[WFB] Seeing the Wood for the Trees

The background for the Deadwood Covenant has become… convoluted. This is why I don’t normally do backstories; the moment one starts playing, new contexts emerge, options become clarified through experience, and sooner or later much of what you devised at the start is being jostled out by newer ideas. Not necessarily better ones – just newer. This is especially true with wargames, where you might come out of the gate with An Idea and then discover that it don’t work like that in The Rules and suddenly you’re in the jaws of the Stormwind Fallacy again because making stories and doing well are not aligned in productive harmony.

What follows will not be deliciously tuned and well crafted prose: this is another of those posts in which I dump my thoughts out on the table and poke them about with a fork in public, thinking aloud rather than presenting fully formed and concrete ideas, freeing up brain tape so I can move on to the next step of refining and reorganising the raw ideas. Thus, straight from the notes folder:

Original Concept

TESSONFROID in BRETONNIA: a realm afflicted by permanent winter
Uneasy alliance between Wood Elf and Bretonnian courts
Wood Elves keep forgetting there’s a truce — why?
Family curse; the ruling aristocracy made a deal with the Forest Spirits, trading their life force to keep the forest alive
they are now Alter Kindred; no Wood Elves can be in charge; general has to be a Forest Spirit
Thus: the Maven.

ISSUE ENCOUNTERED: one Branchwraith isn’t enough to keep a whole army together, turning down Leadership 9 or 10 is a Folly; the concept does not work in The Rules at 2000 points.
I introduced the Druid (a Spellweaver) to give me a Leadership 9 Level 4 wizard as general, a comfort zone thing, and Gwydion the Battle Standard Bearer. Why are they called Gwydion and the Druid? Because of a Bill Bailey skit I doubt anyone but myself or Shiny will laugh at.

ISSUE ENCOUNTERED: Resurrection created the need for a divergent storyline as it locks the army into a different location (the Badlands)…

Solo Campaign

The Maven & The Witch opened the tin lid on a lot of backstory:

Introduced the full Court of the Crag — Prince Hywel, Gwydion and Gilfaethwy, Bloddeuwydd the Spellsinger.
Introduced High Tiernmas, an ancient kingdom of barbarians. Pre-Bretonni. Clearly a bit necromantic as they ended up being Tomb Kings… well, Barrow Kings. Last king, name of Grimgroth, personally put down by the Wood Elves when they arrived. Twin Princes also: Drognar Nar Janath and Jadan Nar Garoth.
Introduced the Heart of the Forest, a magical location which the Maven was counting on to sort itself out and end the winter one day.

Reflecting on this Grimgroth character and on the rules possibilities of fourth/fifth edition Warhammer, I also introduced the Crown of Sorcery! Dragged up here by Orcs migrating back from the Badlands after the sack of Mourkain, it became the heirloom crown of the kingdom of Tiernmas.
One presumes the Wood Elves came out of Athel Loren to put a stop to all that necromancy going on in said barbarian kingdom, couldn’t destroy the Crown but could seal it away, and settled down there to keep an eye on it.
THEN SOMETHING HAPPENED — against some existential threat (the adversary in a fifth edition game), a Highborn of the Asrai put on the Crown of Sorcery (against the advice of his druidic advisor). WHATEVER THE OUTCOME, the Crown had to go, and the Druid went away to get rid of it (taking it all the way to Troll Country to be sure and returning it to its place in the true canon lore TM).

CAVEAT: none of this can be anything to do with the eternal winter, because that’s not my story element to interfere with; that’s Shiny’s thing.

Resurrection Campaign

So the Deadwood Covenant did a Worldroots walk to protect the Forest of Gloom during all this upheaval in the main campaign storyline.
They didn’t do well: the Maven died a death, Prince Hywel is an Alter Kindred so he can’t be in charge even if he is thinking more clearly now the curse is loosened, so he made a new bargain with the Forest of Gloom, getting his daughter Bloddeuwydd back as a new Maven.
All this has been sent to the campaign organiser so it’s LOCKED AND CANON now! I can’t do my usual “malleable backstory to justify the list I want to take this time” tricks.

Bloddeuwydd is a mage with the Glamourweave upgrade (making her a Forest Spirit so she can lead an army) but she has to ride a Unicorn (I’ve got the model, this is fine). She doesn’t have to be the Lord though — I could take a Treeman Ancient, and since my Treeman has been the absolute star of my games so far I’m not entirely opposed to this.

Asrai Forge

While thinking about the army’s characters and story I’ve also been thinking about army lists, magic items and so on. I’ve reached a point where my units have names – the Black-Briar are my Glade Guard, the Pale Rose my Eternal Guard, and I’ve decided Celyn and Eiddew will be my newly subordinate Branchwraiths. Now I’m thinking about magic items – building a continuity between games is a lot easier when your characters feel like the same people because they do the same things on the battlefield. I went through the Wood Elf army book and made a couple of lists:

Theme Items I Should Use

  • Callach’s Claw
  • Sword of a Thousand Winters
  • Briarsheath (I named my Glade Guard the Black-Briars, so…)
  • Glamourweave
  • Amaranthine Brooch (Shiny’s Damsel is named Amaranthe, and also, this is a thing and so is this)
  • Fimbulwinter Shard
  • Hagbane Tips (Thank you MilitantKakapo for the suggestion of harvesting the Maven’s body for arrows! It’s probably going in the Resurrection list at least…)
  • Banner of Midwinter

