[WFB] The Deadwood Covenant: After Action Review

I mentioned in the last post that I wasn’t sure, at first, whether I’d had a good time at Resurrection, to the extent that my good lady wife asked a yes/no question and got a two minute “errrrr” of an answer.

This is nothing to do with Alex, who pulled out all the stops and put on a very good show, wrote up a bespoke scenario pack to make sure it wasn’t three rounds of kill ’em all Borehammer on the Saturday and actually hosted a twenty player narrative campaign event with a map and themed tables and considered scenarios and everything on the Sunday.

Neither is it anything to do with Hammy, who hosts a fine venue at Battlefield Hobbies. The main room was a bit too crowded and loud for my taste and comfort, but the side room where I spent most of the day was fine, and it can’t be forgotten that I’m an outlier in terms of personal space and background noise and so on. Bit of a bugger to get to if you don’t drive, but again, that’s not the venue’s fault is it?

It’s certainly nothing to do with my opponents, either. No, the trouble resides squarely between me and my toys. I have a lot of trouble getting the Wood Elves to work.

Overview: the Fundamental Problems

Before I do a unit by unit review I think it’s worth looking at some recurring problems I’ve had with the Wood Elves on a slightly higher plane. The three biggest ones so far are magic, leadership and combination of force.

Magic has been an issue because I’ve run into magic heavy forces and have had to prepare for them with the idosyncracy of my “only one Scroll” principle in hand. To be fair, it’s only been the Skaven and the Tzeentch Chaos where I’ve felt totally overwhelmed going in and they do that to everyone. The problem in most of the games has arrived later, when one of my wizards has thrown her life away and the other has run like hell off the board.

I can address this by stroppily refusing to play games below 3000 points (an option which has often tempted me, to be fair) or separating out my characters’ roles a little more clearly so that the main provider of Dispel dice isn’t also the front line challenge hunter. She’s dead now, in the story, so I have the perfect opportunity to work on this.

Leadership has been an issue because I’ve played more games with Vampire Counts than anything else, by a factor of about ten, and my most successful side armies were Slaanesh Chaos and Tomb Kings. I am simply not very good at avoiding taking Terror or Panic tests, or coping with the Fear factor when it’s something being used by someone else, on me.

I imagine that this will come around with practice, if I can be arsed practicing and don’t just switch back to Tomb Kings with a sigh of relief as my considerable weight hits the crutch again. The point is that at the moment, some of my games are falling apart because of crucial Leadership tests.

(There’s an issue sitting behind these last two, as well, kind of linking them both. Because I’ve been taking a Branchwraith as my general in narrative games, and a Spellweaver in the competition capacity, in order to keep my magical defences solid, I generally haven’t had access to the best Leadership values going at any points value. Ld 8 in a 2000 point army is particularly rubbish. I’m all in favour of the narrative approach, but I don’t subscribe to the Stormwind Fallacy and I am going to get a better story if I don’t get my twiglets kicked in all the time.)

Combination of force, on the other hand, is more of a usage issue. On a good day, I can line up the Glade Guard and angle them correctly so that two or even three units can cover a field of fire and concentrate their sharp pointy bits into the enemy’s soft woundable bits. What I struggle with is getting the combat troops to back each other up properly, break ranks and score flanks or provide the raw kills necessary to turn a combat around. I never seem to get two of my units onto one of theirs. This sucks, because it’s the Forest Spirits that really made me want to do this army and they need to gang up to get shit done.

Various people have patted me on the head and said “it’s a learning curve mate” or “you just need X” (where X is normally some variant on Wild Riders, Warhawk Riders, Glade Riders or anything else that moves faster than five inches per turn) but that’s list tinkering and I think there’s a more fundamental issue at work here. All of these M5 units could play nicely together but they end up spaced too far apart, because I’m having to weigh their positioning against setting up good fields of fire for the Glade Guard. The melee units end up blocked in or lined up into bad matchups because they’ve had to go down where there’s space. It might be worth leading with them in the setup and then putting the archer lines down behind to clean up.

I’m not saying I won’t be painting five Wild Riders quick sharp, but this is something to think about on a level above and beyond “what’s in the list.”

Full Teardown: piece by piece review

I’m shamelessly ripping off the Woffboot lads’ format for this. Go ye and read Woffboot if you’re into eighth edition WFB or contemporary 40K or you just like to see a bunch of gamers making their own fun.

Lords

The Druid

The good bits are the two Dispel dice, the Leadership 9, and the Lore of Life, which is definitely reaching out and touching people. If I’m on a table without a wood or not playing a Pitched Battle I’d argue he’s essential.

The less good bits are the Rhymer’s Harp and the Eternal Guard bunker. Moving through terrain came in moderately handy against Max, but I don’t really need another unit that can do that, and having my General and my Battle Standard tied down in one unit means they can do things like fail a terror test all together and cost me the game, as they did against Paul. I started bunkering him in with them because he kept dying when I left him on his own, but I only lost Bloddeuwydd to Panic tests all the way through the weekend so maybe the games with Ben were more of a fluke. Or Ben just hates me having fun and wants to kill my wizzos.

Either way: he level 4 can stay, but his kit needs a coat of looking at.

Verdict: I’m Necessary Evil

Prince Hywel

I love this guy. Granted, I threw him away in the game with Joe because I was in a bad mood, but he still did a lot of work with the Hail of Doom across both games and he can absolutely mix it up with any chaff that gets into my army (as he did in the game against Brendan). The only downside is he eats my Lord slot without passing Leadership 10 onto the army or doing anything to help magically; that’s quite a high opportunity cost.

In narrative terms, it might be both wise and appropriate to have him shake off the curse of Deadwood and rejoin the kinbands so he can hand out Leadership 10. There’s nothing stopping me taking the Bow of Loren and the Hail of Doom on a Lord…

Verdict: 100% Reason To Remember The Name

Heroes

Gilfaethwy ap Hywel

I had to try it. The Alter Noble / Bow of Loren / Briarsheath combo is just very evocative. It’s Legolas gone feral. It’s… not bad, but it’s not brilliant either, it doesn’t add enough to the army to be worth the Hero slot in a 2000 point game and certainly not in a 1500. As much as I want to field the whole family together, he’s benched outside of scenario play.

Verdict: You’re Good, Boy, But You’re Not Good Enough

Gwydion ap Hywel

I dropped a Great Eagle to give this stupid boy a decent save and then he doesn’t need to take one all the way through the event. Anyway, the reroll remains extremely handy with only a Leadership 9 general and it’s absolutely vital if I only have a Leadership 8 one. The thing is, taking the Battle Standard renders him ineligible for anything else I need (no Kindred upgrade, no Hail of Doom, he does nothing to help in the Magic phase), so I feel he needs the Eternal Guard along so his Leadership is good for something and stacks up with their Stubborn.

Verdict: Don’t Drink, Don’t Smoke? What Do You Do?

Bloddeuwydd ap Hywel

Being saddled with the Lore of Athel Loren really holds our girl back. As a defensive wizzo who chucks out some novelty Tree Singing she’s good enough. The one thing I’d lose is the Deepwood Sphere; I really want to drop its tricksy trapsy secondary effect but nobody ever voluntarily moves into a wood against a Wood Elf army and if someone’s in her wood she’s probably about to run away from them. Calingor’s Stave is probably a better bet but I can’t guarantee woods in away games, and I don’t face enough 4-dice casting to justify the Divination Orb. I think I’d rather have a second Branchwraith, but I do want to play around with her some more and I have a good story beat in mind.

