summoner Wars world. Now he’s immortal, has special ordered a pair of glowing green contacts to complement his new job, and can spend magic to improve his dice results. Oh, and the Swamp Mercenaries have taken to calling him the Undead Fairy-Princess.
What did you expect? They’re mercenaries who live in a swamp. Political correctness isn’t a big concern out there, y’know?
Of course, Elien is accompanied by a few guards of his own. His Warrior has a chance of leaping over to a friendly unit after attacking, and the Cultist gambles to wound himself and his target at the same time. However, the most frightening of Elien’s troops is the Harbinger. I can’t even tell you what the Harbinger does, it’s so horrifying.
Rounds 1-2: Stuck in the Middle with You
Wait… so you still want to know what the Harbinger does? You’re sure? Absolutely sure?
I thought I was sure too. So sure that my first move is to push forward with Boarboon and Swamp Rat, trying to control the center of the battlefield. Then my Boarboon only wounds the Warrior standing across from him while the Swamp Rat pokes at the Cultist with his pathetic limb-sticks.
In reply, we discover exactly what the Harbinger does. Somerset’s Cultist scampers out of the way at his unearthly howl. Then he trundles forward and melts the Swamp Rat’s flesh from his bones, leaving nothing but a Burning Skeleton. Suddenly, not only has the field’s dynamic changed significantly, one of my troops gone and a soldier loyal to Elien suddenly appeared, but the mere act of killing him might also burn some of my magic.
We’ll chalk this one up to reconnaissance. The report: stay away from Harbingers.
My next course of action is carefully considered. I don’t want to surrender the center, especially so early in the game. While it often makes sense to bide time behind your Walls and build magic, two factors make me want to play a little more aggressively this early on. First, I can’t kill my own Swamp Rats for magic; and second, I very much want summoning spots on Somerset’s side of the board. Immortal Elien is relatively fragile, and being able to summon nearby could give me the win. So I decide to take a risk by bringing out another Swamp Rat, then casting Spore Carriers to transform both my newly-spawned Swamp Rat and my injured Boarboon into Vine Walls.
Tragically, Somerset then spends her next turn surrounding and destroying them. Ah well. At least this let me turn that Swamp Rat and Boarboon into magic.
Rounds 3-5: Ill-Considered Aggressive Tendencies
A surplus of magic is a good thing, especially when it lets me summon my first champion so early. Mik the Tusk, the only Irishorc in the entire army, comes out to play. Then I decide to continue with this unwarranted aggression, pushing him, my Swordsman, and Glurblub forward in hopes of using my summoner’s ability to get a new Vine Wall on Somerset’s side of the board. Mik gets better at attacking when he’s near Vine Walls, but this plan flubs dramatically when Glurblub’s shot fails to connect with the wounded Warrior. Still, Mik manages to lay the flaming remains of our deceased Swamp Rat pal to rest. As it dies (again), the Burning Skeleton’s ability triggers, meaning I don’t get his corpse as magic, though at least I don’t have any leftover magic for him to burn.
Somerset has also been hoarding magic, and she pulls out Karthos. He’s a bit of a necrophile, able to summon the Fairy-Princess’s deceased troops out of my discard pile. Much like Mik, however, the array of our forces means that there isn’t space enough to use him optimally; rather, she needs him to keep my own champion and summoner at bay.
She has another trick up her sleeve. It’s called Purge, and it lets her explode her injured Warrior, hurting Glurblub and Mik in the process. Then Karthos charges forward and stabs my summoner a couple more times, leaving him half-dead. The only upside is that her Harbinger doesn’t manage to melt my Swordsman’s flesh.
With Glurblub halfway to death’s door, it seems my aggression has not been well considered. He beats a hasty retreat, screened by Mik and my remaining Swamp Rat, and shooting at the Harbinger as he goes. The shot only destroys half the creature, which is gory and unnerving, though I breathe a sigh of relief when my Swordsman finishes the thing off. The following round boils down to a slugfest between Mik and Karthos while Glurblub puts distance between himself and Somerset’s Walls.
Rounds 6-8: Beachhead
With Glurblub in a much safer position, I can consider a strategy more dynamic than “survive.” My central problem is the way Somerset has placed her Walls, giving her quite a few potential summoning spots within reach of my leader. I’m still trying to play aggressively, since a single well-conducted turn can make Immortal Elien significantly more mortal, but for now I need to keep Glurblub safe while still prodding for an opening.
Then I see it. The opening itself, right there, staring at me.
