Hey all! A few weeks ago we wrote an article chronicling Cytoplasm’s road to ConVic, a larger Kings of War tournament in Melbourne, Australia. We had hoped to have this article be a tournament wrap up. Unfortunately, COVID-19 (delta edition) is running wild again, so the tournament has been postponed (again). Fortunately, Urr12 can now attend, when the eventually happens! So in lieu of an actual tournament report, in today’s article we’ll be talking about his army, the list he’s playing, and our not-so-rigorous playtesting.
A quick recap for those following along: ConVic is a large, two-day event with a twist: Day 1 consists of four games of 1,995 points (50 min rounds), and Day 2 consists of 3 games of 2,300 points (60 min rounds). While players must field the same faction for both days, the lists they field each day can be entirely different. This means players can mess around with army styles between days, or just hone in on a good tactic. The usual prizes are awarded for 1st, 2nd and 3rd, as well as best-in-faction-style awards for the best Good, Neutral and Evil players, respectively.
Urr112: When I was starting in Kings of War, the Nightstalkers were the army that immediately drew me. The cosmic horror aspect of the background fluff really grabbed me, and as they say: “go for the theme of the army, not the rules.” Cosmic horror also opened up a lot of hobby opportunities and so I tried to explore that, especially with my paint scheme and model choices. The bulk of the models came from Games Workshop’s Nighthaunt and Mantic’s Nightstalkers ranges, but mixed in with those are some D&D monsters, 3D-printed sculpts, and one Balrog from Games Workshop’s Middle Earth Strategy Battles miniature range.
Unlike Cytoplasm, my army doesn’t really have a name and backstory; it’s just units I think are cool and suit how I want to play at any particular time. I do like to change it up a bit, but my core favourites are my Reapers and my Shade, so they are in basically every list I build. This tends to push me to a “glass cannon”/Alpha Strike style, which suits me just fine.
So, here’s the list:
Like I said above, the Reapers are my favourites, so they form the hard-hitting core of the army. With Bane Chant support from the Horrors, they’ll hit their way through just about anything in the game. Unfortunately, their low defense means they often fail to survive any retaliation, so the Scarecrows are in to take the first hit, and if they live or die, it doesn’t really matter. What’s most important is that the Reapers are not being hit. The Scarecrows are also the main objective holders – if that’s what the mission requires – and a source of unlocks for all the heroes I like to include. The army also benefits from a horde of Fiends for another bit of speedy, melee punch.
The Phantoms are in the army as Nimble (extra pivot during movement) fliers to contest objectives, hunt low armour units, or to fly in the way of the opponents big hammers and take the hit. They don’t have the strongest offensive output, so you can’t rely on them for too much, but they can take little ranged units or war machines, and their potential for a flank or rear charge keeps your opponent on their toes. The Soulflayers and Void Lurker are included for much the same reason. This high number of speedy fliers can really punish your opponent if they don’t see it coming, and even if they do, it forces them to be extra cautious.
The Shade is a cool model and is great at reliably putting a couple of extra wounds on anything, such as pesky dragons or other big fliers (and subsequently preventing them from flying away).
The Mind-screeches provide some ranged hitting power with their Lightning Bolt but are also good for their utility. They are also flying monsters, so are great for grabbing objectives towards the end of the game, and if you’re going second, their Wind Blast spell can push your opponents off their objectives, too. However, I often have to use mine to block a flank I’ve foolishly left open.
All in all, there’s quite a bit of hitting power along with good scenario play to give me a reasonable chance in all the objective/map control missions. That, combined with the weirdness that is the Nightstalkers, makes me pretty happy at where the list is at, so it’ll be up to me to pilot it properly and not make any silly mistakes. Given I’ve not yet been able to test it out in person, there’s a pretty good chance I will mess things up, but I’m just keen to be able to go out and play in person again.
Cytoplasm: In the crucible that is Tabletop Simulator, I forged a range of armies to test Urr’s nightmarish forces against. The greatest strength of Tabletop Simulator is that the sky’s the limit when it comes to army creation. The downside for a player such as myself is that I usually require a couple of games to truly get to know how an army plays. Regardless, I think my armies at least in practice gave Urr a good testing ground for the application of his tactics.
Game 1: Ogres – Elite Army
Urr: This game was a slog. We were fighting over an objective at the center of the map, and it sat in the middle of a lake. After a few turns of positioning and moving up, our battle lines met in the middle of the lake, and it was the lake that was a killer for my Nightstalkers. The elite nature of the Ogres meant they were not suffering as much from the terrain penalties as the Nightstalkers were. Post game, I realized I should have ignored the middle and focused on taking the flanks and then enveloped from both sides. But this list was fairly different to the list above, it lacked a lot of speed for more hitting power, but a lot of that suffered going into terrain. Even on the countercharge, the Ogres were able to hit back enough to waver or rout my units in one go, especially with their Brutal rule (+1 to the Nerve test result). There were a few times that units would have been fine if not for that extra damage.