Verdict: Unfinished Business

The Maven

I love the character, but a single Branchwraith can’t cover the “Dispel dice generator” and “aggressive interference” roles. She can lock down a Hero or even an unprepared Lord indefinitely but her unit invariably gets slaughtered and takes her down with them, at which point I’m also out two Dispel dice and the whole house of cards starts crumbling.

Now that she’s dead I’m farming out her responsibilities to her successors; the new Maven will probably have a more castery build and I’ll put together a second Branchwraith for going out there and mixing it up.

Verdict: Gone Girl

Core

Kinbands of the Black Briar

The Glade Guard are great. Possibly my best unit, in terms of damage output per point expended. I need to stop deforming my whole battle line around them but they’re doing good work. In particular, the unit of 10 deployed 5 by 2 with the War Banner surprised Joseph and might have come in very handy against Brendan if I’d been a bit more aggressive with them.

I got those in by dropping the Scouts and I have no regrets about dropping the Scouts. While they are perversely hard to hit with shooting, so are any skirmishers. They lose the solid short ranged Glade Guard bow effect and frankly on most battlefields there isn’t that great a place to Scout them, so they end up paying 25 points to be slightly less good at shooting things and drop last (giving me fewer drops during the early stages when I’m being out-deployed).

Verdict: Some things in life are priceless: for everything else, there’s Glade Guard

Cildraeth Eiddew, Cildraeth Celyn

I love Dryads. I absolutely love them. You would never guess this from the way I treat them in battle. They work far better as disposable 96 point disruptors about which something must be done than they do as any kind of effective combat unit in their own right, and I don’t think I feel too bad about bailing the Branchwraith out of them and letting them sort themselves out. Frankly I could go for another unit of these just so I could be sure I had some where they needed to be.

Verdict: You and I, we were born to die

Special

Kinband of the Pale Rose

Their sheer weight of attacks means they can’t be underestimated against soft targets, the problem is getting them into a soft target to begin with. I like them enough to keep them around but they aren’t tough enough to work as a death star and treating them as a bunker for an expensive magic user who happens to be my General and a Battle Standard Bearer who they need to be around in order to do their thing is a little bit much. I think they and Gwydion need to spend more time together, but also to figure out what they’re doing with themselves in terms of the army as a whole. Also, I need to finish painting them properly.

Verdict: Boy, Decide. Boy, Decide…

Brawdolieath Pren Mawr

Not only do these 40mm fartarounds either die first in every game or see off something a third of their cost and spend the rest of the game doing nothing, they take up so much space in the battle-line that they’re putting everyone else off. I think they have a role but probably not in my army the way I’m currently playing it. Despite their extremely tidy paint job and overall very fine aesthetic they are finally on the way out. I’ve also given them a name I can’t consistently pronounce, spell or even remember, so fuck ’em.

Verdict: If Looks Could Kill… you lot would still be in the army list.

Rare

Uchelwydd

God, he’s good. Someone (hi Matty) keeps asking me why I take a Treeman and I have to ask “why don’t you?” This big log has held up against everything I’ve thrown him into – nothing has ever actually managed to wound him unto death, although once he’s in combat with any ranked unit he tends to break and run sooner or later. Stubborn on 8s is good but it’s not Unbreakable and I need to stop expecting it to be. He’s more dangerous when he’s roaming around causing terror and doing Strangleroots to things than he is in a scrap unsupported, and until I figure out my mutual support problem that’s the best use for him.

Verdict: My boy – look how they massacred my boy…

Where Do We Go From Here?

Well, I already have five Wild Riders waiting to be added to the team, and I’ve also picked up another Sylvaneth “start collecting” box this weekend. That gives me a second Branchwraith, so I can let their potential breathe a bit instead of jamming it all into one character; it also gives me a second Treeman. I’m sure I’ll get some stick from this on the Facebook groups but a) most of you already go off about Wood Elves on principle so I might as well earn it and b) I wanted to play the Drycha army, that’s where I came in to all this.

I plan on building a very bread and butter army: Glade Guard and Dryads, a couple of Branchwraiths, a couple of Treemen, an actual cavalry unit, and… I need to find a strong central character that isn’t an Alter Highborn to hold it all together. I have a couple of ideas on that front.

I’m hoping this will be a more compact army that doesn’t have the mutual support or leadership issues I’ve experienced so far, and that a passive role for a Branchwraith will keep my defensive magic game up for longer.

This would be an ideal build for Monstrous Mayhem, all things considered, maybe with a Lore of Beasts Spellweaver at the heart to tie it all together, but sadly I’m not going to make it. The recent bouts of hobby enthusiasm have meant I spent the same £50 four times in three weeks and that has to be made up from somewhere. I shall have to sit this one out, lick my wounds, get a couple of local (thus cheap) practice games in when Firestorm’s new gaming hall opens and come out swinging for Resurrection part II in November.

[WFB] Warhammer: Resurrection I, Day 2: The Campaign (2/2)

“Seems to be going well so far,” said Rarbuik, from his side of the wagon.

“We’re a good four days from Kazad Urkbavak,” said Dougnec, from his, “and another half day to Karaz-a-Karak. Uphill, too, and probably in the snow.”

“It’s the middle of bloody summer,” said Rarbuik. “We’re going through the pass, not up the bloody mountain.”

“Stop your bloody swearin’,” said Fargon. He was the older member of the crew, and he’d not taken his sunhat off since they set out. “And watch the road.”

“Barely a road anyway,” said Rarbuik. He wasn’t entirely wrong. They were, more or less, following the course of the Skull River; though the shipments usually went by boat, the whole conceit of the operation depended on every wagon being a wagon, and easy to mix up, even if you were some halfwit goblin with mushrooms where his brain should be. Of course, the shipments usually went by boat because you had the Badlands on one side of the river, big nasty orcs down that way, and you had the Forest of Gloom on the other, and no bugger wanted to go in there if they could possibly avoid it. Even if it was a bit thin and scrubby this far south, it was still trees, wasn’t it?

“I told you to stop your bloody swearin’,” said Fargon, and Rarbuik realised he’d been thinking aloud for the last two hundred yards. Then he stopped, quite abruptly, because there was something on the road ahead of them, just peeping over the horizon.

It was a tall, black, pointy sort of something. On a stick. It looked a bit like a giant X-rune, with horns on and bits on the side. And it was bobbing up and down in a very threatening way, like… someone was carrying it. Upright. While they were marching.

Rarbuik thought he’d better mention it.

“Anyone else see that?” he asked.

“Anyone else see them?”

Dougnec was already scrambling onto the wagon. With his free hand, he pointed due west: sure enough, there was another banner pole (for such it was), borne in the armoured hand of a rider in black, who’d brought four of his friends along for a jolly gallop in the country by Rarbuik’s estimation. Rarbuik had a quick shufty off to the north, just to check, and it looked as if there was some kerfuffle going on up there too: lots of braying and bellowing that didn’t sit easily on his ears, and then there were the animal noises answering the Norscan voices, too.

“Get on the back of the cart, lad,” said Fargon. “We’re goin’ through.”

Rarbuik didn’t quite get on the cart. He would have, but something had settled on his hand, and was settling on the cart too, where it didn’t disappear quite so fast in the heat. It was snowing. It was bloody well snowing at midsummer, as if to prove Dougnec right.

And then, from the raggedy edge of the Forest of Gloom, the screaming started.

