If you haven't read round one, The Christmas Day Massacre, over here, give it a gander. It has videos! Unfortunately round two will not. Sorry!
For the rematch we used the exact same lists as we did on Christmas day, no alterations or substitutions were allowed. The only changes were the battle plan, the terrain placement, and however we decided to deploy and play.
Battleplan: The Relocation Orb
Terrain: Open War Terrain 35-36, no terrain with warscrolls
I won the roll-off and deployed first. I deployed pretty much identically as I did the previous game; Olynder into reserves along with eventually the rest of the "Olyderbomb", and everything else on the table. In this battleplan I opted to be on the south side of the map, once again setting my Bladegheists directly across from the objective, and my Chainrasps Hordes on either side of the map to get ready to catch the orb when it flies either way. One of my Dreadblades backed up the Bladegheists and the other one of the 'rasp hordes.
Cities deployed pretty much the opposite of how he did last time. Instead of placing his Demigryphs and General on Griffon into reserve, only his Crossbows and General on foot took time off the table. Everything else he set square in the center with a flank of Guard, split in two units, on either side of the table. In essence, his deployment mirrored mine, but with his threat units already on the table.
I finished deployment first and opted to go second.
I'm sorry to say this was another quick game. 3 turns in total, and a loss for me and my Nighthaunt. Oh, sorry, spoilers. But, the point of this and the last game were to test the Dolorous Guard with Olynder, not win, and that is exactly what I did.
So, given that, I'm going to focus on Our Lady and her retinue's performance in this, which was phenomenal.
I went second in order to give Cities a chance to open a backfield option for me to drop the bomb, but he was wise and, understandably, wary from the last encounter and didn't provide the opportunity. Instead, I was forced to either hold the bomb in reserve for another turn and let him beat on my Bladegheists, or drop it in front of them and just get the ball rolling. I opted for option two and dropped the whole lot right in front of both his General on Griffon and Celestial Hurricanum.
So, let's cut to the good stuff, why not. What the Dolorous Olynderbomb does well is nuke. On the turn I dropped them they couldn't engage, only one unit of Hexwraiths made the charge, and so I denied it and chose to stand ominously there, instead. But on top of the second turn I won the roll and, this time, REMEMBERED my hero phase. I got off both Soul Cage and Grief-Stricken, and then proceeded to just delete the General.
Imagine this: You've got the wound-potential of Lady Olynder; Lifting the Veil for 2-6, Wail of the Damned for another 1-3 if you beat the bravery check, an average of 2+ more from her staff, and another 2+ from her Handmaidens for anywhere from 1 or 2 wounds to 13+. Pretty good, if a bit swingy. But what if I told you that you can pretty much eliminate that swingyness? How, you ask? Simple: Hexwraiths.
I brought two units of 5 Hexwraiths, who on the charge can average 2+ MWs and another 4+ standard wounds each unit. Now, especially if you get Soul Cage off, you're swinging for 6 MWs pretty much minimum before they can retaliate, but more likely more than that. Oh, and why not add the Knight of Shrouds on Ethereal Steed and pop his +1 attacks on Olynder and both Hexwraith units? Doesn't 13 wounds and 11 MWs on average sound great? I thought it might.
On turn 2 I engaged the General on Griffon. He didn't survive.
On turn 3 I engaged the Celestial Hurricanum. It didn't survive.
Both turns my opponent tried to snipe Olynder by targeting one unit of Hexwraiths that weathered the attacks exceptionally well instead of going directly for her. This puts your opponent on the back foot when engaging your general and the Dolorous Guard is in play; do they go for the general on the chance enough damage gets through, or do you try to eliminate the extra health pool and damage first? Neither choice is good for them, which is great for us.
The reason I lost is that I didn't play the objectives at all and wasn't able to claim any points by end of turn 3. I could have, if I had remembered my KoSoES had the Pendant of the Fell Wind I would have been able to cover the objective without question from turn 2 on no matter where it was on the map, but I didn't because me playing a game and remembering everything I can do IN that game are just not things that seem to happen. It's what separates the casuals from the pros, and I'm afraid I'm a filthy casual.
The goal of these rounds was to test Lady Olynder backed up by both the Dolorous Guard and Forgotten Scions against a more modern army from a new book and answer two questions:
- Is Lady Olynder relevant again?
