A short while ago, Games Workshop sent retailers a set of War Scrolls they could give to their customers, allowing them to use the models from the Island of Blood starter set with Age of Sigmar. I think they are now part of the Age of Sigmar app but, if you missed them, you can grab the file here – Island of Blood
Anyway, they looked like a couple of nicely contained forces so I arranged a lunch time battle in the office with Skaven player Amy. I had read the Island of Blood novella, so we figured the rats had landed on the secret island, and were headed towards the Big Mystical Gem, when they encountered a force of High Elves blocking their route. This seemed like a good excuse to use the Breakthrough scenario in the Age of Sigmar hardback.
Amy set up her rats first, nicely clumped together in the centre of her deployment zone, obviously intending to use them as a battering ram. Things went less well for the High Elves, as they had a random deployment rule which ended up with their forces on the flanks – and just the wizard standing in the middle to face off against the whole Skaven army!
You can just see the wizard in this photo, doing his best to hide in the trees, as close to a flank (and some friends) as he could get!
Amy chose to take the first turn, with her Warlord encouraging his rats to run as fast as they could, slipping through the massive hole in the High Elf line. The war machine supporting them went at a slower rate, and the Plague Mortar lobbed a shell up high, missing the Swordmasters by a fraction.
For their part, the High Elves tried to close in to plug the gap as quickly as possible – at this point it felt rather like the Skaven had been advancing in a column and the High Elves had just launched an ambush. All part of the narrative, as they say.
The High Elf Lord exhorted his troops forward (re-roll charge ranges), but both the Swordmasters and Sea Guard both failed their charges against the Rat Ogres and first lot of Clan Rats respectively. Meanwhile, the Lord had sailed forward, tried to rally the spirits of the Ophidian Archway to mob a Rat Ogre (and failed), then charged the second block of Clan Rats, probably wondering why he was the only elf doing any work at this point.
As it turned out, his Griffon was not too keen either and while the Lord dispatched three rats, the Griffon did nothing!
After that, the Clan Rats just mobbed (and wounded!) the Lord, but three failed their Battleshock roll and ran, while bow fire from the Sea Guard forced another four to run from the leading Clan Rat unit.
The high point in this turn came from the Reavers – they swept round the archway and unleashed a hail of arrows into the Plague Mortar, killing both crew. They were then able to advance a little further forward to threaten the rear of the Skaven line (they get to move an additional 2D6 inches either before or after they shoot – has the potential to make them really annoying).
The High Elves managed to grab the first round of the second turn, and pressed their advantage. The wizard cast Shield of Saphery, which basically gave all elves close by an additional 6+ save (over the next turn, it worked just three times, not brilliant). Meanwhile, the Reavers continued their sweep and put a couple of arrows into the Skaven Chieftain, before backing off out of his charge range.
The Sea Guard shot some ineffectual arrows at the Rat Ogres, before the Swordmasters rushed in, then ploughed into the first block of Clan Rats themselves.
Meanwhile, the High Elf Lord thought he would be clever, using his Predatory leap to jump over the Clan Rats and attack the Skaven Chieftain directly. They traded wounds, before the Skaven scurried away out of combat, leaving the Clan Rats and Warlock Engineer to pile in on the Lord! By this time, the Lord was looking seriously wounded, but there was better news coming in from the front – the Swordmasters had lost a couple of their number to the Rat Ogres but had slain one (with the Packmaster) and driven the other off, leaving a Rat Ogre-shaped hole in the Skaven line.
In the Skaven’s round, the Warlock Engineer unleashed a blast of warp lightning at the Lord, which caused a great deal of damage, before the Chieftain did his trick of running in, doing a couple of wounds, and then scurrying off again. This time, though the Lord was ready, and another Predatory Leap saw the Griffon bound over the heads of other Skaven to land straight on top of the Chieftain, grinding him into Rat Paste. The elation was short-lived though as the Warlock Engineer then ran in and with one swipe, ended the life of the High Elf Lord.
Just a little further away, the Warp Fire Thrower’s crew pumped up their war machine, but only a dribble came out of its nozzle – enough to kill a Sea Guard.
At the end of this round, there were Battleshock tests all over the place on both sides. However, only one unit of Clan Rats decided they had had enough, and everyone else held their ground!
The Skaven claimed the round this time as well, and the Warp Fire Thrower was cranked up again – this time to kill a mere two Sea Guard (seriously, that thing could have been a lot nastier).
Both sides were looking distinctly short on troops, and there was an absolute bloodbath as Sea Guard, Swordmasters and Clan Rats all piled in to each other. Both rats and elves fell in this clash, but neither side was ready to throw in the towel. The Warlock Engineer, thinking (quite rightly) that the elves would be angry at him nobbling their Lord, slinked off towards the woods…
In their round, the Reavers continued their sweep right round the battlefield and bore down on the Warp Fire Thrower crew, ending their miserable lives with arrows while the Swordmasters finally dispatched the last Clan Rat in the middle.
The Reavers moved up to flush the Warlock Engineer out of his hiding place, and we decided to call it there. A victory for the High Elves. but a heavy, heavy cost paid for defending the island. After all, it is not as if the Skaven can’t just call upon a new Chieftain to lead a new attack…
These are two nicely balanced formations, and even their special abilities are quite complimentary – the Skaven Chieftain, for instance, can fight in close combat and then scurry away. But if the High Elf Lord is close by, he won’t be getting far!
The Reavers were the only wholly intact unit left on the High Elf side and, to be honest, one blast from the Mortar or Warp Fire Thrower could have ended them immediately – in fact, two blasts from the Warp Fire Thrower could have finished off either the Sea Guard or the Swordmasters, and then the High Elves would have been right on the back foot.
Both sides have some interesting units with some interesting rules, plus a sprinkle of abilities that makes the other side think ‘uh oh.’
Anyway, if you wanted to delve into Age of Sigmar and have the Island of Blood forces, I would recommend giving them a spin. The two formations make for a interesting, fun and not overly long game.