Act Two: “You call that soup? This is what I call soup…”

Back in the relatively chill side room for my last game of the weekend, against Brendan Sparrow and his jumbo tureen of Chaos Undecided. This was exactly the kind of game I enjoy. Brendan’s a lovely chap, quiet and contemplative and working things out aloud as he goes along so you can take the game as a conversation and smooth things along toward a nice refreshing conclusion. Also, his army was savage when I stopped and thought about it.

Chaos Lord, with the Mark of Chaos Undivided; Aspiring Champion with the Battle Standard and the Mark of Khorne; two Wargors, one with the Mark of Slaanesh and a Scroll, one with the Lore of Shadows and a Spell Familiar. Then a unit of Chaos Warriors (Mark of Khorne), a unit of Chosen Knights (Mark of Slaanesh), a Chariot (Chaos Undivided, nothing fancy) and screening Warhounds; a Beastherd, some Furies, three Minotaurs (Mark of Nurgle) and a big block of Dogs of War Norscans with flails.

When you break that down, that’s two blocks of Frenzied infantry, six casting and six dispel dice, a unit of 1+ save cavalry that cares not for psychology so you will have to kill all of them, some flying daemons and skirmishing bait and blockers with a 4+ save, and probably the two best spell lores Chaos can get. It’s an all round list with a lot of tech to it and, in a Breakthrough scenario, it has a lot of threats that can potentially add up to a win.

Despite this, I came out swinging. I was determined to even the odds by the end of the day. Whatever else happened, this one was going to go the distance. It did, and by all the gods of the bloody great wheel it was a cracker.

I don’t know if I want to write it up as a story or a conventional report, because so much happened. I’ll try and do both, and hope it all makes sense somehow.

Ahead of the Black-Briar, the spirits of the Deadwood made their stand; time was needed for the arrows of pact-pledged to reap their toll, and time they would have. Uchelwydd strode to the fore, the dry soil cracking under his every tread. The Brotherhood of the Pact turned to hold the flank against hoof and iron. And from the trees the Maven shrieked her war-song, hate and fury and wounded pride dragging the dying trees in her wake.

Although Strangleroots didn’t do them any damage, the Minotaurs advanced into short range of all the Black-Briar and rapidly learned why that wasn’t the best idea. Even the Mark of Nurgle can only soak so many hits.

Blood. Iron. Pain. Hunt. Kill.

There was more to Hywel’s thoughts, but the struggle was always there. The forest had taken him and sent him back; touched him and changed him. Always its simple will pressed back his own, inexorable as the seasons.

This was why he did not lead. This was why he dared not lead. The Maven was cruel, but she was sane. Saner than him. She had tricked him and he had no right to rule, not now. What folly would he lead them to next? What choice had he had?

No. These thoughts were poison. The forest had a simpler way. Pain? Hunt. Kill.

This was why he stood, now, with half an army before him; his bow took shape from his wooden flesh, and he nocked a single arrow from the empty air.

Two knights fell. It had begun.

I ummed and ahhed about this, but there was nobody I trusted to clean up this flank more than Hywel. The Hail of Doom might have been better used against a lighter unit, but I figured forcing through as many S4 hits on the Knights from the earliest possible moment was my best chance at bringing them down. Two kills from fifteen hits, against that armour save? I’ll take it.

Steady, steady, steady…

The beasts would come. The beasts would throw themselves upon her lines in disarray. The beasts would bring themselves to her…

Yet hatred stirred in the Maven’s heart, and she knew she must kill. Had she vowed vengeance and the breaking of bones to do nothing? Had she been trampled to sawdust to stand idle now?

I really shouldn’t have done this; I should have made the bait go around or keep the Norscans blocked. I think in my heart I’d chosen to roleplay the Maven as if she now hated Beastmen, after all the kickings she’d had from them lately; I also admit to wanting to win a round of combat, so badly. Charging the obvious bait might have been a good idea, chasing them down was absolutely not, but I had hatred in my heart even if it wasn’t on my character sheet.

Next would be the winged ones, the false-kin of the skies. They swept down on wings of spite and coward’s courage and fool’s hope – real enough to fly, real enough to fight, but Hywel could see them for what they were. But when your sword is the winter’s cold fury, the hard ground and the hoar frost, made every bit as real as these poison thoughts in flesh, they die soon enough, either way.

Mister Magic Weapon is introduced to the Furies. It goes as well as can be expected. I really wanted to give him the Sword of a Thousand Winters but I don’t want to load any more gimmicks into this army; it’s already struggling without the burden of nonsense.

This one led them! This one defiled! This one tore his skin from the bones of the earth! This one would pay!

But as the Maven’s scythe spun and danced in her hands, as his blows were caught by haft and crook, her sisters were dying again. Heavy iron met faerie flesh. Every blow that landed was execution.

I mean, what actually did for the Dryads was, as ever, static combat resolution. They really need a friend who isn’t a skirmisher like them, but I cannot get these units that all move five inches a turn to line up and fight nicely together for some reason. There’s a Minotaur in their flank, who killed two Dryads and wasn’t helping matters any, but at least they managed to kill him in return.

The little sister was dying again.

Uchelwydd sighed heavy, planted roots deep. Sometimes he regretted answering the call; why had he not slept the winter away like all his brothers? Eternity in a curse-bound slumber was starting to sound like a relief.

There were men, in steel skins. They had axes. Uchelwydd roared his rage, and still they came on; yet as they came the roots burst the ground beneath them, and one-two-three-four, four fewer axes to bite.

After a lacklustre show so far, Uchelwydd’s Strangleroots does ten hits to these oncoming Chaos Warriors. That would be a panickin’, in a less sensibly constructed list. They did their best to sink some wounds onto him, but I don’t think they even brought him halfway down. If I could back that big log up properly he’d be a superstar: as it is, he’s my best unit right up until he breaks, at which point the game has usually given way around him. I think I might want two of these.

Hold the line.
Save the wood.
Serve the Maven.

They had all made the Pact. They had all sworn the vow. They were brothers in endless service; ghost-flesh, dead-wood.

There was something coming. It struck the line. A spike of steel cut deep.

The Brotherhood of the Dead Wood closed ranks.

There wasn’t something coming any more.

Brendan was spectacularly unlucky with his Chariot charge; the impact hits didn’t really wound much, the crew missed, and the horses were struggling to make a dent on T5 Tree-Kin. They whomped it to matchwood, as you do, but were functionally out of the game at this point with nothing left to charge or hold the flank against.

Arrows had flown and the forest had sung. Many a beast had died, many a throat had been pierced. The Maven was trampled in dust, but she would rise as she always rose; curse as she’d always cursed; endure, as the bitch always did.

Bloddeuwydd didn’t know where that thought had come from. How had that malice, that murder-lust slipped into her mind? The Maven was not to be trusted – the Maven had done something, long ago – but what was done was done, and the Maven was their only hope, then as she was now, as it ever was.

Gilfaethwy stood beside her, arrow after arrow springing to his hand, nocked to his bow. He struck from the shadows, again and again – until the shadows struck back. In a whisper and a flicker and a flurry he was gone – just like that. Only darkness remained. Only darkness, and the Black-Briar trembled and knew fear in the dark, and they were gone.

I’ve been quiet about it so far, but after the initial “two dice three spells never works out” conversation, Brendan was dominating with his magic. Luxurious Torment is such a subtly nasty spell; it takes control of a unit away, it inflicts damage right through the game, it has to be dispelled up front or you’re stuck with it because it doesn’t Remain in Play, and… arse biscuits, I’ve just realised it also renders the unit immune to panic, so these Glade Guard should be standing proud and trying not to froth at the mouth too much. I know they’re immune to panic when they have frenzy, I just forgot about the frenzy in amongst the d6 hits every round. Still, man. Slaanesh/Shadow. The perfect combination.

