G’Day Goonhammer readers! This is the first in a series of articles covering the pre-eminent Kings of War tournament in Australia – Clash of Kings 2022. We, Matt “Urr” Trewella and JP “Cytoplasm” Fuller-Jackson, drove the ~700km (435 miles) to this tournament to test our mettle and be part of the biggest Kings of War event in the Australian calendar.
Today we will be covering the event overall, including which factions rose to prominence, and of course a look at the top five lists at the end of the weekend. In the next few weeks, we will go through our individual experiences, providing a more tactile description of our battles, as well as the many lessons we learnt (the hard way!).
Clash of Kings 2022 Australia
Held in the Australian capital city of Canberra, Clash of Kings 2022 Australia attracted 49 incredible players from across three states and one territory (there’s a difference). Considering the state of the pandemic in Australia, this attendance was surprisingly good. This resulted in a wide variety of armies, builds, and every round was a fresh experience.
Typically the venue is one of the last things to be mentioned, however the facilities at the Canberra Technology Park were exceptional. There were the standard niceties of air conditioning, clean bathrooms, and plentiful parking, yet the true champion was the on-site cafe “Soul Cartel”. Operating at multiple venues throughout Canberra, the “Soul Cartel” menu itself offered a generous selection of burgers, wraps and meals, however the quality of cooking was outstanding. It was agreed by all that this was a surprising highlight of the event, and it meant that between rounds no one needed to leave for food.
As mentioned in a lead-up article, this event involved 6 games of 2000 points across two days. Chess clocks were provided at each table, and each player was afforded 60 minutes of play, which at 2000 points was quite comfortable to achieve. For those unfamiliar with the use of chess clocks in Kings of War, their implementation is very simple thanks to player participation in each turn being mutually exclusive.
The terrain on each table was set according to the Blackjack! System. Two sets each of flat difficult terrain, forests, hills, obstacles and blocking terrain were distributed around the battlefield, with hills never in deployment zones (don’t want to favour those war machines!). Every table had a full set of painted terrain complete with a game mat, making each battle a proper spectacle, and isn’t that how we all want to play our wargames?
In the ‘meta’ of Kings of War, a number of armies are considered popular, and are often touted to be the most numerous and powerful at any given event. Many decry the Undead, the Nightstalkers and the Abyssal Dwarfs as such armies, however we at Goonhammer will point no fingers (and in any case, the power differential between armies in Kings of War is nowhere near that of other certain game systems).
Going in, it was always going to be hard to predict such a wide spread of factions. Given the difficulty in playing in person games recently and the short timeframe since the release of Clash of Kings 2022 (the supplement), it was difficult at best to tailor a list to a supposed meta. Going heavy in the wrong direction might just turn your games into an uphill struggle before you even get there.
Chatting to people at the event, many of them (and us) just took the best take-all-comers list we could come up with out of the models we had painted. A lesser amount just took the strongest list they could come up with, taking a chance on skewing their armies.
Given all that, we can see the faction breakdown here. The most popular army at this Canberran event was Elves. Standard, pointy-eared Elves (with a few of their forestry brothers thrown in)! This was generally attributed to the much improved Kindred Gladestalkers, but also it seems because Tydarian Dragonlord was often taken to smash the lesser races to pulp.
We also see quite a few Undead and Nightstalkers armies were present presumably for their general strength and to counter the aforementioned Gladestalkers.
Similarly, there are Dwarfs, Abyssal Dwarfs, Salamanders, Goblins, Nature, Basilea and more, all with at least two players, while the Trident Realms, Herd and Forces of the Abyss only had one representative each; our very own Cytoplasm being the lone Forces of the Abyss player.
Only 6 factions didn’t see any play, and they were all theme lists. While it would have been nice to see them all played, the lower player turnout thanks to COVID is probably to thank for that (except Ratkin slaves, we still don’t know why anyone would go for them).
With the meta so unpredictable and the update to the rules still quite fresh, it was truly unknown who would take the top spots at the event. Many players of considerable skill were in attendance, and often one or the other was tipped to take the podium place.
Despite all the predictions, it was not Elves, Nightstalkers nor Abyssal Dwarfs that reigned supreme, but instead Ben Rantall’s Goblins (3rd), Stephen Devenish’s Salamanders (2nd) and Matt Curtis’ Basileans (1st) that emerged victorious. Let’s take a look at these three lists below:
Bensome’s S’plody Boys
This was an entirely melee-focussed Goblin army (see the army list here). Every unit included in this list hits about as hard as Goblins can, but not in the way a typical Goblin list would have prior to Clash of Kings 2022. A classic melee list of Goblins would be full of Trolls and Luggits; Bensome’s S’plody Boys has these, but so much more drawn from the new updates. This is an all new kind of close combat Goblin list, and the differences between the old and the new is what makes this list so exciting.
