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Death vs. Death


Master Necromancer
True Blood
Sep 23, 2009
Played a small game against another death player today, 30 models max, no summoning, no special characters. No formal comp was used, we were just spitballing evenish sides. We were also testing lists for a sort of league we kind of have planned, so the lists weren't put together in direct response to each other or even in response to each others' factions. No pics, I'm still in need of a new camera.

My Army:
Wight King with Black Axe (commander)
15 grave guard - hand weapons & shields, full command
Formation: the Spirits of Fellwood
- Mortis Engine
- 6 Spirit Hosts
- 5 Hexwraiths with champion

His Army:
Vampire Lord on Zombie Dragon (lance, chalice, shield)
1 morghast Archai
3 Crypt Horrors with champion
3 Crypt Horrors with champion
11 Crypt Ghouls with champion
10 crypt ghouls with champion
Mortis Engine

Adding up the totals according to various points systems after the fight, I think I had a slight advantage on him just in deployed forces, though he said both before and after the game that things looked fair to him. I think he could have reasonably dropped a ghoul, packed the remaining 10 into a single unit, and fielded a second archai, or maybe another hero like a necromancer or ghoul king or some such, and things would have looked more equivalent imo, but whatever.


Anyway, the terrain was cluttered, with various rock formations and trees, and one huge impassible tower in the center. None of the terrain was treated as special, and we weren't running any particular battleplans, as we're both a bit rusty and mostly just wanted to focus on trying out these particular forces, so we decided to just to push some models around and get a feel for things.


Knowing I could re-deploy my ghosts at will, I started by putting those units way out on opposite flanks, my spirit hosts to the left and my hexwraiths to the right, with the mortis engine in the middle. He responded by kind of turtling up in the middle, with one unit of horrors screened by a block of ghouls on either side of the building. My grave guard, terrorgheist, and heroes then ended up on my left side, between my spirit hosts and mortis engine, while his dragon lord, archai, and engine deployed behind the ghouls and horrors.

Turn 1:

I won priority, and handed first turn off to my opponent. He buffed a unit of horrors with the lord's command ability, cast arcane shield on the 11 ghouls opposite my grave guard, and moved everything up, with horrors and ghouls on each side of the center tower, the mortis engine behind the tower, and his dragon and archai supporting behind the ghouls on the left, where I was stronger.

On my turn, the wight king buffed the grave guard with his command ability, the morts engine recalled the hexwraiths with its formation ability, and the necromancer buffed them with arcane shield. I then ran the hexwraiths out to the right to block the advance of the ghouls and horrors on that side, while the spirit hosts ran up to block the advance on the left, the grave guard and characters advanced behind on the left, and the mortis engine moved up behind the tower on my side, opposite his engine, but a little to the left to get the leftward ghouls and horrors in its range (the tower was to big to get everything). The terrorgheist ran up behind the spirit hosts and yelled at the ghouls. I'm realizing now that because it ran it shouldn't have been able to shoot, but it didn't matter as I didn't beat their bravery 10 anyway so nothing happened.

Turn 2:

I won priority, and elected to go first. The Mortis engine screamed at his engine and the leftmost ghouls and horrors, doing nothing, and it suddenly dawned on the both of us that our engines were basically worthless in a mirror match - they'd buff both our casters and the enemies, their healing pulse would heal the units of both sides, and the screams would be very unlikely to hurt anything. Haha, oh well. Realizing that, I decided that the mortis engine was fine to block the right side, and the grave guard were still going to need like a 10+ to charge this turn, so I instead recalled the hexwraiths to the left of the tower, in front of my grave guard, and the necromancer re-applied their arcane shield. The wight king put his command ability back on the grave guard as well.

In the movement phase, the mortis engine moved back to the right to block the ghouls and horrors from scooting around the tower to flank me, while the spirit hosts and hexwraiths moved into easy charge range in front of the ghouls on the right, and the terrorgheist swung out to the side to yell and charge at the archai. Once again, the terrorgheists scream failed to beat the enemy's bravery 10 on 3d6, so I charged everything in, failing only with the mortis engine, which left his right side ghouls and horrors free.

I charged carelessly with the terrorgheist, bringing the enemy general into combat, but this proved to be to my advantage, cancelling the charge bonus on his lance, and bringing him into consolidation range of one of the spirit hosts as he piled into the terrorgheist.