There was little left. Still the arrows flew, from the quivers of the Black-Briar. Still steel shuddered, still men fell, but not enough, not enough. Still came on the men of the North, and still the shadows and whispers were all around. Blodeuwydd felt it welling up in her cold ensorcelled heart; the heat, the burning heat. She trembled where she stood, on the edge of this forest in a foreign land; her lips parted and she moaned, helpless, pinioned by the gaze of the One Who Thirsts.

There was only one thing to do, and she did it. She shut her eyes, flung back her arms, and hurled herself forward into the embrace.

She was dead before she fell from the Lord of Chaos’ outstretched sword.

Kharnak the Usurper didn’t even break his stride.

With the demise of Blodeuwydd, forced to charge the Chaos Lord by yet another casting of Luxurious Torment, things were looking very bleak. I did everything in my power; Standing, Shooting, praying for numbers, but I couldn’t quite kill the last of the Chaos Warriors or even one of the Knights. Unseen Lurker catapulted the Brayherd into the lines as well, and altogether that was just enough points to get Brendan the win. Barely.

He reckons if I’d had Hywel charge into his Chaos Hounds and overrun into the Knights I’d have got it, and it’s hard to disagree (although I think I threw the game a bit with that Dryad charge, too). I think there was a reason why I didn’t: maybe the overrun angle was bad. Nevertheless I had the movement to reach the Knights and should have encircled them rather than pulling my most powerful aggressive fighter back to the centre where there wasn’t much left to do.

Other than that, a delightfully tense game, never a grim word said or grumpy face seen. This sort of thing is what we pay the ticket money for.

Defeat for the Wood Elves once again, but we sold our lives dearly, almost to the last elf. Oh, and I lost my general again, so…

Death for the Maven! Death for the Maven for One Thousand Years! I’m fine with it; she’s had enough lucky escapes from being locked in challenges while her sisters get butchered around her, and her luck can’t realistically hold out forever. Killing her allows me to move the army’s story forward in exactly the way that this event was designed to do (and justifies a bit of redrawing in the list department as well).

It goes wthout saying that I enjoyed this side of the event immensely: this is the sort of Warhammer I want to get out of bed for, and the tournament day before was really a warm-up for me. I’d have liked to do better, but it’s a new army and one with a lot of unusual quirks compared to what I’ve spent the last eighteen years playing. When I came home Rob asked me if I’d had a good time, and I was all ambivalent and “event was good, opponents were nice, not sure I enjoyed the army.” As I wrote this game up the love came back. That’s not to say I won’t be making some changes, but that’s a matter for the next post. In the meantime, here’s the wrap up in character…

The three dwarfs watched as a tide of shrieking, yammering things poured out of the forest; in their wake, lines of ashen-faced elves in cowls, long bows of new wood in their hands.

For half a moment, Rarbuik thought they’d get away with it. The great lumbering mass of a Treeman planted himself right between the dark horde and the road; the horde of Dryads rushed forward, howling blue murder at the beastmen as they rushed in. On the road ahead, something tall and lean with sweeping horns and a mane of cloudy hair bounded toward the Knights of Chaos; was that a bastard long sword or a recurved bow in his hands, and did it really matter? Rarbuik and the lads weren’t sure it did.

Yet the wave broke, on the rock of Chaos. The Dryads disappeared beneath iron-headed flails and iron-capped boots. The Treeman wavered as they fell, and in his moment of weakness the dark warriors surged around him as he toppled. Still the elven archers stood their ground, but too late, too late.

Rarbuik saw the elf with the horns once more, before the end. He stood atop a little rocky outcrop, surveying the scene; he threw back his head and he howled with an anguish none of the dwarfs had heard come from any living throat.

It was Dougnec who’d seen why, though he wouldn’t live to put two and two together and say so. Dougnec was facing backwards, and he’d seen the elf maiden in her cloak of briars throw herself onto the Chaos champion’s sword with the sort of outcry a dwarf normally saved for a plate of curry and a cold pint.

The archers melted back, into the woods, a ragged handful giving ground before the last warriors of Chaos. The elf with the horns shook his head, leapt from his crag, and followed.

“Bloody perfidious elves,” said Raurbik, and then “sorry, Fargon.”

“Fuck it,” said Fargon. “Don’t think it really matters, now.”

They were coming closer. The old dwarf stood up in the driver’s seat. For the first time since they’d left Karak Dron, he tugged off his hat and threw it down in the dust. With his free hand he coaxed his line of thick, tufty orange hair back upright, or as close to upright as he could manage. And finally, Rarbuik understood what they were doing up here, and why Fargon hadn’t been in any hurry to reach Karaz-a-Karak at all.

“You lads had best be off,” he said. “No sense us all getting done in.”

“What, and shave my head myself for my trouble?” said Dougnec.

“Like you said,” said Raurbik. “Fuck it. Right?”

“Good lads,” said Fargon, and took the reins tight in his hands. “They’ll never take us alive. Ya mule!”

Prince Hywel never saw the explosion, but he heard it all right. He heard it from half a mile away, and gave a grim nod. Whatever else happened, the Forest of Gloom had been protected. No minion of the Usurper had made it past the old dwarf road, of that he was damn sure. And for the first time in a thousand years and change, he was thinking clearly. What had this wretched Pact ever done for them? His own mind, a prison; his son, his daughter; both dead. And if he ever set eyes on that treacherous spite of a Maven again, she’d regret not staying dead this time

[WFB] Warhammer: Resurrection I, Day 2: The Campaign (1/2)

It was the height of summer. An oppressive heat rested on the Badlands. Birds abandoned the wing and took to their sheltered nests; beasts lay spread upon the ground, all lolling tongues and fur matted with sweat. Langorous the breeze stirred the canopy, a hot dry wind from the south. Dust, and salt, and blood, and the sound of drums and the echoes of war rode on the back of the wind, and they fell on the rich dark summer leaves of the Forest of Gloom.

If war was coming it mattered not why, nor who; they would come with fire and iron. They would cut wood, burn brush, tear stone and dam rivers. The Forest stirred from leaf to root, and from root to world-root, and so the echoes of war came to maddened ears – half elven, half other, all wrong.

The Forest of Gloom was calling, and the Deadwood of Tiernmas was answering.

It was the height of summer, but for the briefest handful of moments, something moved in the heavy hot dark of the woods; the shortest flurry of snow, melting in the air, gone before it touched the ground.

Deadwood marched.

The Flight from Karak Dron

Of course, there were other things going on in the wider world, but do you think the Court of the Crag give a tinker’s hoot? Two generations of mad elves slowly turning into trees, a psychotic woodland sprite who is perfectly happy with a slow death as long as she gets to be in charge of it, and a hippy wizard who has better things to do than troop across the Old World and take on another lost cause – this lot can barely keep their own bonsai trimmed, never mind anyone else’s. Frankly, it’s a miracle they turned up at all.

Nevertheless, we should note for posterity’s sake that the dwarf hold of Karak Dron, far to the south, has been stockpiling precious mineral ores as well as other supplies in preparation for evacuation. Wagon trains have set out across the Badlands roads; some toward Barak Varr and the sea, others to the Grey Mountains and their more defensible holds. Word has gotten out, as it does (you can’t hide anything from superior Skaven technology), and so the canny dwarfs have concocted a plan. Mercenaries have been hired to protect some of the wagons; others have been emptied of valuables and filled with sweet-knack all or worse; others sent north alone through the Forest of Gloom to Zhufbar. After all, if enemies come and rouse the Asrai, what are the elves more likely to do? Attack a lone wagon, or fall upon a marauding army?