This early iteration of my list was very Reaper heavy, and the Reaper Souldrinker hero was also included to support them, giving the Lifeleech to heal the nearby Reapers (damage dealt heals the unit). The Souldrinker works as a character assassin, too, but in this game he just could not pull his weight against the Ogre characters, and the Reapers never lived long enough to benefit from healing, so that was a little disappointing. Ultimately, the Cytoplasm’s Ogres were victorious.
The big takeaways from this game were that terrain is very important and being able to deploy and maneuver around it is a skill to keep working out. There were also a few elements of this army that didn’t work with my playstyle, hence the army began to change.
Game 2: Dwarfs – All Defense 6
Urr: In our second practice game I found myself going up against a Dwarf army where everything was defense 5 or up, in the Kill scenario. This was going to be a real test of the Nightstalkers killing power. The Nightstalkers were focused hard on their left flank, with a few speedbump pieces on the right to hold up/slow down the already slow Dwarfs. The Dwarf army was split in two, with the bulk of the Earth Elementals and all the Brock Riders opposite the main Nightstalker contingent, and the Ironguard and Greater Earth Elemental on the other side facing the speedbumps.
After moving up, some bait was thrown to the Dwarf Brock Riders (Scarecrows), so if they took the charge they’d be countered by Reapers and the Shadowhulk. Here’s a little deployment tip for everyone, don’t jam your units up against each other or the edge of the board, you won’t be able to pivot, and will have to take bait charges just to be able to move. So that was the end of the Brock Riders (Cytoplasm: D’oh).
Another tip for everyone: When you make a charge or move, think about the worst outcome of your fight and what you might do in that event. For example, my Butchers charged some Earth Elementals, did very little damage, and were promptly flanked by another horde of Earth Elementals. RIP Butchers.
This game did see the first showing of the Blade of the Beastslayer on the Shade, and it was great. He flew over the back of the Earth Elementals, charged into their rear next turn, and spent the rest of the game putting 3-4 wounds on them every turn until they were eventually killed by the Reapers and Shadowhulk.
With the destruction of the Earth Elementals, the left flank was all Nightstalkers, but the Dwarfs’ Ironguard and Greater Earth Elemental had overwhelmed the right side of the battlefield. The armies turned to face in the middle and the game ended before we could have a final fight in the middle, with Urr’s Nightstalkers winning based on points of units killed.
Apart from the few movement tips mentioned above, the other major thing to think about before the game starts is “what are your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses?”. There was only one significant ranged unit and the Dwarfs are much slower than the Nightstalkers (aside from the Brock Riders), but the deployment strategy used was the same as would be used against a mixed arms list with speed and shooting; the Scarecrows up front to take the hit and absorb the shooting, but the Reapers could have easily been up their to project threat and get stuck in a turn earlier instead of being hampered by the Scarecrows up front. Lessons to learn.
Game 3: Salamanders – Mass Infantry with Support
Urr: This game had some more list tweaks. I finally dropped the Souldrinker and a regiment of Reapers to open up room for the Void Lurker (the Nightstalker’s brand of dragon) and a regiment of Phantoms. This added some speed to the list, which proved to be fantastic.
This game demonstrated to us the importance of keeping your Dragons supported. The Salamanders’ Fire Drake got thrown into the meat grinder early, trying to pick off a unit of Scarecrows, only to be promptly triple charged and killed (Cytoplasm: Triple D’oh). It was in this fight that the Shade with the Blade of the Beastslayer again proved his worth.
The Void Lurker did well when supported by the Phantoms, who could take out chaff units and shield the Void Lurker from the very dangerous Rhinosaur Cavalry. This left the Void Lurker free in the following turns to fly off and harass the flanks and rears of the big blocks of Ceremonial Guard in the center.
This was also the first game that Wind Blast from the Mind-Screeches had come in useful, and man, was it useful! It kept forcing the Rhinosaur Cavalry to charge through terrain all game, dropping their effectiveness dramatically. It also kept a horde of Fire Elementals out of flank charge range of the Void Lurker (who was busy eating a Battle Captain), blowing them back across a frozen lake.
This was another game that exemplified just how important it is to check where you are deploying your units, taking into account the whole battlefield. There were some oddly shaped terrain pieces, so when Ceremonial Guard hordes moved up, one of them actually got stuck against the terrain. Due to the tight deployment of Cytoplasm’s forces, that unit of Salamanders were pinned in and unable to move forward, and spent a turn shuffling across slightly to free itself. Unfortunately, this meant that it got double charged on the next turn, and thus destroyed before it could do anything of note.
But it didn’t all go my way. The Butchers continued to be unimpressive, and the Shadowhulk also didn’t pull its (immense) weight, ending up as expensive speedbumps for the Ceremonial Guard. If I want speedbumps, Scarecrows do that for a third of the points. Yet, with the demise of the bulk of the Salamander army, Urr’s Nightstalkers achieved victory.