Combat went back and forth, but the end result was the terrorgheist took only four wounds from the dragon lord (he wiffed most his attacks, something that would become a running theme), I lost two hexwraiths despite their save, the archai was killed, and the 11 ghouls on the left were slain.

On his turn, the dragon lord, tired of missing, applied the command ability to himself, and tried to cast arcane shield on himself as well, but my necromancer dispelled it. In the movement phase, he moved the second ghoul unit to the right, hoping to charge the remaining hexwraiths and block off the advancing grave guard, while the second horror unit moved to support the dragon lord against my spirit hosts. His mortis engine, like mine, failed to do anything in the command phase, so he swung it around the right side of the building to challenge mine. They would proceed to do one or two wounds to each other per turn for the rest of the game and otherwise contribute nothing, so I'll stop speaking of them at this point.

In the shooting phase, the dragon's pestilential breath failed to phase the spirit hosts. In the charge phase, his ghouls successfully charged my hexwraiths, but the second horror unit failed to charge my spirit hosts.

In combat, The dragon lord slew my terrorgheist outright, and the engaged unit of horrors and charging ghouls managed to kill all three remaining hexwraiths, despite their arcane shield. Oh, well, I was just going to recall them on my next turn anyway to make room for the grave guard to charge. The shocker was the spirit hosts, who piled 3 into the dragon and 3 into the horrors, and managed to put 6 wounds on the dragon and five on the engaged horror unit! What can I say, I rolled a lot of sixes.

Turn 3

This time my opponent won initiative. In the command phase, he again used the dragon lords command ability on itself, and it again tried to cast arcane shield only to be shut down by my necromancer. The vampire lord also drank his blood chalice healing a few wounds. The pestilential breath again did nothing, his second horror unit charged in against my spirit hosts (which had taken a couple wounds, but were still six models strong), and the ghouls moved forward to preemptively charge my grave guard.

Combat was totally one-sided. The vampire lord missed or failed to wound with most of his attacks, despite needing mostly 3's and having a reroll to hit, and those attacks that did wound were all saved by the spirit hosts ethereal save. The two horror units failed a little better, inflicting four wounds on two failed saves and bringing me down to four hosts total. In return the hosts dealt one more wound to the lord than he had healed with his goblet, and picked off one of the horrors, leaving five total. The grave guard lost four models to the ghouls before wiping out the unit entirely, thanks to the extra attacks from the wight king w/ black axe's command ability.

In my turn, I knew it was time to close in for the kill, so the grave guard were again targeted by the wight king's command ability, and I attempted to cast vanhels, but failed, even with +1 from the nearby mortis engines (still locked in their ineffectual duel). The grave guard gained a couple models back from their banner.

The grave guard and wight king then charged the horrors. In combat, the vampire lord again struggled with the spirit hosts, killing only one, while the horrors had similar difficulty with the grave guard, what with their crypt shields conferring a 4+ save due to the horror's lack of rend. The grave guard were knocked down to about 8 or 9, and in return killed one horror from each unit, bringing the count down to three. The wight king unfortunately failed to hit even once, so was unable to finish off the remaining horror of the first unit. The spirit hosts, for their part, continued their reign of terror, bringing the vampire lord down to only 3 wounds. I tell you, when it came to rolling to hit with them, my dice were on fire.

turn 4

This time I won initiative. This game was all about those double turns! Anyway, command ability back on the grave guard, I again failed to cast vanhels, and the grave guard brought back only a single model with their banner.

In the combat round, the grave guard went first, dropping one of the horrors from the second unit, and bringing the champion of the first down to a single wound. The dragon lord actually rolled halfway decent this round, but my ethereal saving throws were unassailable, and only a single host was banished. The wight king this time found his mark, killing the horror champion from the first unit, and leaving only the champion of the second unit behind. The final horror managed to kill a few more grave guard, bringing the unit down to five or six. Finally, the three remaining spirit hosts inflicted two mortal wounds and a single regular wound, which the vampire lord failed to save! Dragon lord down!

At the bottom of turn four, the enemy had a single horror champion, plus his mortis engine, still locked in battle with mine, both down about six wounds. At this point, my opponent conceded.

Victory for the Undead! Well, that was a foregone conclusion.

More importantly, victory for me!