The Deadwood Covenant

Since day two was going to be a story-driven affair, I decided I’d walk back from the compromise cast and bring my original band of named characters along for an outing. Here’s the army list I put together in the bath the night before.

Prince Hywel of the Crag
Highborn: Alter Kindred: light armour, shield, Sword of Might, Helm of the Hunt, Glamourweave, Hail of Doom Arrow

Gilfaethwy
Noble: Alter Kindred: additional hand weapon, shield, Bow of Loren, Briarsheath

Bloddeuwydd
Spellsinger: level 2 wizard: Deepwood Sphere, Dispel Scroll

The Maven
Branchwraith: level 1 wizard: Annoyance of Netlings, Cluster of Radiants: Army General

Kinbands of the Black Briar
10 Glade Guard
10 Glade Guard
10 Glade Guard: standard bearer: War Banner

Celyn y Eiddew
16 Dryads

Brawdolieath Pryn Mawr
5 Tree-Kin: champion

Uchelwydd
Treeman

I wanted to try the big Dryad swarm at least once, just to see if it out-performed the smaller units somehow. I also decided to lose the Scouts, as they’ve been a bit of a let down in the past: most boards simply haven’t had a good place in which to Scout them and they end up as a third, less efficient unit of Glade Guard. Instead, I thought “why not take a unit of Glade Guard that brings a +3 to combat resolution and see if that does any good?” Rolling out one big unit of Tree-Kin was a last chance saloon job and also made the mathematics easier if I needed to drop down for an Ambush scenario, as I was warned I might: lose them, lose Hwel, lose the War Banner, that’s under 1300 and basically good enough for jazz.

The main event is of course the Alter tag-team. Prince Hywel has been patiently waiting for his first outing and I had quite high hopes for him: an 18″ charge, followed up by six S5 attacks at very good Weapon Skill, and of course the Hail of Doom, but a massive opportunity cost in giving up Leadership 10 generalship and not being able to take a decent wizard, hence his relegation to the story day. Gilfaethwy is an experiment that I wanted to get out of my system: four shots out of the Bow of Loren at very solid Ballistic Skill, and the Briarsheath to help him not be shot back. I still think it’s got legs, but these games weren’t the best test bed, as you’ll see.

Act One: “Careful, It’s Soup”

Scarcely had the spirits woken, barely had the elves nocked their bows, when the brayherd was upon them. The air was rank – not merely with the reek of blood and dung and spittle but the sweat of horses, the tang of steel in summer, and everywhere the rich drifting spice on the edge of smelling. Foul magic. The Changer of Ways at work.

In the dark of the woods, Ursakah had been waiting. He knew. He’d followed the colours only he could see. The Knights couldn’t see them; that’s why they needed him, for all that they rode around acting the big chief. Joekle couldn’t see them; it was all brown to him. Tchar had given Ursakah the lead and Tchar had said to him: the Usurper’s on the way. Clear the path. Don’t be here when he is. Let him take the prize. He’ll regret it.

And now the elves had fallen into his trap too. Pretty magic – but spent now, by bringing them here. Easy prey, now. Ursakah smiled a goaty smile and unslung his horn from his side. Time to go.

When I saw Joseph’s army I wondered if he’d unpacked his competition list by mistake. Fourteen power dice Tzeentch Chaos soup? In a narrative event? What kind of swine, why didn’t I pack the Sylvanians, et cetera ad nauseam. In other words, I came into this one tilted, bitchy and not in the best mindset. Joseph knows me well enough to forgive and forget, but the game was certainly more bitter than it needed to be and that’s because of me. (I still think the list is legitimate filth, but it serves me right for thinking “narrative” meant “soft list” – lesson learned, Stormwind Fallacy acknowledged, improvement striven for.)

It didn’t help that we started late and, with two skirmisher-heavy armies, took forever to set up. It also didn’t help that I deployed very badly, blocking the Tree-Kin in and arguably putting Uchelwydd on the wrong side (I didn’t have enough units to set up, really: Joseph could dummy out my entire deployment and then align his big beefy units with preferential targets).

Besides the Beastlord and an Aspiring Champion Battle Standard Bearer with the Mark of Tzeentch, he’d brought two Bray Shamans (Lore of Beasts, Staff of Darkoth on one of them), two Beast Herds, four Warhound packs, four Minotaurs with the Mark of Tzeentch, five Knights with the Mark of Tzeentch, two Chariots (who mercifully didn’t have the Mark of Tzeentch) and seven Chaos Ogres.

The good news is, we were playing Breakthrough and, as the valiant defender of the forest attempting to secure its borders (and, incidentally, keep the Beastmen from reaching the road along which the convoy would pass), I could afford to lose an awful lot of elves as long as the big expensive units were kept at bay. Ogres, Knights, Minotaurs: Joseph would have to get two out of three across the field to win through.

Spurred on by Paul’s tale of woe from the day before, I had Bloddeuwydd unleash the Fury of the Forest and Hwel loose the Hail of Doom into the Beast Herd containing the Beastlord and a Bray-Shaman: in other words, the magic horn of ambush-signalling and six out of ten magic levels. If I could get those off the board in turn one, I’d have breathing room to deal with the things that actually mattered. (We had some tension over my communication of how the spell worked and shooting modifiers and how to clean up after mistakes: the same not-excuse-but-explanation as yesterday applies, Joseph took it on the chin but he didn’t seem very happy about things. Opponent makes the frowny face: that’s a learning moment. Don’t do whatever it was you did again.)

Anyway, it nearly but not quite paid off and after that I was on the back foot a little. I’d pushed Uchelwydd up to meet the Minotaurs and the big Dryad swarm up to a point where they could reach either the Ogres or the big Beast Herd. Some good rolls on Strangleroots thinned out the Minotaurs well enough and at least one of the chariots got its comeuppance too; a solid performance from the Asrai shooting gallery.

Joseph’s counter-attack wasn’t too bad at first. Like a lot of players who are spoiled for choice with power dice and spell availability, he went wide and ended up not casting enough to overwhelm the defences. I did have to use my one permitted Boring Scroll to stop the Maven and her mates being turned into Horrors, though.

At this point, I made a series of questionable decisions which ensured we wouldn’t be playing out the full six turns. Firstly, Hwel declared a charge into the Chaos Knights, who fled: this left me with very high hopes of them not coming back, and maybe rolling some panic through the back line. Secondly, the Maven and the holly and the ivy and all that charged the much-depleted Beast Herd hiding the two Beasts o’ Tzeentch, instead of the Ogres who were going to flank them if the Beastmen didn’t break. Thirdly, my Treeman made a conservative advance to throw some Strangleroots at the Minotaurs and keep himself open to move back into the middle, if he was needed.

Shooting went well-ish, I think this is where Uchelwydd started showing misfires on his Strangleroots rolls, but when we came into the close combat stage disaster struck. With the Beastlord out of the picture, locked into a challenge with the Maven, I had something like fourteen attacks with which to kill three Beastmen and maybe put a wound on the Shaman if I was lucky. Not one single Beastman fell. They didn’t kill any Dryads either, but because they had a flag all I could muster was “er, outnumber?” for a drawn combat.