In some ways, Bensome’s list harkens back to the former Warhammer Fantasy Night Goblins, where there was potential for stupendous amounts of damage, but equal likelihood that everything would fall in a heap. Thankfully in Kings of War, the pendulum doesn’t quite swing so far. Instead we have a lot of units that do a random amount of extra damage, but what are these units?
- Groany Snark
The most extreme example is Groany Snark, the Goblin King in Mini-Winggit Flight Suit, who propels himself across the battlefield via explosive means. This upgrade not only includes enhanced mobility, but also Blast (D3) for his melee attacks. This means for each hit rolled of his 5 attacks, he gets D3 hits to then roll damage on. The addition of Thunderous Charge (2) on top of the Crushing Strength (1) means that nearly all of those extra hits will damage.
What elevates Groany Snark to Super Saiyan-levels is the Host Shadowbeast (8) on the Wiz, adding up to 8 more attacks which of course all multiply thanks to the Blast (D3). This means that Groany could potentially deal out 39 damage! In reality it will most likely be just 8-10 damage, but this is still a monumental amount of damage from just one small goblin.
- Grupp Longnail
Like Groany Snark, Grupp Longnail possesses Blast (D3). Unlike Groany, they are quite a bit slower, have less attacks and no Thunderous Charge. Yet they have Melee 3+, making Grupp the most accurate Goblin in the entire list. A worthy target for Host Shadowbeast, but certainly secondary to the flying King.
- Gorp, King on Fleabag (part of Gorp’s Explodo’matic Bangstiks formation)
Last on the list of Host Shadowbeast candidates is the King on Fleabag, who has Blast 2 on any rolls of 6 to hit. The damage multiplication is much less than the aforementioned targets, yet in a pinch it will still hit quite hard for a goblin, especially thanks to Elite and Thunderous Charge (2) due to the formation. The downside is that for each roll of 6 to hit, one damage is dealt the King himself, so in all likelihood his best combat might be his last.
- Fleabag Riders (part of Gorp’s Explodo’matic Bangstiks formation)
Like the King, these Fleabag Riders hit with Blast 2 on hit rolls of 6, and like the King, they damage themselves upon doing so (poorly made/employed explosives). Just like Gorp, these guys can hit quite hard. It will be a bittersweet moment, however, when these riders get a flank or rear. On the one hand, the damage will be stupendous, but on the other, the sheer amount of damage they will do to themselves will see them evaporate to a Mindfog.
- Trolls with Det’ Packs
Trolls are a fantastic unit in any Goblin force; a source of reliable damage output and durability. So why not strap 50 kilograms of Goblin-made dynamite to their backs and push them right into the enemy lines? Upon their demise, the Det’ Packs explode and deal D6+1 hits on each unit within 6 inches at Piercing (1), with no downside! Unless you consider Goblin casualties downsides…
Don’t underestimate Goblins
The remainder of the army is no less lethal, with a terrifying horde of Luggits (Grogger’s Lugg Lads), two War Trombones (the extent of the ranged damage capabilities of this army), and a pair of Ramming Speed! Winggits. There’s a lot to deal with and all of it can hurt. Thankfully, with the exception of Grupp, it all hits at Melee 4+, a melee value widely considered to be fickle and, to some degree, cursed. Irrespective, coming Third in a 49 player event is a major achievement, proving that Goblins are back in the combat phase.
Stephen Devenish’s Salamanders
The Salamanders are an army known for their considerable punching power, and Devenish’s Salamanders are no exception (see the army list here). What stands out about this army is its profoundly mixed nature; no over-investment was made into any single unit type. The only duplication of units were the Salamander Primes and that was to fulfill the Whispering Scales formation. Instead, each unit brings particular attributes to the army, which together is clearly a formidable force.
True mixed arms
- Rakawas, the Pale Rider
The ultimate dinosaur in the Salamander army list, Rakawas is like a Fire Drake that decided flying is overrated, and for such a profound thought gained Melee 3+ and Vicious. Because he lacks fly, Rakawas is a relatively cheap option when it comes to hard hitting titans. Although compared to Fire Drakes he is less likely to flank, he will hit harder in the front, and possesses enough Defense and Nerve to grind. All in all, this kaiju cannot be ignored.
- Subtle Shooting Salamanders
At first glance the list appears to be light on any ranged output, with only the Lekelidon being the only obvious ranged unit. Closer inspection reveals that 6 of the 13 units have a ranged attack. The Lekelidon, Artakl and Scorchwings provide a total of 17 shots at up to 18”, and then the Greater Fire Elemental, Ember Sprites, and Rakawas inject a further 27 attacks at up to 12”. Considering some shots have Piercing (1) or Shattering (Fireball), few units could withstand the combined firepower of this entire army at once. The beauty of this is that none of these units suffer from the characteristic frailty of ranged units, and perfectly reinforce the balanced nature of this list.
