The first battle was over quickly (a victory for the Goblins) and left a disappointing aftertaste with both Miriam and me. Simply put, our troops had not behaved at all like flyers. They had ganged up on each other and remained rather stationary both when firing and when fighting hand to hand. The whole battle had felt like a slightly more complicated land-locked battle, not like the soaring ballet we had imagined it to be.
We sat a while discussing this, and came up with a few ideas:
- Flyers were supposed to be soaring and gliding. They would have to use at least one action to move forward their full complement to stay aloft, otherwise they would drop as many height bands as the mount had actions. This could be countered by spending actions to gain height again in the usual manner.
- The faster a flyer was going, the slower it could turn. I rummaged around on my shelf again and came up with templates I had made up for a game I invented while in university. Basically it was a half-circle of about 1,9" radius with inch increments along its edge, allowing a model to make a full turn with 6 inches of movement along its edge. The second was a quarter-circle of 7,6" radius, making a half turn at 12 inches of movement. There was an even larger template, granting a quarter-turn at 18 inches, but since no flyer in our little game had more than two actions, it wouldn´t be needed. So if a flyer was going up to 6 inches during its activation (one action) it could use the smaller template for turns, if it used more than one move action it had to use the larger radius template. A model could alternate between going in a straight line and using the curved template during the same action, up to its full movement.
We also ruled that a model could turn in place if it did not move at all, but would lose height accordingly.
Now we were ready to play again, and it worked like a charm.
All flyers started off at treetop level. The Goblins let of a shrill whistle which was answered by a great shout from the Elves.
Turn one. The Goblins were strung out in a long line, with the Shaman on my right flank. As one, they began to circle, desperately gaining height. They knew they would need a higher position if their blowpipes were to have any impact on the Elven armour.
The Elves spurred their reptilian mounts and sped towards the Goblin line, gaining height with every wingbeat. In the middle of the formation, the Lotus Eater sat serenely on his mount, yellow eyes closed, inhaling the fumes from a brazier fastened to his saddle. As he slowly let out his breath, one of the Goblin warleaders paused on his drone, squinting at the jungle suspiciously, then started to break formation in response to an unseen threat. His band of warriors followed suit, chasing their leader´s vision, ignoring the cursing shaman who tried in vain to usher them back into formation.
Turn two. The afflicted Goblins darted off towards the left. The Lotus Eater held his position, his mount beating its wings powerfully. He exerted his will towards the Goblins, aided by the energy of the Lotus coursing in his veins. Yellow wisps formed in the woods all around, and another band of drone riders veered off, dropping to the ground sharply as they unslung their blowpipes and shot a barrage of poisoned darts into the haze. The Shaman, hit by several needles, screeched as his mount spiralled out of control, crashing through the branches with terrible finality. Another drone was hit, but the darts glanced off its carapace.
Shocked, the remaining Goblins continued their spiral till they faced their enemies again, then angled towards the Elven right flank. The Skyriders´ right wingman rode through a tempest of darts. Most went wide, being shot from the back of the frantically zig-zagging drones, the rest pinged off his oval shield as he ducked in the saddle. He and his comrade spurred their mounts, overshooting the Goblins´ line, then pulled up sharply. One of the Goblins sniped at them, but missed, and their own javelins went wide.
The remaining Skyriders glided towards the Goblins and shot their own javelins at the Goblins. By now the little devils had the advantage of height, but three riders were skewered, tumbling out of the skies towards the waiting arms of the emerald jungle. Blood fell like dew upon the leaves.
Turn three. A sudden gust of wind cleared the fumes of the Lotus brazier. The Lotus-Eater was suddenly thrown out of his trance. The spell died on his lips, and his war-beast dropped sharply towards the beckoning forest. The Elves unhooked the vials of carved jade from their belts and drank deeply from the Lotus Elixir. Then the lines collided. For a second, all was chaos. Elven lances speared drones. Chitin swords dented armour. Two Skyriders were caught up in a veritable swarm of drones, dropping down from the main line as they desperately fought off the jabbing stings and swords. Two Dragonbane were stung and crashed into the forest. The riders who had overshot turned about and gained height, throwing javelins at the few uncommitted drone riders.
Turn four. The uncommited Goblins had gained on the Lotus-Eater. Seeing down the bore of their blowpipes, the Elven mystic tried again to catch the scent of his brazier, failed, and then decided to take the path of discretion. At a command, his mount folded its wings and dropped into the dense foliage. One of the clumps of drone riders caught itself, nearly brushing the leaves, while one of their comrades and the Dragonbane knight crashed into the foliage, dead. The other Skyrider tried to disengage, was wounded by a Chitin sword, and dropped out of sight, still struggling and fighting. Below the branches, the enemies separated (we ruled that since no combat was possible, the combatants would break away automatically).
Turn five. In the green darkness between the trees, the Dragonbane jinked and weaved, with the four remaining drones hot on his tail. The drones that had threatened the Lotus Eater held their position, dropping slightly (going on wait forced them to drop a level) and holding their blowpipes ready. A Skyrider glided by, dropping two javelins which nailed two Goblins to their mounts.
The rest of the Dragonbane circled and spiralled, venturing a few javelins. Their remaining enemies did the same, jockeying for a better shooting angle and occasionally bouncing darts off the reptilian monsters´ thick hide.
Sensing that the danger had diminished, the Lotus Eater forced his mount upward, breaking through into the harsh light. Disoriented, he turned his head and was immediately struck in the eye with a poisoned dart. The poison from the dart raced through his veins, warring with the unnatural vitality of the Yellow Lotus.
Turn six. The remaining Skyriders closed ranks (though at different altitudes) and generally had the higher ground. One pack of drones and a single rider still pursued one Dragonbane in the jungle´s shade, and the other warriors of the Malovanti had spread across the battlefield. As the Yellow Lotus poison from the dart and the Yellow Lotus fumes from his brazier fought for domination of his mind and body, the mystic had a sudden moment of clarity. The remaining two Goblins who threatened him suddenly turned on their mounts and shot down two comrades with their blowpipes, their confused drones tumbling below the treeline in the process.
Turn seven. Finally realising that the fleeing Dragonbane had been drawing them away from the support of their comrades under the roof of the jungle, the drone warriors gave up the chase and popped through up the canopy, only to see the Skyriders swooping down and finishing the last few of their comrades with their lances and thrown javelins. Near them, their quarry broke the surface, blinking in the sudden sunlight.
The remaining four Malovanti realised they were outnumbered, and their enemies were high in the sky above them, ready to swoop down with sharp steel. They threw valour to the wind and dropped down again, ducking low between the Drones´ wings. The hindmost Goblin stared back with hate-filled yellow eyes and shook his fist before vanishing into the thick foliage.