[V:tM] On SPC Design in V5

The following process is an attempt to patch over one of the most glaring omissions from the V5 book: designing a Storyteller Played Character that operates within a fairly comprehensive sense of “the rules.” At the end of the day the Storyteller is a player too, albeit one with a different set of responsibilities: that’s why I don’t like to call them VtM NPCs, and why I like to have my SPCs operate on the same plane as the players’ characters have to, even if they have a lot of advantages.

(For visual handholds, and because I forgot I had them: a few images of my extended STPC family, as drawn by a Discord buddy I’m afraid I lost touch with. hubris, if you’re out there, thanks a lot for these, they still make me smile!)

Sorcha: a Gifted Fledgling,
do not underestimate her,
but do not estimate her too highly either.

How to build an SPC

Start with a Mortal template from page 185, depending on how strong you want the character to be. Careful observation reveals that a Gifted template is roughly equivalent to a fledgling PC: their Attributes won’t be as strong but their Skills will be more developed. Deadly is super strong and should be reserved for the biggest and baddest dudes around; even my STPC isn’t Deadly! Weak is absolutely feeble in vampire terms and should be reserved for characters whose dramatic role is tied up with failure.

If you’re struggling to pick their Skills, assign them a Profession (page 145), a Life Event for each century they’ve been around (page 146) and four or so Pastimes (page 146 again).

Also, look ahead to their Disciplines and Predator Type and make sure they’re appropriately kitted out with the Skills listed there. They don’t have to be good – you might design an SPC to be crap – but consider that three dots is “trained and practising to professional standard” and that an experienced Kindred is probably at that standard in what they need to get by night to night.

If the same Skill comes up twice, assign a Speciality to it.

Any leftovers get put into the Skills that are important for your chronicle’s style. Mine tend to be Insight, Awareness, Streetwise, Subterfuge and Athletics, because I run a chronicle that’s about second-guessing the motives of others and rolling with a surprise fight when it happens. Your mileage may vary.

Take all the Flaws from the Mortal Template, as this gives your SPC some weird weaknesses that diligent players can uncover and exploit. (I’m a big fan of Folkloric Banes and Blocks on my elders, for instance.) I think this is an important part of Vampire – the more old and powerful a Kindred is, the more they need a few specific eccentricities and vulnerabilities. It makes them feel more inhuman, and it gives the PCs a fighting chance.

Then add the following vampire mechanics, including all the extra Specialities and Backgrounds from their Predator Type. (I like to give SPCs both of the either/or Specialities to represent them having some different developed strategies for feeding. If they’re total babies with no idea, they might not get a Predator Type at all. Thinbloods don’t get any of this stuff at all.)

Fledgling

■ ■ 1 Blood Potency, Humanity 7
■ ■ Disciplines: Clan (2, 1), Predator Type (+1 from one)

Neonate

■ ■ 2 Blood Potency, Humanity 6
■ ■ Disciplines: Clan (2, 1), Predator Type (+1 in both), +1 anywhere

Ancilla

■ ■ 3 Blood Potency, Humanity 5
■ ■ Disciplines: Clan (3, 2, 1) Predator Type (+ 1 in both), +2 anywhere

Elder

■ ■ 4 Blood Potency, Humanity 4
■ ■ Disciplines: Clan (4, 3, 2) Predator Type (+1 in both), +3 anywhere

Adjust all this by Predator Type as normal, so a really scary elder might get Blood Leech (for Blood Potency 5 Humanity 3) or a particularly kindly ancilla might take Consensualist (for Humanity 7, probably a better person than the PCs).

Next, give your SPCs a Coterie Type. You might want to have a group of them working together (if they’re meant to be lowkey rivals who are on the PCs’ level) or maybe assign all those Backgrounds to one more senior figure and assume they have some lesser Kindred operating the machine behind their back (Weak or Average builds).

I do this so I can quantify exactly what resources my SPCs has to call on outside of direct confrontation. The PCs don’t necessarily get a fair fight but they do get one that exists and operates in the same systemic terms as their abilities, rather than me just going “oh yeah the prince can do that because they’re prince”. I often use the Background ratings of the SPCs to set the Difficulty of conflicts with them, and of course SPC Backgrounds make great targets for PC Projects if you’re using that subsystem.

Alistair: if I’d known how much the players would love him,
I’d have made him Deadly,
just to nail the sheer badassery they think he has.

You can do a lot of odd things with this template. I set up a Weak Ancilla as the first primogen my current crop of Anarch players took down: he was out of his depth, after his time and generally the weakest link in the Camarilla’s chain. Their Mawla, meanwhile, is a Gifted Neonate: he’s only been undead thirty years, but he had a long and hard life as a ghoul before then and he has a lot of tricks up his sleeve. I will say that I’m not sure how to make sense out of a Deadly Fledgling or Weak Elder, though…

How to tune your SPCs for conflict

So far, so good, but there is (as I discovered) a world of difference between building an SPC who works on paper and building one who can actually stand up to a group of PCs and make their players feel a bit sweaty. Midway through the Wild Roses chronicle (at the end of Act One, which was about twice the length of the others), I actually had to redraw my entire SPC roster because I’d dramatically underestimated what they needed to accomplish.