Game 4: Basileans – Mixed Arms
Urr: This was the first game where the Speed Stalkers list was fully realized. The Butchers and the Shadowhulk had been consistently unimpressive, so they were out. Furthermore, three units of Reapers were too many to support, and even though I like them, they went down to just two regiments. The rest of the list (see above) was added in, focusing on speed and flying. Coincidentally, this turned out to be a very good list for fighting these Basileans.
The Basileans were a mix of Sisterhood hordes, Elohi and Ogre Palace Guard. While the Reapers will be good at fighting anything, the low defense of the Sisterhood units are exactly what the rest of this Speed Stalker list wants to be hitting. The Phantoms go from being a small harassment unit to become a real threat, and even the Scarecrows will put in some work.
The real tricks of this Speed Stalker army style became apparent in this game. The flying units were able to move in unexpected ways, opening up charges that would have been otherwise blocked. Even better, each time a flying unit finished off an enemy, they often had two flank charges offered. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), this game was over extremely quickly, with approximately 1300 points of Basileans killed by Turn Two, but sometimes the dice be like that.
This game was played with the Halpi’s Rift campaign supplement, battling in the Empyrean Plane. While not super impactful, it did add some fun extra elements to the game, and we will definitely be using the supplement more often in the future.
Game 5: Forces of Nature – Elemental heavy
Urr: Another good showcase for the speed of my Nightstalker list. A Tree Herder scouted his way onto a hill in the middle, thinking he’d be able to take a hit from any one unit that could reach him. Instead, it got triple charged and taken off in one go, giving the Stalkers control of the middle and letting them push out from there (Cytoplasm learnt the lesson to always premeasure).
With the Tree Herder off, Surge never ended up being a problem. A few attempts to set up flanks with it were arranged, but the poor spell casting from the Druids meant useful results never materialized. Some crazy good dice rolling meant three out of the five elemental hordes were removed in one turn of combat, which also removed Cytoplasm’s ability to hold back the Nightstalkers.
Urr: Overall, I really like how this list has developed. It’s fun to play and hopefully fun to play against, too. I’ve managed to retain the units I like the most and have worked out how to get good use out of them. I’ve also grown to really like the Void Lurker, and gain a better appreciation on how to use fliers, rather than just zooming them up the board to die. I’m still not 100 per cent sold on the Fiends, but I have them painted and ready to go, so that’s at least part of the reason they’ve made it into the list. Yet, they might be the first to go come the Clash of Kings update.
The list does lack a bit of ranged power. The Mind Screeches are my sole source of shooting, and they tend to get wavered pretty early for me. But the utility they provide is just too good, especially compared to the other ranged choices available to the Nightstalkers. War machines won’t be too much of a problem, although a horde army might be, if they can layer themselves enough to cover their vulnerable points, but I guess we’ll see when the time comes. The real challenge will be to see if I can replicate this playstyle on the tabletop. Tabletop Simulator is a great tool for getting practice in, but it is different enough that the skillset might not carry over as well as one could want.
Cytoplasm: The rapid transformation that Urr’s Nightstalkers underwent to go from a relatively slow army to the lightning fast nightmare that it is now really took me by surprise, and I like to think I helped in pushing him towards this end. The slower but stronger Nightstalker such as the Butchers and the Shadowhulk were often my first worry in each game, but in almost every case I managed to nullify or kill them. The Void Lurker on the other hand was a great addition that added a lot of anxiety to my games. It isn’t a game winner by itself, but I couldn’t afford to let it run amok behind my lines. Did I spend too much energy trying to stop it in half the games? Almost certainly, hence it’s inherent value. The inception of the Shade with the Blade of the Beastslayer was a surprising hit (pardon the pun). It combines the excellent maneuverability of flying individuals, with the punchiness of the magic blade against monsterish units, and a final garnish being the inherent Dread the character possesses (-1 to the Nerve of nearby enemy). Very often there was little I could do about the Shade, and there may have been games where I got a little too obsessed with the imagined threat he posed. Perfect application of Nightstalkers in my opinion.
One favoured tactic Urr likes to employ against me is the presentation of a cheeky Scarecrow flank. This baiting, which I acknowledge on reflection, too often grabs me in the heat of the moment and I send some fast yet valuable unit into the honeyed trap. This is where swapping from Scarecrow hordes to regiments enabled this kind of gameplay. Scarecrow hordes, while a great anvil, often prevent the rest of the army from charging the suckered victims. Regiments on the other hand are great; half the time they would die, and his Reapers would be quick to pounce, but if they survived, they could easily multicharge.
The main impression of the Speed Stalkers list is an army of flexibility, where before it was more rigid. It can change up its tactics to meet the scenario’s requirements, and also doesn’t have a major weakness, with plenty of redundancy in unit roles. I think it will do quite well in the upcoming tournament, with the only difficulty being the lack of physical play the list has seen. In the end we both just look forward to rolling some real dice and pushing some real toy soldiers across a table!
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