Next turn, the Ogres turned around and messily devoured the Dryads, the rest of the Beastmen turned up and forced my Glade Guard to spin around and cover their backsides (devouring one unit wholesale with a Staff of Darkoth charge) and, with my wheels well and truly off, for some reason I charged Hwel into the Ogres and just let him die. Oh, and the Chaos Knights rallied, because of course they did. Bloddeuwydd panicked and fled out of her forest hidey-hole so I had no dispelling power left to stop the magical bombardment either.

And that’s all she wrote. I simply didn’t have enough hard-hitting stuff left to stop more than one of the big beefy units from being where they needed to be in another two turns’ time. Breakthrough is a funny old scenario: if you don’t pay attention you can lose it by throwing away the high-value units (it’s only units, not characters or monsters, that score) you need to win, if you do pay attention you generally know who’s won by turn two.

What I should have done (see, I was awake enough to at least read my losses with this one) was a) deploy better, with my Tree-kin out on a flank, either one would have done it, this “back field” business doesn’t work for them and b) go after the Ogres with my Dryads, they’re hard to wound but easy to hit and their Leadership isn’t great.

Ah yes, Armour of Damnation again. Because killing you was EVER going to happen.

The Maven rose. At least, she tried to.

It was not at all easy. The beasts’ chief had stuck her and struck her with a saw-tooth from a dragon’s head, and it felt as if the very dragon had gnawed her down to heartwood.

Hand over hand, length by length, she dragged herself into the trees, through the filth and the dust and the splinters of the ogres’ charge. They had trampled her sisters and torn up the roots; broken the bodies and beaten the branches. Her brothers lumbered down the track; Uchelwydd strode behind them, his great eyes dark and hollow with shame. Somehow, she knew the mageling at least had lived; and poor Hwel, he’d come to avenge her, screaming his vengeance. They hadn’t even broken their stride.

At least some of them had made it out of the ambush alive. They had come to hold the line; they had been tricked and trapped. The Changer of Ways had reached into the worldroots and filled the Maven’s head with lies! Man becomes beast; beast becomes man. Prey becomes predator; predator becomes prey.

There would be vengeance. There were elves here, too. Other kinbands, deeper in the wood; cowards! The Maven had been broken and the Court had been bled to do their duty; now they would answer to her call. There would be vengeance, oh yes. Just as soon as she could stand up again.

Defeat for the Wood Elves: The Maven gains “Hardened”.

(Losing a character in this one meant you had to roll on the Mordheim injury chart to see what happened. The Maven picked up a trait that rendered her immune to fear, utterly useless on a Forest Spirit; Alex was kind enough to convert that into a +1 Leadership as she swore her oath of revenge on, oh, anyone really. Whoever’s about.)

This post is already running a bit long, so I’ll break here. I’d like to introduce a little more personal narrative into the affair, since I was basically a side player for the event overall; I’d also like to give the last game its due as it was among the best and certainly the bloodiest I’ve played with this army. So here are a few more pictures of events on the roads away from Karak Dron, just to tide you over…

Word had spread, all right, far beyond the Forest of Gloom. At the very gates of Karak Dron the throng stood proud, axe and hammer stained with green blood. In the high passes to the Dark Lands, Ogre tribes bellowed their warcries, lumbering down to the lowlands to fill their guts with meat and gold. In Sylvania, the Von Carsteins raised their levies living and dead, and sent them south through the Black Fire Pass, intent on plundering the precious gromril ore. Along the Black Gulf, Skaven scuttled from their underways to swarm the ports, waiting until the dwarf-things thought they were safe. But everywhere, the tide of darkness rose; the woods were alive with beastmen, and from the far north, from the Great Skull Land, the Warriors of Chaos were coming…

[WFB] Warhammer: Resurrection I, Day 1: The Tournament

A Tragedy in Three Acts

This post will cover the Saturday event, the three round tournament; the next will cover the Sunday event, the map campaign day; the last will be an army list walkthrough because frankly, I need to work some things out.

The tournament used a special scenario pack derived from modern wargaming (some of the scenarios were very Warmachiney, with their row of three objectives and two in the corners and so on), and I’ll be making some separate comments on these as we go along.

As per the B.I.G. Bash, I didn’t take my usual blow by blow notes or turn by turn photos. The full battle report experience takes four hours at 2000 points and we had about two and a half for each game. I did have some time on my hands to wander around and take photos of other people’s armies: these have made it onto the ‘gram but I’m going to repost some of them here to give a flavour of the event and sneak a few other people’s stories into the frame.

Act One: Your Correspondent is Stupid, But Lucky

Phil Ashton, Bretonnians: Take and Hold

Phil, along with the rest of the boys from Road to Reikland had shown up in full kit.
He is shown here beseeching the Lady to protect him from losing any units that matter.

Phil’s army featured a Trebuchet, a lance of Questing Knights with a banner that let them save on 4+ against anything remotely projectile-shaped, a big lance of Knights Errant, a small lance of Knights Errant, a big lance of Knights of the Realm, two lines of Yeomen, a Damsel with two scrolls stuffed down her top and a Lord on Great Big Enormous Hippogryph. (I really liked how this thing was modelled, perched on a tower which was itself showing the correct 50mm by 50mm base, but stuck on a wider bit of board for balance’s sake, yet with enough room to put models on the flank if they needed to go there. Very well done.)

This one got away from me. I opened up well enough by panicking one unit of Yeomen off the board and badly marmalising another, but discovered that I couldn’t really do anything to the Questing Knights as they had about three layers of save against Master of Stone and the usual 2+ against Glade Guard shooting. They did at least get Mistress of the Marsh cast on them to try and slow them down a wee bit until I could deal with them. The Lord on Great Big Enormous Hippogryph ploughed into my Tree-Kin, whiffed spectacularly despite having a magical great weapon that ignored armour saves and, being magical, also bypassed Forest Spirit Ward Saves, and I nearly killed the Great Big Enormous Hippogryph in return. The big Knights Errant wedge got stuck into my Treeman where I knew they’d remain more or less indefinitely.

So far, I’d been lucky (in landing my spells and having any Tree-Kin left). Now it was time to be stupid. Instead of ripping the last wound off the Great Big Enormous Hippogryph, I allocated my attacks to the Lord thinking that I had nine of them and he really should get what’s coming to him. Instead he took one wound, he and his big bird went through the Tree-Kin properly, and while I did manage to machine-gun the beast off next turn with some point blank Glade Guard archery, the left flank had more or less collapsed.

In the centre I decided to try and help the Treeman out by moving the Maven and her Dryads forward and trying to charge them in with Call of the Wild Hunt. It was optimistic at best, since she doesn’t have fantastic odds of casting it, and I don’t remember if Phil scrolled it or if it just didn’t cast in the first place. In the next turn the Questing Knights rampaged over the Dryads (the Maven held her own in the challenge but her unit disintegrated around her) and proceeded to chew through most of my army over the next two turns. The Eternal Guard held out a bit longer thanks to Stubborn but couldn’t get through 3+ saves and the Blessing on top of that. I called it at the bottom of turn four after the Treeman finally failed a Break test and got run down too.

Phil went on to sweep the event and I am delighted to have played a part in his victory. This was a total stonking against any army I’d not really played before (the game with Lee a couple of years ago was a hardly a typical engagement) and a opponent who never once made me feel bad about the kicking I was taking. Next time I’ll bring something undead and give him a proper stand up fight.

I had time to whip round and take some photos of the other tables, too. The notorious Tom Jones (Warboss of the Green Green Grass) was sighted in or adjacent to combat instead of cowering behind the tallest building on the table, some Big Hat Chaos Dwarfs were in evidence doing their best in the face of a misbehaving Earthshaker, and some glorious Heresy MIniatures Daemons were doing the Plaguefather’s work in a venue otherwise tested free from the fashionable pestilence of the day.