The main thing to think about is action economy. Your SPC gets to do one thing in a round, the PCs get to do one each.

Obviously the easiest way around this is to bring minions via the Background dots. Retainers and Allies have mechanical details already, as does the Haven: Watchmen perk (most of my SPCs have this one), but if you really want to crank the odds against your PCs, build an SPC with a big Herd and lean into the “perform basic services” aspect. When push comes to shove, a Herd can put a lot of bodies into play and enough Weak dice pools can overwhelm any PC, one bare-minimum point of damage at a time. Ask the Roses how unnerving it was to set up and bushwhack a Toreador ancilla only to discover he’d turned up with thirty men against the four of them and a pig.

For an SPC to feel powerful one-on-one they have to build dice pools big enough that they can afford to split them between players if they need to. Pick up extra dice from Specialities (don’t be afraid to give an SPC a signature weapon and corresponding speciality, that extra die goes a long way). Build bigger defensive pools with Celerity: Rapid Reflexes and Fleetness. And don’t be afraid to Blood Surge for more dice, especially since an SPC can and should be throwing around higher Blood Potency numbers than some playable neonate.

Santino, who has one dot in hoo, a whole bunch of useful Disciplines.
Oblivion’s Sight, Lethal Body and Daunt go a long way!

After that it’s a question of Disciplines and tactics. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it should give you some ideas to get started with. A lot of these ideas will involve going deep into one Discipline: the template I’ve shown above often gives them four or five dots in one place and I’m not afraid to use them.

  • stop themselves being attacked by throwing around a crowd control Discipline like Presence: Daunt, Dread Gaze or Majesty, or Potence: Earthshock, or the stealth hit of Fortitude: Flesh of Marble (not exactly crowd control, but serves the same purpose of keeping player attacks off your back). Oblivion, the way the Lasombra play it, is pretty good for incapacitating players, especially in social conflicts (stack Oblivion: Cloak of Shadows and Presence: Daunt for a Lasombra to whom no will not be said).
  • hit hard enough that they can Impair a player in one round and force someone to play defensively. Protean: Feral Claws or Potence: Prowess are good picks here, and once the SPC’s Hunger builds up a swift and brutal combat feeding with Potence: Brutal Feed can rip through a player’s health track. I used this with Celerity: Blink to create a three-round-kill sheriff who, alone, could incapacitate any one of my PCs.
  • facetank! Fortitude is a powerhouse of a Discipline for SPCs. Resilience, Toughness and Defy Bane will give your character a longer Health track, make it take longer to fill up, and manage the Aggravated damage that could incapacitate them quickly. Prowess from Pain bears special mention here as it puts more dice in the SPC’s pools and keeps them fighting for longer. Socially, Unswayable Mind and Fortify the Inner Facade keep the SPC ticking over nicely. And word must always go out to Defy Bane, which is perfect for extending a Conflict just that little bit longer without making it feel insurmountable.
  • bring some friends! Animalism is the classic Discipline for this one: bring a Famulus along, and either Unliving Hive or Enduring Beasts to keep ’em effective for longer. At the very top end, Animal Dominion can keep multiple PCs occupied. Oblivion can also work for this if you have Cults of the Blood Gods and fancy going a bit necromantic: nobody should mess with a Hecata on home turf if they know what’s good for them.
  • flatten the players’ dice pools. Animalism: Quell the Beast or Blood Sorcery: Extinguish Vitae take options and outcomes away from players and make them feel powerless in a given situation. In social conflicts, Dominate: Dementation chips away at available Willpower and that has a huge knock-on effect in terms of player resources. At least, it does if yours are as reroll-happy as the Wild Roses were. Be careful with this one, as players who feel deprived of agency are not happy players. I think you can get away with this once or twice in a story as a big flex, and the SPC who did it will be resented for ever (alas, Baron Kilkennie, I really hoped you’d be their friend).

Why Do It Like This At All?

It is certainly possible to get by without ever setting proper stats for your SPCs, in an “only players roll” style: just use the table on the ST Screen to set appropriate difficulties for all their rolls based on the significance of the challenge they’re up against, with the occasional “you’re outmatched, but each success will ‘save’ a level of damage” really scary roll.

However, I like to build my SPCs in more depth. This gives me more of an idea of who they are as people, and it also reassures me that I’m engaging my players within the same rules that they use to interact with my world. It feels more fair. Not every group is so far up the trust tree that we can abandon the dice altogether and play mother-may-I for over a hundred Sunday evenings. If that lightning hasn’t struck again, I think it’s important to operate within a shared set of rules, and apply those rules to my gameplay as well.

I hope all this has been of some use to you. If it has, let me know in the comments. If there’s something else you want to ask about V5, hit me up there too: I may well have some backed-up Vampire thoughts after a year of finally running the current edition.

