2000 points. Pitched Battle. Hold your breath: tournament prep.
With a week off work and Warhammer: Resurrection on the horizon (still touch and go whether the event can go ahead or not, but we’re assuming yes until we hear no), it was about damn time I took the Deadwood Covenant out for a spin against a real live other person. People’s Prince Ben was available with his usual Elves of a rather loftier persuasion (he also brought Skaven, but under the circumstances we opted for one solid, considered, properly documented game). The venue was a recently re-opened Bristol Independent Gaming, and a pleasure it was to be back there too.
Rearguard scenario. 1200 points of Wood Elves vs. 600 points of Vampire Counts.
My original plan for this one was to stage a nice big climactic Ambush scenario, but then I actually bothered to read the rules for that one and realised it was built for a 6′ by 4′ table; I could only get away with it by so compressing the Undead deployment zone into a straight line, and we already played that one last week…
So I went back to basics: look at the board, think about the story, choose something that works. I’d been hacking at the scenario trying to encourage the Undead into moving for one specific table quarter, containing the Heart of the Forest; what I needed was a scenario that turned on one specific table quarter, and cast one army in a position of desperation (after the stonking the Undead had taken so far).
First up, baby’s first Special choice: some Tree-Kin, formerly known as Spite-Revenants.
I’m not entirely sure about these. They’re a little bit too blue, I think, and I don’t particularly trust the only white paint I have to hand as a highlight or next layer. But anything else I do with them has come out looking a bit naff, so I’m going to call them done until an idea presents itself.
Their completion gives me the full 1000 points I need to finish The Maven & The Witch, so all being well expect a wrap up on that this time next week.
I am pretty sure of Prince Hywel of the Crag. Even if each successive photo highlighted another thing that needed tweaking, after the fourth I am very satisfied indeed. Made a bit more of an effort on him, introducing a little bone and a platinum highlight here and there. Nothing that breaks the palette, just… nudging it a little.
In game terms, he’s an Alter Noble or Highborn; great weapon, “light armour and shield” (half-oaken body and a parrying stance), Glamourweave and the Helm of the Hunt.
I hadn’t planned on a Lord choice, but I want to give myself the option. Having signed up for Warhammer: Resurrection (two day event to be held in the summer, lockdowns permitting), and pledged the Wood Elves to the cause, I shall have to get some test games in and see how the No Lords policy holds up.
The woods were waking up. Slow, sluggish, breathing deep and laboured in the perpetual cold, but clawing their way to life and fury, answering the Maven’s call.
Her allies had answered, better late than never; the kinbands of the Black-Briar crept at her side, arrows nocked. Her sisters strode at her back, and in the whisper of leaves she heard that others were on their way, drifting down from the high vale beyond the river.
And the dead were coming. Score by score, bony feet shuffling through the snow. One clutched an old bronze blade to its chest; one had its head thrown back, its hollow throat raised in a dreadful monotone chant.
There was no time to wake her brothers, no time to wait for the Court. The Heart was in peril and the time to act was now.
I have, in the past, had some things to say about pick-up gaming, tournament practice, Pitched Battle and the unsatisfactory takeaway of the soul that this kind of setup tends to result in. Of course, it’s very easy to thump one’s tub on the dot-coms and tell people they’re doing Warhammer wrong, which is why I’ve decided to “share best practice” like what my teacher training taught me to do.
What follows is an attempt to lead by example: a wargaming day myself and Mr. Ben staged in the summer of 2019 before the borders were closed and Trafnidiaeth Cymru nerfed into the ground. As hosting player, I had a look through the available resources and picked some scenarios appropriate to the participants, the terrain, and the timeframe we had available.
The forces in these little engagements are my Tomb Kings, in their embryonic “first attempt at a paint job” state, and Ben’s Skaven, in their “what do you mean you’re doing another new army” launch condition. The terrain selection is the Age of Sigmar stuff I acquired in a good-faith attempt to give Soul Wars a go during my year off blogging. The timeframe was a long afternoon, kicking off about noon and ending about six with late lunch at the local hostelry. (We’d reserved the evening for a round of Drunkhammer featuring our “main” armies, and that may see the light of day at some point too.)