Intermission: a Grievance over Take and Hold

I didn’t quite manage to communicate this on the day (this will be a recurring theme throughout this event), but I felt this scenario was a bit wonky.

Alex insists that it “forces you to play differently” and yes, it does, having to decide where you’re going to make your push and whether you’re going to go for big points in the other deployment zone is certainly a challenge.

My issue is that it’s a faff. Each objective is worth some points, and you have to add up how many points you have and compare them to how many points your opponent has and then convert the difference in those points into another entirely different sort of points for tournament scoring purposes, and those points exist in a scale apart from the Victory Points based scoring in the other scenarios so the first round is weirdly out of kilter with everything else. I wasn’t particularly bothered about this given how badly my own games went, but some of the players who were top-of-the-middle felt their wins were somewhat devalued because a first round win resulted in lower scores than a second or third, and it’s a fair cop.

The issue here is one of complexity not being the same thing as depth. The other scenarios added depth by adjusting the Victory Points system we all know and tolerate; this scenario added needless complexity by being scored in a completely different way.

I don’t like to present a problem without offering a solution so here it is. Put Victory Points back in, and have the “Take and Hold” condition interact with the table quarters that we already know about. Both players pick a table quarter on the opponent’s side of the board and put a marker in the middle of it; they score 100 extra Victory Points for each of their own units that’s in that quarter at the end of the game. It’s like the normal “holding a table quarter” points in a normal game but bigger.

This discourages castling (you have to go out there and get stuck in to get the big bonus points) but affords a bit of control over where you’re going to push (you can attempt to separate your forces, refuse a flank, concentrate both armies on one side, it’ll lead to some interesting setups) and, crucially, it talks to the same basic economy of scoring as everything else in the pack.

Act Two: Your Correspondent is Less Stupid, but More Unlucky

Paul Frith, Beasts of Chaos: Headhunters

Armour of Damnation vs. Annoyance of Netlings. We could have been here for a while.

The Beastmen were notable for showing up unmarked and unsouped: a Beastlord, two Bray-Shamans (Shamen? I’m never sure), a Battle Standard Bearer, three good sized Beast Herds, a Warhound pack, two small units of Minotaurs, eight Centigor, two Chariots and a Shaggoth. Gotta love a Shaggoth.

Paul had crashed down to the bottom table after his first game of WFB in seven years turning a bit sour. He’d been facing another Wood Elf army which had managed to panic his General off the table in turn one, deny him his Ambush, keep a whole load of his points from ever turning up on the table and, well, the rest writes itself.

He had a better time of it here. My Tree-Kin didn’t manage to hold up a Beast Herd with a Beastlord in it quite as well as they had the Bretonnian Lord. I’d been hoping they’d at least stand their ground, but they didn’t and the Beastlord and co. ran on into my Branchwraith and Dryads and went through them in one round flat as well. That wasn’t clever.

Some brutal work from Strangleroots and Master of Stone whittled down some of his Minotaurs to the point where my Eternal Guard could beat them in combat and get into Paul’s side of the table, and I think I killed a Chariot with Master of Stone?

I’d also charged my Treeman into Paul’s Shaggoth (well, no, I’d charged a Beast Herd who had legged it and redirected into the Shaggoth). Despite Paul’s Ambush going off without a hitch and putting Beastmen all over my back line I genuinely think I had a chance with this one: I was confident the Eternal Guard could see off most of the remaining Beastmen units as long as they didn’t have to fight all of them together.

Then I realised my Eternal Guard had ended up just within six inches of the Shaggoth. They failed their terror test, and legged it back into the middle of the field: a fleeing unit, within an inch of the rampaging Beastlord and surviving Chariot. To cap it all off, the Treeman took enough of a beating from the slightly superior Shaggoth (a point ahead in both Weapon Skill and Strength) and, since my General and Battle Standard were both fleeing, he managed to break as well.

Two failed Leadership tests and my army crumpled like a crisp packet. Why in God’s name do I bother playing armies that aren’t undead, again?

I don’t want to take anything away from Paul here, he played a solid game with a bread and butter Beastman list, proving Chaos don’t need to go across books and mark everything and soup up like it’s modern 40K to be scary. I think I’d have been playing for the draw at best. But it is hard to keep my smiley happy face on when I’ve gone from “credible shot at a draw” to “no point playing this out” in two rolls.

That’s probably why this the game where the mask slipped a little. I am sufficiently autistic that, on a hot day in a crowded noisy place when I’m already having to think hard about rules and regulate emotions and remember to laugh at banter like a real boy and talk to strangers, I start to lose things. Like “the power of speech” and “short term memory” and “my temper”. Paul (correctly) called me out on my poor communication of what I was rolling and why. Imprecise communication is bad practice, bad practice induces guilt, guilt is a big trigger and this is the point where I had to step outside for a few because nobody wants to see a grown man behaving like a toddler. I say this not as argument nor excuse, but explanation.

Anyway, nothing against the bloke but I’m glad we could call the game there.

Intermission: a whinge about the table

I have endured a certain amount of good-natured negging since I declared I’d be bringing Wood Elves to this event. Up front, I was very sure to confirm that no, none of these games would be Pitched Battles, therefore I would not get to bring a free wood, and furthermore I would not be guaranteed a table with any woods on it whatsoever.

Which is fine. Really, it is. However, that bottom table on which I spent the whole day stuck was really Wood Elf hostile: no woods, no hills, barely any cover. I know a Proper General doesn’t get to pick favourable terrain (yes, I’ve read all the WD battle reports too) and it’s all part of the challenge et hoc genus omne. I don’t think it made a massive difference to the outcome, except maybe against the Bretonnians, and because I’d bothered to ask up front I was sure to bring the Lore of Life and pick some magic items that would be good come what may.

But three games on a tactically difficult board where a good chunk of my army’s rules didn’t matter did get a bit weary, and I didn’t quite realise how much of the Wood Elf army book expects you’ll have a wood on the table until I was tinkering with an army list for the second day and realised how many items interact with Tree Singing or flat out don’t work if you’re not in or near arboreal terrain, on top of the Forest Strider rule being pretty important for keeping your lads alive.

Act Three: Your Correspondent Cannot Even Win At Losing

Max Cooper, Dogs of War: Provisions

Max was another contender from Road to Reikland, but by this time in the afternoon he’d abandoned his jester’s outfit (and I can’t blame him, it was getting proper sweaty and we were in the comparatively uncrowded losers’ room: the main room must have been jam hot). He’d crashed and burned just as hard as I had and we were both racing for the wooden spoon at this point – as the man himself put it, “it’s probably worse coming second to last.”

Hi, folks. I’m Probably Worse, and I’ll be your host for the one game I managed to win this weekend.

Max’s army was quite large and I didn’t take the best photo of it, but I’ll try and catch everything: General and Paymaster on foot, two Wizards (Max asked if he could drop his Dispel Scrolls for the Staff of Sorcery and of course I said yes), two Pikemen blocks, two Crossbowmen lines, ten Halfling archers, two Light Cavalry units, three Ogre Ironguts and a Giant.

Max and I had both picked the Lore of Life. He had Master of Stone on both wizards, I had it on one but with better odds of casting. This was important because all the objective markers were either within 12″ of a rocky feature or actually on one. That spell was going to be mayhem.