[WFB] Fragments, inter alia

Lords

The Master – Master Necromancer – magic level 4, Talisman of Endurance, Feedback Scroll

Heroes

Margarita di Maddaloni – Vampire – shield, Biting Blade, Nightshroud, Aura of Dark Majesty, Dark Acolyte

Cora – Banshee

Clarice – Banshee

Core

Company of the Black Eagle – 39 Skeletons – champion, musician, standard bearer (Screaming Banner)

Templehof Pals – 20 Zombies – musician, standard bearer

5 Dire Wolves

5 Dire Wolves

The Local People – 10 Ghouls – Ghast

Special

Order of the Black Cross – 8 Black Knights – champion, musician, standard bearer

Black Monks of St. Herod – 1 Spirit Host

2 Bat Swarms

Rare

Crimson Order of the Dragon – 4 Blood Knights – champion, musician, standard bearer (Rampager’s Standard)

Lord Ruthven’s Repose – Black Coach

Total: 2000 points on the dot


The above represents a good faith attempt to recreate my fifth edition army list in eighth edition. The conditions of construction are as follows:

  1. the List is to avail itself of newfangled opportunities where possible (the Skeletons deploy in Horde formation, the off-colour Knights receive a vampiric upgrade)
  2. the List is to respect the necessities of the edition (a level 4 wizard and a secondary Lore of the Vampires caster)
  3. the List is to preserve the character of the original (Margarita as off-caster doing something useful for the army and helping out with wolves, Lord Ruthven as “absent presence” in his Black Coach, with the core units providing further continuity)
  4. the List must be constructed with models I already own (hence none of the “only in eighth” goodies like Terrorgheists, Mortis Engines or Crypt Horrors; while I like these things well enough they are dramatically out of keeping with the late-Nineties/early-Noughties aesthetic of the army as it stands and also I’m not buying them)

There are things I’d consider jimmying about. I’d like a magic standard on the Black Cross (even if ’tis but a War Banner), and I could go for Beguile and Summon Creatures of the Night on Margarita if I had more Dire Wolf models. I would also consider the Rod of Flaming Death instead of the Nightshroud, because I find that item hilarious (and it has a lot of battlefield control potential!) and the Banshees are just there for nostalgia’s sake, I could easily replace them with something else (in which case I would change out Margarita’s powers and the Skeletons’ magic banner and stop trying to make Fear happen).

I know it’s somewhat idiosyncratic. I wanted to avoid the photocopy special (Ghoul King Dragonbane Gem Red Fury blah blah Terrorgheist Mortis Engine yawn yawn Ghoul Horde fiddle fart) and instead try to uphold the spirit of the army as it was originally created.

This mania has in no way been inspired by the extended narrative on offer at Big Small Worlds, an exhaustive and quietly competent Warhammer campaign played under eighth edition rules that’s been occupying a lot of my screen time lately. Not at all.


“Why are you doing this instead of painting Wood Elves, Jonathan?”

Well, because it’s festival season, which means pop up book stalls, which means a lot of extra work for muggins ‘ere and I don’t really have the mojo to paint when I get home. This week I’ve been playing Total Warhammer instead, because it’s there and the vampire factions have received a little bit of a retool (not quite enough to make me enjoy Count Noctilus’ early game, but enough to get me over the midgame hump of Sylvania and into a position where I could win a campaign if I put a weekend into it).

I have every intention of getting back to the Wood Elves in September, once two out of three festivals are done with and I have a nine day streak off work. I’ve acquired the necessary materials to produce a new general, some Wild Riders and an additional Treeman in time for Resurrection II in November, and intend to give those units a good crack of the whip. Beyond this there are sixteen Dryads, another ten Eternal Guard and two Great Eagles to paint. I have my eye on a final character (further exploiting the scale difference between Citadel and North Star figures to make my heroes truly “heroic scale”) and I’ve just lately discovered that the Oathmark range is about to develop some cavalry figures, allowing me to add Glade Riders to the assembled Covenant.

Nevertheless, a comforatable “done” is in sight for the Wood Elf project, probably around the 3000 point mark. It’ll all depend on how they perform at Resurrection II. There will come a point where a chain of defeats no longer forges a narrative worth the hearing, and if I sustain another brace of defeats there’s every chance that something slightly more cadaverous in nature will turn out for the 2022 season. See, Warhammer: Resurrection is to expand into a biannual narrative weekend as well as a heat-heat-final series of tournaments, and this expanded arena may be able to contain certain larger-than-life personalities who’ve been on the outs for a couple of years now…

Rumours of his death? Exaggerated.
Rumours of his retirement? Premature.
You can’t keep a bad guy down…

This is what’s on my mind at the moment, Warhammer-wise. As well as maybe liquidating some of the Tomb Kings. I wonder if I don’t like the idea of myself as a Tomb Kings player more than the reality of it, and I still don’t feel in love with the Mantic models, whereas Oathmark’s plastics and the TTCombat resin elites do speak to my soul rather more. Oathmark’s figures are also a fat sight easier to paint in the classic dip-and-go style and that might be what I need right now.

Another option would be breaking the habit of a lifetime and paying someone to paint them for me. If anyone knows a reasonably priced tabletop standard commission service, lemme know in the comments. I can supply several cans of my own primer that I’d be very glad to get out of the house.

[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…