I – The Border Patrol
(Rules for which can be found in Warhammer Chronicles 2004, if you’re interested. A Border Patrol usually takes sixty minutes or less to play, if you’re on form and keep your bustle hustled.)
This little encounter represented a Skaven incursion into the outer reaches of the necropolis of Rasetra. The scenery was set up to suggest the outer edge of a poorly fortified settlement; we had a house rule that attacking Skaven units could charge the fences and spend a combat phase knocking them down, as they weren’t terribly robust. The forces were deployed in opposite corners because that made most sense with the orientation of the buildings (and corner deployment always makes a nice change).
Ben lost this one. This is mostly because the Screaming Skull Catapult is very, very good at panicking Skaven units and the compulsory Liche Priest did nothing but ensure it could shoot twice every turn. Some Clanrats did make it some way into the Necropolis and regained a little glory by beating up my Skeleton Archers, but it wasn’t to last. All of this meant I would be setting up second and going first in the final game, as the Tomb Kings seized the initiative above ground.
II – The Skirmish
For our second game we played the Lost Tomb of Hamon Ra scenario from Warhammer Skirmish (the book of scenarios which expands on the Skirmish rules in the core manual; I believe most of it’s available in other forms online).
Some jimmying of the forces to suit available models was required – I had an Ushabti instead of the two Tomb Swarm bases – and we house ruled a little regarding the “crumble” moment, allowing my Tomb Prince a small radius of Leadership to keep some of his associates on their feet after my Liche Priest was destroyed.
Victory for the Skaven would deny the Tomb Kings 10% of their forces in the final battle (and if we’d been playing 2000 points as we originally hoped to, would also deny me the Crown of Kings).
The scenery here is set up to denote the outer walls of the Tomb and provide some internal decoration. There’s not a great deal of cover, although we were generous regarding figures stood immediately behind a sarcophagus or gravestone.
We were at this one for something like two hours as models fluffed hit rolls, wound rolls, injury rolls, and the endless loop of “can’t disengage from melee, can’t roll fives or sixes” set in. In retrospect I now know that Mordheim has a workaround for this (knocked down or stunned models are automatically taken out if wounded) and if Skirmish doesn’t have that I advise bringing it in. The other option is playing Warbands instead: Warbands has the traditional “fail save, lose last wound, you’re dead” resolution and tends to result in faster, more decisive games.
On the flipside, Skirmish also generates moments of real excitement, as even the disposable single-wound trooper can roll over, dust themself down and stage a comeback.
In our game the Skaven Assassin gave his all to destroy the Liche Priest, only to be cut down by a Tomb Prince moments later, and it was a mere Clanrat who retrieved the prize and dodged past an enraged Ushabti to make his final break for the surface, a lone survivor carrying the treasure of the Tomb.
(Ben won, that’s what I’m trying to say here.)
III – The Battle
With the Crown in the hands of the Skaven, we opted for a Breakthrough scenario, in which the Rodents of Unusual Size attempted to make their escape with their ill-gotten gains. I only had 1500 points of Tomb Kings so 1500 points is what we played, or rather 1500 vs 1350 as I’d lost the second game. I think I left out two Ushabti and my Icon Bearer’s magic flag. The terrain was essentially a flip of the first encounter; this time the Skaven would have the open space and the Tomb Kings holding the line on the fenced side of the battlefield.
I don’t really remember much about this game other than struggling to get anything done magically (turns out one Liche Priest isn’t enough at 1500 points, especially against two Warlock Engineers) and my Catapult not putting in the same sterling performance (only one shot per turn and an early misfire). It only went to about four turns – once my Ushabti had folded I didn’t have the speed to close off every avenue of assault and most of Ben’s army had free reign to move off the board.