After the initial mind games Max went first and decided retrieval was the best option: he ran two units of light cavalry onto the objectives and then pulled them back as far as they’d go. A unit of pikemen shuffled onto another, in the corner of his deployment area, and proceeded to remain there indefinitely.

I decided on a different approach. I’d take the barrel in my own lines, leaving the Scouts to look after it as they’re really hard to shoot at long range, but I wanted to clear out the things that scared me – the cannon, the wizards, the giant – and collect what objectives I could along the way. I was also determined to make the Rhymer’s Harp play for itself and sent my Eternal Guard up the right flank toward those pikes who were holding a barrel.

At the end of my first turn I’d shot some big holes in the Giant, thanks to deadly Glade Guard shooting and a solid Strangleroots performance (and a cheeky shot from a longbow that shouldn’t have been able to fire). I’d also, crucially, panicked the cannon crew off the board with my first Master of Stone, and they’d taken a wizard with them. Said Giant charged my Treeman, ate another Strangleroots to the face and keeled over (fortunately not landing on the nearby pikemen). Max, proper gent that he is, let me off for the longbow shot we’d both not realised shouldn’t have happened (eh?) as the Giant was on one wound and would probably have been walloped anyway, just a few inches further forward. Max’s other wizard panicked and legged it.

Instead of charging the pikemen and spending the whole game trying not to fail a Break test, I had the Treeman storm off into the Dogs’ back line, throwing around Strangleroots and trying to cause some terror tests, while the Eternal Guard continued their march and the Glade Guard started shooting up light cavalry units, panicking them both.

(This threw up an interesting lacuna in the scenario as Alex apparently hadn’t considered what would happen if a unit carrying provisions fled off the board. I have a suggestion, as ever: why not treat them exactly the same way as captured standards, right down to being worth 100 VP a throw? That way they interact with rules that are already in the book, already signed, sealed, errata’d and known to all parties. More depth, without extra complexity. Just a thought.)

We must have been playing those early rounds really slowly, as time was called before we could see this one through. I’d picked up a 2-1 lead on barrels, plus the victory points for light cavalry and a Giant, and only lost a couple of Eternal Guard and half a unit of Scouts. An unspectacular 605-60-odd win which was still enough to put me in twenty-third place out of twenty-four.

Max went on to take Most Sporting as well as the Wooden Spoon and as far as I’m concerned both were very well deserved. I’d love to play any of these opponents again under less sweaty conditions, although I might not want to do it with Wood Elves. We’ll get into why later on. For now, here are some more photos of round three, and then it’s on to story time.

[Been Painting] Night Lords Kill Team (1/2)

Because the weekend before a WFB tournament is the BEST moment to get the 40K brain worms.

It started innocently enough. Wrapping up my entry to the Old World Army Challenge got me thinking about Orks. That got me writing a retrospective on my previous attempts at an Ork army. That got me thinking about all the Ork conversions for which I’ve had ideas for years and years, and maybe doing a little army to host them all…

… except, of course, that it’s Orks, and all the cool tank conversions and economical “stick the spare arms on Kromlech bodies” scams in the world can’t disguise that it’s mobs of thirty walking wound counters who think vets and bovva boots are enough to keep their entrails from becoming extrails when boltguns are on the line. (And anyway, the Ork Boyz whose spare arms would have been the keystone of my Kromlech-based economy drive are about to be booted from the range anyway.)

Thus frustrated, I loaded up Dawn Of War II: Retribution in an attempt to excise the Orkoid impulse from my brain. Which reminded me how great Chaos Rising had been. Which reminded me that I had a whole Chaos Space Marine army hanging around, stalled out for the best part of four years, three squads and a Sorcerer primed and ready to paint.

Then things started to escalate. In chatterings with Mr. Ængle and Mr. Steven it became clear that actual games of third and second edition 40K could be in the offing. A look at the available fixed-pose modern plastic Chaos Space Marines suggested that judicious eBaying would build me a bigger pool of bodies. Enough for a ten man squad, a five man squad and a four man retinue, as well as a Chaos Lieutenant if I repurposed Obsidian Mallet McBovril or whatever his name is from Black Crusade. And there’s a version of the infamous 3.5 edition Codex on Battlescribe.

And, er, now I have a 1000 point Chaos Space Marine army in various stages of done. The above are the first “new” models to be completed. The full story of their acquisition isn’t really germane here, but you can find out more there. I’m doing a “five in, five out” thing where I have to get the primed models done before I can build any new ones, and likewise have to paint up my Sorcerer before I start on my Lieutenant.

For the sake of reference, I’m going to document the method I use on my Night Lords here as well as adding it to the army summary:

  • primer: grey gesso
  • trim and cloth and skin: wash: thinned down Dark Flesh (Vallejo)
  • trim: drybrush: Solid Gold (P3)
  • guns and pipes and worky bits: drybrush: Cold Steel (P3)
  • trim: wash: Seraphim Sepia (Citadel)
  • guns and pipes and worky bits: wash: Nuln Oil (Citadel)
  • plate: tWo ThIn cOAtS: Stormy Blue (Vallejo)
  • cloth: highlight: Sanguine Base (P3)
  • skin: thin coat: Ryn Flesh (P3)
  • bone / plasma / spooky Chaos bits: thin coat: White Scar (Citadel)
  • skin and plate and bone: wash: Drakenhof Nightshade (Citadel)
  • spooky Chaos bits: wash: Nighthaunt Gloom (Citadel)
  • bone: second thin coat: White Scar (Citadel)
  • flesh: second thin coat: Ryn Flesh (P3)
  • base: Astrogranite Debris (Citadel)
  • base: Drakenhof Nightshade (Citadel)
  • base: Valhallan Blizzard (Citadel)

I find the gesso primer much easier to work with than any amount of spray paint, because I can’t aim for shite and also live in a tiny house with no real outside space. A nice mid grey with plenty of tooth is dark enough for the metallics to settle well on, but doesn’t render the other colours too drab.

I generally use Vallejo paints for anything that needs a thin coat or a bit of finesse, P3 when I want a nice strong colour for little effort, and Citadel for anything technical (they still make the best washes and effects on the market, for my money). I would use Citadel Shining Gold for the trim, but after 25 years my pot is almost out and I’m saving it for Vampire Counts where I want to colour match.

They will get transfers eventually, but I’m not prepared to mess around with those in hot weather when my skin is greasy and my temper short. Transfers are not something I’ve historically messed with and I only have so many on this single Horus Heresy sheet what I own – I’m not taking risks with them.

All of this is about as much effort as I’m prepared to make on a miniature. I can do five of these in two days and I tend to get the shakes somewhere in the middle of the plate stage. I am, however, quite pleased with the results. These models don’t all have as much obnoxious trim as the later Chaos range (probably because a lot of the bits are from Iron Hands or Heresy era kits) and have come out looking a little plainer, but I think that works for a team of operatives who’ve been out fighting the Long War forever and a day – hence designating them a go-to Kill Team who may eventually be rotated out of the lines as new models join the army.

I’m also working on the Eye of the Warmaster, my Sorcerer, although I’m not entirely pleased with him yet. That black undercoat has really done the drabs on him and I suspect I’ll need to give the gold a nice strong highlight to put some pop back into him. I may also flip the base colours around so there’s something nice and pale directly under his feet: at the moment he’s one big dark-n-boring blob. The final option is giving up on the “token member of the Black Legion” conceit I originally had in mind, and just painting him up as a goddamn Night Lord. Or Thousand Son. He does look quite… Tzeentchy.

I’m open to suggestions, if you have any.