It was just after dawn when Grognack, Summoner of the Tundra Orcs, Lord of the Illimitable Wastes and Custodian of the Sacred Tartan, awoke from his slumbers and hauled himself from his lice-infested pallet. A firkin of 'Old Loincloth' ale stood by his bed and the Orc refreshed himself by hoisting the cask to his tusked lips and drinking a couple of gallons at a single quaff. Somewhat unsteadied by this toxic breakfast (for 'Old Loincloth' is not to be sniffed at) Grognack groped his way out of his campaign tent and greeted the awakening day. It felt good to be alive. Here was the morning of his thirty-seventh birthday. There was a battle to be fought and, Dauch willing, a victory to be won. Out of the early morning mist, a cringing servant approached.
"My lord, an ambassador from the court of the elves seeks present audience." Blearily, Grognack gestured with his skull-topped staff to indicate that the herald might advance.
"Your Greatness," shrilled the elf, "My most sovereign liege, Prince Elien, lord of just about everything, presents his compliments and seeks to know whether the Orcs of the Tundra wish the honour of engaging first?"
Elves always talked in this archaic, mincing fashion, and Grognack, like all his fellow Orcs, despised them for it. He visited an enormous beery belch upon the herald before replying, "Tell your master to make his dispositions, we will be ready for him."
[## Susie wins First Move Determination and elects to go second]
"With your permission, your Foulness," said the messenger, presenting an ornate, sandalwood box, "I have been charged with one further duty. The noble Prince Elien, being aware that today is your birthday, sends you this gift. He asks that your lordship accept it, both as a mark of respect from one captain of armies to another, and also as a measure of the personal regard in which he holds you."
Grognack opened the box and stared in anger and disbelief at the pale-coloured lozenges within.
The messenger stepped back a pace or two in alarm as a dangerous light flared in the Orc Summoner's eyes.
"DOG BISCUITS!" howled Grognack, flinging the gift box onto the ground. "By the crimson scrotum of Dauch! The chief catamite of the Phoenix vermin dares to send me DOG BISCUITS!"
He thrust his head forward, his enormous gleaming tusks only inches away from the face of the cowering herald. "You go back and tell your master that the majesty of the Tundra Throne will not be mocked in this fashion. You tell him that I will return his gift to him this day: I will return it in steel and ice and red slaughter!"
[## Turn 1: Highlights]
Safe behind one of his Elf Walls, Prince Elien sat comfortably on a camp stool (what else?) while a servant put the finishing touches to his eye make-up. So far, the battle seemed to be going well for the elves. Arrivals for this turn had included both Kaeseall and the Fire Drake and the prince had decided to bank his Magic Points for a couple of turns so he could summon the latter of these two, the most formidable of his champions, to the field of combat.
At this moment a terrified-looking attendant dashed around the wall. "Sire, a mob of orc butchers is close behind me! They seek your life!" The prince twitched an elegant nostril.
"Yes," he said, calmly, "I believe I can smell the fellows on the wind."
"Where are your bodyguards, my lord?"
"I have no need of guards," said Elien, rising languidly to his feet. "Let me show you how a Summoner of the House of the Phoenix deals with assassins."
[## So saying, the prince stepped nimbly around the wall and hosed the approaching Smasher regiment with fire. Unfortunately, Mike had miscalculated: Although the Smashers had already suffered thanks to an earlier 'Burn' event, they still retained just enough stamina to charge into Prince Elien and inflict two wounds upon him. The effect of this damage was to force the elf leader to reconsider his position and he was to spend most of the rest of the battle cringing behind his various defence works.]
On Elvish (Drunk again, Mr Presley?) Turn 5, Mike summoned the Fire Drake to the field: A sight which made even the stoutest Tundra Orc quail. However, no sooner had the monster advanced than Susie was able to hit it with a timely 'Freeze' event and then surround it with common units. Mike responded by spending two of his precious Magic Points to remove the Freeze marker, but Susie was soon able to hit the Elf Champion with a second 'Freeze'. So, instead of reaping units to left and right, the Fire Drake found itself blinking on and off like a motel bed-lamp. Eventually, Susie summoned the drunken Blagog, who reeled his way onto the battlefield to confront the Fire Drake. Dauch ~ the god of all things inebriated ~ must have smiled down on him that day for, when the orc swung his two great warhammers, Mike rolled a magnificent 4,5,1,4,6 and the four hits took what remained of the Fire Drake's life points.