- Whispering Scales
One of the more contentious formations introduced in Clash of Kings 2022, opinions vary on just how powerful the addition of Elite, Pathfinder, Scout and Stealthy are to units such as Salamander Primes. Primes are the basic infantry of the Salamander army, yet are only slightly inferior to their more elite cousins, the Ceremonial Guard. Hence, if one is to field Primes, the investment into the formation is the perfect means to get more out of some unlocking regiments.
- A Troop of Ancients
Functioning as both support (with Inspiring) and extra thick chaff, the Ancients’ only downside is that they are Speed 4. Enter Skirmisher’s Boots; for just 10 points these wizened Ancients gain Nimble. While this doesn’t directly speed them up, it means they can move At the Double and still pivot. No downsides anymore!
Shiny new scales
The one thing nearly all the units in this army have in common is that they have all directly benefited from, or introduced by, Clash of Kings 2022. The implementation of Skirmisher’s Boots and the Banner of Abbetshire bestow more subtle improvements to the army, as does Shattering on Fireball. Considering the namesake of this two-day tournament, it is only fitting that armies utilizing these upgrades to the fullest get the top spots.
Matthew Curtis’ Celestial Fury
Taking the top spot was the most elite of Basliean lists, answering the perennial wargaming question, “What if I just took the cool stuff?”. Typically this daydream dissipates with the realization that helming such an awesome force would take not only tactical skill, but a considerable measure of self-discipline. Yet, this force of Paladin Knights, Elohi and a High Paladin on Dragon under the leadership of Matthew Curtis managed to go undefeated the entire tournament, showing that all of us can take our favourite units and win; we just need to figure out how (see the army list here).
Quality, not quantity
The army contains just 9 units, making it one of the most elite armies at the tournament. The primary reason most players shy away from running such armies at competitive events is the low ‘drop count’, referring to the number of units being ‘dropped’ in the deployment phase.
An opponent with more units to place often is at an advantage when it comes to control of the battlefield, and can overwhelm more elite armies. The means by which Celestial Fury overcomes this is that every single unit is at least Speed 8, and most are Speed 10 and can fly. Not only does this equate to an immense degree of threat projection, but the army can also readily redeploy in response to any situation. The key, however, is to not throw away any units unless absolutely necessary, because each loss not only reduces the killing power of the army, but threatens its ability to play the scenario at hand.
- Elohi and Ur-Elohi
The angelic flying bag of hammers that are the Elohi units can dominate the battlefield with the potential to charge 20” over whatever is in their path, yet they serve a greater purpose. They are a source of Inspiring, obviating the need for such support heroes in a typical list.
In addition, Clash of Kings 2022 has provided the Elohi with an interesting upgrade; Divine Fervour. This means friendly human units that are in the same combat as any Elohi gain Elite. Elite (the ability to reroll 1’s to hit) is good on any unit, but it is best applied to the most powerful units, which as far as Basilean humans are concerned are…
- Paladin Knights
Regular humans on regular horses are reasonably powerful on the charge (Thunderous Charge (2)), but when combined with the aforementioned Divine Fervour, the damage potential goes up even higher. Add to this concept the fact that if Divine Fervour is active, it means the enemy is being multicharged by both knights and Elohi, and so are not long for this world. The only downside of the Paladin Knights is that they aren’t as fast nor maneuverable as the Elohi.
- High Paladin on Dragon
The real surprise is the realization that the High Paladin on Dragon is also considered human. This most likely reflects the presence of the paladin, rather than any simian qualities of the dragon. With Crushing Strength (3) each of the dragon’s attacks are supremely powerful, yet as with all dragon units, the premium number of attacks can be its downfall. Divine Fervour remedies this situation to almost completely maximize the number of hits this dragon can achieve. The best part is that the High Paladin on Dragon has the same aerial capabilities as the Ur-Elohi, so getting them into the same combat isn’t quite as tricky as with the Paladin Knights.
Patience is a virtue
As indicated above, armies composed of such choice units require a degree of self-discipline to direct. There will never be a lack of opportunities to charge when more than half the army can fly, instead the skill is identifying the right moments to do so. There were some games where Celestial Fury didn’t engage with the enemy until Turn 5, preceded instead with a tense movement game. It is tempting for players (particularly the newer ones of us) to be dealing damage during every turn of the game, but not at the expense of the scenario. Clearly Matthew Curtis had all this in mind, as he secured the top spot with tournament points to spare!
Clash of Kings 2022 Australia was a great return for the annual national Kings of War tournament. We hope in subsequent years players from all of Australia can come and participate. For us, the soon-to-be-formed “Team Goonhammer”, it was a fantastic event. We got to see such a diversity of armies (people play Trident Realms!?), and everyone at the event was just enjoying the playing of Kings of War, rather than nitpicking the rules for an obscure advantage. The Kings of War community is ultimately a welcoming one, and so new players can be rest assured that not even a national tournament scene is beyond their grasp.
Join us next time to hear about our own individual games and experiences, what we learnt and how much fun we had (spolier alert: It’s a lot of fun).
Have any questions or feedback? Drop us a note in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.