I summon another champion, a diminutive frog-warrior named Prong, to block her forward Wall. Then I have Mik block the northern spot on her other Wall, completely cutting off her summoning spots within reach of Glurblub. Best of all, Mik’s displacement means I have a chance for Glurblub to do the one thing nobody would suspect, especially after his failed attack left him with a few new scars to brag about: he moves forward.
And shoots Karthos to death, planting a Vine Wall right in the center of Somerset’s right flank.
This presents Somerset with one hell of a tough choice. If she keeps Elien in place to try and uproot my Vine Wall, Mik will round the corner and begin a not-insignificant assault. But if she retreats to preserve fragile Elien’s life, the Vine Wall stays in place.
After some thought, she opts to fall back, but not before taking steps to protect herself. Two new troops in the south, a Harbinger and Warrior, begin attacking Prong — definitely the cutest champion in the entire war, though without protective Vine Walls nearby his adorable face can’t stop a flaming fist.
In response, my Vine Wall lets me bring a Swordsman straight into the fray, and rather than abandoning my defensive blockade of Somerset’s Walls, I begin attacking the rear Wall in earnest, chipping rapidly at Elien’s best defense. Prong fails to kill the Harbinger — as Somerset points out, “He’s too cute to be a killer.” Then, his gardening job complete, Glurblub falls back again, hoping to stay out of sight until Elien is dead for real. At this point, things for looking good for the Swamp Mercenaries.
Unfortunately, the next pair of rounds read like a Greek tragedy.
As my troops continue to wear down Elien’s main Wall, Somerset plops down a new one right next to Glurblub. I’ve been doing such a good job of blockading her summoning spots that it seems to have slipped my mind that she might do that. Even with him scrambling back, a newly summoned Warrior is able to get within striking distance and leave Glurblub with only a single life point left — and Elien still without a scratch on him — before using his Hellfire Step to retreat into a protective position blocking my advance. To maintain my beachhead, I’m forced to once again bring out a Swamp Rat and immediately use Spore Carriers to turn him into a Vine Wall.
There are a couple glimmers of hope amidst the despair, first when Glurblub manages to turn the Warrior charging from the south into a bloody-rooted Vine Wall, and then when Elien’s precious defensive Wall finally collapses. But Somerset is hardly finished. She brings a new Cultist onto the board, threatening my Vine Walls. Soon after, Elien kills the Swordsman who was closing in on her position and uses a nasty reactive spell called From the Ashes to transform him into yet another Harbinger.
Rounds 9-12: A Fistful of Boarboon Hair (Yuck)
I’m in a bad place. I’m down to a severely injured Glurblub and a Swordsman, while Somerset is packing an entire army. To make matters worse, she’s been hoarding magic, and she makes no secret of the fact that she’s got a Hellfire Drake on the way.
Still. Remember when I said that a single well-conducted turn can kill Elien? I meant that.
Because of the nature of our battle, I haven’t made much use of my fighters’ abilities. So when I summon a Boarboon, much more powerful the same turn he appears on the board, and then slip my Swordsman around Elien’s side, Somerset is caught off guard. Her four-life summoner is now surrounded by five dice of attack. This is exactly the sort of move I need to end the game in my favor despite the entire army converging on Glurblub’s location.
Then my idiot troops go and only roll two wounds. Nicely done, doofuses.
Somerset uses a cool combination of Burnt Sacrifice and a redrawn Purge to quickly dispatch the Swordsman, then has her Cultist harm himself to murder the Boarboon through sympathy pain or something. That’s the end of both would-be assassins, which is good because I would have executed them myself, given the chance. Sadly, the price of their justice is that Somerset can now afford that Hellfire Drake, and he’s making a beeline for Glurblub’s position.
Thing is, I’m not exactly helpless. A Vine Lash spell kills the Warrior trying to dismantle my beachhead, and my third and final champion, a teenage mutant turtle (but not a ninja, since he can only move one space per turn) whose parents bestowed upon him the highly original name Turt, is quickly deployed to block the Hellfire Drake’s advance.
As Turt and the Hellfire Drake slam it out like a pair of jocks doing chest-bumps, my last act is to summon a Boarboon and charge Immortal Elien’s position. Of course the dumb animal misses on his first attempt — but then, by some act of wild providence, Elien can’t quite seal the deal with his counterattack, and lacks the magic to increase his dice results. Boarboon gets another shot, and this time Elien gets a stinky faceful of sweaty Boarboon fur.
Not so immortal, then.