Those of you who have played Summoner Wars will know that one of its greatest joys is the fact that, in most sessions, predicting a winner is well nigh impossible until the end. Colby's game design creates a fascinating ebb and flow of ascendancy, and this is what happened in the above battle, with first the Elves, and then the Orcs, seeming to gain the upper hand. Common Units were summoned, fought and died: Champion Units were summoned, fought and died, often slugging it out, toe-to-toe with each other, until eventually, by the sixteenth turn, hardly any units remained standing.
Both Mike and Susie now found themselves with no Draw Cards or Magic Points remaining. For the Orcs, Grognack was still there, but his army was completely destroyed. All that Susie had left 'off table' was a single unsummoned Smasher Unit as the last card left in her Hand. The Phoenix Army had fared slightly better than the Orcs, in that, as well as Elien, two fresh elf units ~ a Warrior and an Archer still bestrode the field. However, Mike had no cards left whatever.
Now it was that Mike decided to move in for the kill. Prince Elien advanced out from behind cover, and the two Elf Units moved decisively towards Orcish 'back line', towards the square which Grognack had occupied since Turn 1. Mike recognised that it was going to be a close-run thing: Grognack ~ with 5 of his original 7 lives still intact ~ was going to be a tough proposition, but the Elf Player reckoned he could weaken the Orc with his two ranged units before sending in his Warrior Regiment to administer the coup de grace. To the Elves, Susie appeared to have given up, as she did nothing with Grognack as the enemy advanced. But crafty Susie had remembered what Mike had forgotten, Grognack's special ability. Because the Orc Summoner had neither moved nor attacked since the start of the game, Mike had clearly been lulled into a false sense of security. Not only that, but Susie had used her generous Wall/Ice Wall provision to create a defensive labyrinth, protecting her Summoner. As his units closed to bow range, Mike could not understand why Grognack was not coming out to meet his foes. This would be too easy! Suddenly, however, Susie sprung her trap.
"Grognack attacks both Elf Commons using his special ability."
Mike gulped as he finally realised the danger, both his Warrior and Archer were adjacent to walls!
A rattle of the die and there it was on the table ~ a '5'.
"Both units take 1 wound: Both units die. Let's see you Blaze Step your way out of that one!" chortled Susie.
I would like to report that Prince Elien answered this setback by making a magnificent, suicidal, Valkyrie- like death charge against his opposite number, but he didn't. Instead, he ran back to his silly wall and cowered there. On the next turn, Susie used her two newly-won Magic Points to summon her Smasher regiment to the battlefield and soon it was all over: A magnificent victory for the Tundra Orcs and the most excellent of birthday presents for Summoner Grognack]
Grognack stood amidst the carnage and howled a prayer of thanks to Dauch, the Maker. He looked at the ruin of what had once been the Elvish camp: the place where his blood-crazed troops had hacked and trampled the elf prince's scarlet and yellow pavilions into the mud. He called out as a blood spattered Smasher captain wandered past him.
"You there, did you find any spoils of war, any elf treasure?"
"Nothing, your Repulsiveness, nothing beyond a score or so of animal cages."
"Animal cages?" said Grognack
"Puppies, my lord," said the soldier, "Lots of sweet little puppies. We fed and watered them and then set them free."
"Good work," said the Summoner, a tear moistening his great yellow eye.
"Elvish beasts," he said, "One hears such stories about what use they make of those innocent little creatures."
"It's best not to think about it, my liege," said the soldier.
"Quite right! Quite right!" said Grognack, "Well, at least they're free now."
"There was one other thing, my lord,"
"We also found a few Guild Dwarf prisoners: Must have been left over from that set- to last week between the dwarves and the elves."
"Dwarves, eh?" said the Orc Leader, licking his huge lips. "Butcher them and cook 'em up: We'll have them casseroled for my birthday supper!"