Lessons from the game:

the malignant box formation actually has quite a lot of tactical value. It's useful for getting your opponent to split up forces during deployment, especially if there is a huge central terrain piece to accentuate that divide. It's also helpful for shifting units around. Had the game continued, it would have brought my surviving spirit hosts back to tip the scales in its duel with the other engine. I quite enjoyed playing with this formation, and it made my mortis engine relevant in a game where it otherwise really wasn't. Speaking of which...

Engines themselves are laughably terrible in mirror match games - the screams never hit anything against leadership 10 (wait, no, he might have caught a couple grave guard once?), the spell buff doesn't really help you much if it's buffing your opponent as well instead of debuffing them. And I don't think either of us used the reliquary pulse that game - since it would have healed both sides units, I don't think there was ever really a moment where either of us thought it would be more beneficial to us than to each other. No, wait, no, I did use mine right before the grave guard charged. It healed one grave guard, didn't reach my spirit hosts, and healed one of his crypt horror units by two, so yeah, shouldn't have bothered.

The terrorgheist is also rather unintimidating when facing an enemy army with bravery 10 across the board.

Spirit hosts are amazing. A unit of six is a shockingly good wall, and highly threatening as well. They're very dice dependent, but start rolling just a little well and they'll topple games. They were definitely the heroes of the match - devouring the enemy dragon lord virtually single handed, and that was without buffs of any kind! Get arcane shield on there, or bonus attacks or re-rolls off the command abilities of various vampire heroes (the best would be the dragon lord's re-roll all misses ability), and you get a really, really nasty unit going.

Small units of ghouls are terrible. in big mobs, buffed by a ghoul king, crypt ghouls can be terrifying, but in small squads they can successfully screen against chargers for something behind them, as they did in this game protecting his one unit of horrors from my charging spirit hosts and hexwraiths, but they weren't good for much more than that.

Krell Jr is not as bad a dude as Krell, but is still a very bad dude indeed. While Krell is obviously superior in games that allow him, if you're avoiding special characters or sticking only to units in the Grand Alliance: Death book, you don't have to feel at all bad about the downgrade.

In small games, dice rolls matter a lot. Had he rolled well, or even average, for his dragon lord, and I rolled slightly less spectacularly for my spirit hosts, that game might have gone very differently. A single bad combat phase early on could have seen my spirit hosts slain outright, and his dragon lord free to fly over the scrum and assault my infantry heroes from the rear, which certainly would have changed how that game played out.

Double turns from the initiative system are not always that big a deal. This game saw three such double turns - I went twice, then my opponent did, then I did again. None of these double actions were especially game-changing, apart from maybe the first when I managed by accident to catch the dragon lord in an extended combat that would eventually see it slain. We both were generally prepared for the possibility that we might not win initiative (my opponent with their ghoul screens protecting their heavy hitting units, me with my walls of ghosts). Maybe if either of us had more going on in the command or shooting phases of the game, when only one player gets to act, it might have made more of a difference. In this game, however, it made for some exciting rolls, but did not throw the game out of joint.


I don't plan on making any changes to the list at the moment. Between the Terrorgheist and the Mortis Engine, I think I have too many units whose power is dependent on the enemy's bravery, but aesthetically I feel like I'm running the right amount of 'big stuff', and I don't have a lot of alternative options. I think my necrosphinx would be a bit too much in the context of this league when taken with the rest of my army, and my only other big things are Nagash and Arkhan, both forbidden on account of being special characters, and again would probably be a bit much regardless. If I had an unridden zombie dragon, I might swap out the terrorgheist for that, but I don't have one, so it's a moot point.

It will be interesting to see what happens if I ever get to play against a lower bravery force, though.
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Crypt Horror
May 26, 2013
I didn't read all that but am surprised he took such a flesh eater heavy army without a ghoul king.

Also what does your spirit host formation do? Assuming you didn't say and I missed it.


Master Necromancer
True Blood
Sep 23, 2009
It's the malignant starter box formation. 1 unit of spirit hosts, 1 unit of hexwraiths, 1 mortis engine. No restrictions on unit sizes. Once in each of your command phases, you can remove either the spirit host or the hexwraith unit from the table, and place them anywhere within 6" of the mortis engine and more than 3" away form any enemy units. The unit may then act normally for the rest of the turn (no restrictions on movement or charging after being moved this way).

I was also a bit surprised by the lack of a ghoul king. As mentioned, I feel like the game might have been more reasonable if he just swapped the spare ghoul for one. But so it goes.
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