Good Items I Like Using

  • Bow of Loren
  • Helm of the Hunt
  • Hail of Doom (and Asyendi’s Bane as a delivery system, off the Battle Standard Bearer; I don’t like dodging the “no longbow” restriction, but I do like that this one stings back if it misses, and I think I can accept it as a one shot “spell-like ability”, reminiscent of Total War’s Talon of Kurnous)
  • Arcane Bodkins
  • Elyneth’s Brooch
  • Gwytherc’s Horn
  • Calingoir’s Stave
  • Banner of Springtide

I haven’t bothered to list Common Magic Items: these are the old standbys to which I always turn when I have space and time, and I’ll always have room in my heart for a Sword of Might, a War Banner or one Dispel Scroll for the bread and butter effects.

I also haven’t gone deep on Spites. I like the Annoyance of Netlings and Cluster of Radiants a lot, and credit is once again due to comrade Kakapo for pointing out that the Resplendence of Luminescents goes a long way on, say, the Druid and a Glade Guard bunker, giving me options that aren’t the Hail of Doom for dealing with Daemons / Spirit Hosts / other Forest Spirit friends. I tend to forget about Spites when not equipping a Branchwraith and that’s something I want to work on as I tune the characters further in the future.

My hope is that they’ll settle, eventually, into the kind of setup Lord Ruthven and his coterie have achieved – minor adjustments as they drift back and forth between editions and list variants, but not losing their fundamental identities.

Prince Hywel is the cursed founder of a dynasty he can never lead; a warrior par excellence but nothing but a warrior. Gilfaethwy and Gwydion are of a pair; arrogant and dangerous hunters of the deep wood. Bloddeuwydd is the voice of reason, but deepest in the forest’s clutches since her death and resurrection.

My poor Battle Standard Bearer – well, he’s where I start making sacrifices for the sake of actually winning a battle now and then, because I find it hard to get a decent story out of “being whooped so hard we really should all be dead by now”. The photocopy special here is Asyendi’s Bane and the Hail of Doom but I think I like the Hail more on Prince Hywel and I want the Banner of Midwinter as my Army Standard, dammit. (From a strict optimisation perspective it should go on the regiment of Eternal Guard, but I think I can argue for wanting the War Banner there or on the Glade Guard and since both of my War Banner candidates look the same… aesthetics and WYSIWYG are a compelling case. Means I can’t take the War Banner on the Wild Riders, but they’re better off cheap I think.) He needs a new name as well as there are just too many Gwydions flying around here (and I want to keep the “Gwydion and the Druid” reference for my Lord and Archmage in the fifth edition “history” list).

And there’s a vacancy for a new Lord, since the siren song of Leadership 10 can only be ignored for so long. The idea here is that the new Lord – hello Nivienne – isn’t cursed, and may actually be able to liberate the Deadwood, given time and good advice, and can at least keep the scheming forest spirits under control. Bow of Loren, Briarsheath, Fimbulwinter Shard and Arcane Bodkins should make for a very hard-to-hit sniper with some “forest spirits stay away” flavour; the alternative is really leaning into having taken what’s left of the Maven and turned her into weaponry, with the Callach’s Claw, Hagbane Arrows, Fimbulwinter Shard again and Gwythec’s Horn to keep any unit she joins robust in the face of terror. Maybe I’ll try that second build at Resurrection 3 and 4, since that’s a much more themey event and I’m on a hiding to nothing in the campaign anyway.

Muster The Kindred

Finally there’s the matter of models. I have a fair amount of stuff in the painting queue already, as discussed in the roundup post:

  • 12 Eternal Guard (primed)
  • Branchwraith (primed)
  • archer Highborn/Noble (primed)
  • 2 Great Eagles (assembled)
  • 5 Wild Riders (assembled, but break every time the cat farts in the next room)
  • 16 Dryads (on sprue)
  • Treeman (on sprue)

You may have gathered that I do not fully respect the Wild Rider models, which are firmly from the new “designed for the Studio, failing at life” tradition of casting and assembly. Lovely display pieces, but in a foam case on public transport they’re not up to code.

I am also having second thoughts about the big Treeman; the first was enormous fun to assemble but again, case and space are iron laws and he’s a bit spindly around the twiggy bits. Can I transport two without a second box that takes me into the realm of “games for the motorised” – which I am not.

Help, however, is at hand. Dead Earth’s cavalry have been repackaged into a “Beastrider Wars” range and made available for 3D printing; I have also been directed to a 3D printing firm who are said to do one-off runs to the acceptable standard.

My current wheeze is to pick up the Stag Riders I’ve had my eye on for a while, as well as their rather spiffy Raven Riders (they do Warhawks, but given the option of a giant corvid I’ll take the giant corvid), and liquidate the Citadel Wild Riders (dreadful spindly things) and Eagles (fine models but a little oversized and intimidating to paint; I’ve had them for a year and don’t feel like taking them on; besides, I could just use MORE TREEMAN).

As for the Treeman, Raging Heroes do a set of three more modestly proportioned lads who might do nicely on 50mm squares. They’re taller than the Tree-Kin anyway, although maybe not large enough to be Large Targets. I shall contemplate them on the Tree of Woe, but as I type I feel more inclined to either build another big bugger OR keep my eye out for some decent Waywatcher proxies.

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