- Are these new battalions any good?
So, let's answer question 1. Is Lady Olynder relevant again? Yes, with certain caveats. Olynder can play only a couple of roles solidly; a support level 2 wizard with a powerful spell or a mortal wound assassin. She lost relevance because as newer books came out other casters started getting natural ways to buff their casting chances, or longer range spells for the same cast value, and putting her in position to use Grief-stricken also meant throwing her away after a round or two. And that was the better option. To actually use her MWs to benefit you needed to get closer, 10" at least, and that meant melee combat where she would surely take her 7 wounds pretty quickly.
Not anymore. With the Dolorous Guard, it became very clear that a 2+ is going to be likely to give her staying power. On average 1 of every 4 or 5 wounds will hit her, meaning she can be expected to soak up all 27 wounds before she drops with a minimum DG deployment and decent rolls. And I'm talking in a single turn. Give her a hero phase to breathe and watch her heal from Grave-sands of Time if she's too low, or Lifestealer/Spectral Tether if she takes that, but more likely just popping CP to bring her DG back and refiling her health pool.
The drawbacks are still quite terrible, though. Being honest here, to make Olynder a model you want to place on the board in her current state you will need to spend her points and the DG's minimum points. You're looking at a new hero, basically, costing 600 points. 600 points for a 6" move, two spells/unbinds, 2-9 MWs at range, but suddenly 24 wounds when in melee range. A melee range that is her base plus 10 hexwraith bases long, wide, or otherwise configured for that 3" battalion requirement. 600 points for a hero that is still 2 drops. 600 for a hero that has to be your general.
No, you won't see her burning up tournament tables anytime soon. Don't get me wrong, she's now extremely powerful when built this way, but for that many points there will just be better options.
Question two, are these battalions any good?
Oh my Nagash, yes!
Hexwraiths are legit! That extra attack on the charge adds up across 10 models, making them put out slightly less mortal wounds than two packs of Spirit Hosts, but with twice the speed. They play different roles, of course, but with the side-buff of the Dolorous Guard Hexwraiths are now legitimate options for battlelines and swinging at anything with a high save. Did I mention that one of those two big bads I absolutely nuked in both games had a 2+ save? Well, it did, and both times the Hexwraiths brought the MWs that made the difference.
Now, I had them paired with a slow general, so their Spectral Hunters ability never saw any play. There just wasn't enough movement to set it up. Maybe with a faster general that will show itself to be useful, but what's great here is that's a sheer bonus and not a necessary mechanic you need to maneuver in order to make these guys work. No, +1 attacks on a charge and a minimum 10 models in close proximity pretty much fixes their problems. It's almost like GW is telling us we were playing them wrong all along...
And as for the Forgotten Scions? This is less easy to put a pin on the exact reason this battalion is good or bad. On the good side of things who doesn't like a free +1 attacks to a unit for a combat phase. And since it's any combat phase, this free activation can mean a counter-attack boost in your opponent's combat phase when they are not expecting it. But, it doesn't fix the Knight's lesser quality buff, being that it doesn't extend the duration of the +1 attacks beyond a combat phase, and that free activation is once per battleround. Oh, and who brings two Dreadblade Harrows? That's a point tax if there ever was one.
Still, there's room for synergy here. The battalion gives the Knight his own buff passively, meaning it can stack with an activation, netting him 6 attacks if you want to get freaky with it, and all for free. Without any other support he's going to be swinging for the skies like that. Make him your general and bring the Dolorous Guard and now we're looking a truly formidable force. What kind of artefacts should he have like that? Shadow's Edge is suddenly relevant; a D3 Frightful Touch on 6 attacks? That's about 3 MW on average and another 3 savable. How about Headman's Judgement? 6 attacks at 2+/2+/-1 and 2 damage each? About 6 standard wounds. Oh, what about Slitter? Want to make your opponent lose half a unit on their turn? With a 12" movement across the whole lot, you're likely going to be right in the middle of whatever unit you're going to take on, and if you can take the hits first (which you can thanks to DG) then when it's your counter, slit the middle and see if they are out of cohesion at the turn of the phase.
Yeah, these are good. If I were to rank them: Dolorous Guard > Forgotten Scions > Shroudguard > The Condemned = Chainguard, and then maybe Deathriders. The rest? The rest of what?