What I do remember is the context of it. Because we’d set it up with the distraction raid and the temple pillaging, there were mechanical twists to an otherwise routine engagement, rewards for having done well in the early stages. Continuity was furthered by the terrain we used for the first and third battles.
Beyond that, because Ben won (again), my Tomb Kings now have something to do with themselves in future encounters, to whit going out to recover the Crown or maybe fighting their way home after having done so. All my future games with Ben, and maybe the entire backstory of my new army, can be shaped by the outcome of this only-slightly-curated day of play.
All of this was done with by-the-book armies, published scenarios, and terrain I already owned. I don’t think I’d even named my characters at the time! No extraordinary or even especial effort on our part was called for – we were just curious and selective about the wealth of additional material on offer in sixth edition WFB.
We could have simply played a Breakthrough scenario at 1500 points, and when we might have three people wanting a game each on neutral ground with strict departure times hanging over our head, that’s the sort of thing we settle for. But if you have the opportunity to do even a little prelude or aftermath for a game, to make a day of it and weave a little context and set the scenario up as something more than yet another points matched game of Borehammer, I heartily recommend you do so.
What with one thing and another, these models took their sweet time arriving. As a late backer I expected to be at the end of the queue anyway, but there’s an unhappy middle ground between “GIEF THINGS NOW” and “dang, forgot I backed that” in which the ole buyer’s remorse sets in and I start looking up how to chargeback. Big love to Troll Trader as a company though, they’ve been swift and honest in their communications and while my expectations were not perfectly managed, I am perhaps more neurotic than the average customer and this must be borne in mind.
After two half days on the assembly line the bulk of my stuff is ready to show off and talk about. The Chariots aren’t done yet as I shall need to paint them before full assembly, lots of reaching past painted bits will ensue if I don’t.
Usual rigmarole: product starts off with a 5/5 and I knock off a point for everything that disgruntles me. I’ll say up front that I don’t like resin kits as a rule, and some of these make me see what all the fuss was about over Finecast. Nothing is getting points docked just for being made of this stuff but when the material has let down the sculpt you will be hearing about it.
Character models: two Kings, two Liches (one off the limited edition Chariot, which I promptly split up into more game-ready dispositions). These are more than adequate; the staves are a little bendy and the pieces dance in my clumsy fingers, and a few feet and fingers snapped during the shipping and prep. I’m not sure if that’s the brittleness of the material or flaws in the casts; nothing insurmountable, in any case. 4/5.
Carrion: these were clearly designed for form over function. The poses are nice, the detail pretty crisp, but they are attached to their bases by tiny and often singular ankle joints. Two of them have wings that will come off the moment they’re put in a case. 3/5 for being a ballache. They look good though.
Scorpions: I rate these, they’re cute as buttons and easy to assemble. I could whinge about the overhang on the bases (how is this supposed to stand in base to base contact, mm?) but GW did worse so it really would be petty of me. 5/5, they’re neat.
Catapult: Head on it looks fine, but turn it sideways and… oof. The framework and arm are cast in some sort of rubber that can’t support its own weight and sags distressingly even when it’s sat in my display case. Unfit for purpose. Such a shame as it’s otherwise a really nice sculpt; the base block and crew are lovely. I’ve emailed TrollTrader about this as I’m not convinced it isn’t a dud cast that got rushed out in the hurry to finish shipping. Nothing else in the pack was floppy! 0/5, pending a response.
UPDATE: well, TrollTrader got their asses in gear and sent out replacement parts, so that’s brownie points for them! 5/5 for the Catapult, you don’t have to base it so I’m not taking points off for it being too big for the chariot base.
Casket: a nice conceit but honestly a bit silly, with the Keeper perched in top like that, and did not warrant the huge base it came with. I’ve rebased mine and will be parking a Priest in front of it on the table. Goes together very well though and I like what they’re trying to do with a difficult concept, it just looks a bit weedy for a 0-1 army-wrecking Rare choice. 3/5.
Giant: 5/5. Good sculpt, sensibly cut, fits together very tidily and has some great presence on the table. I’m looking forward to painting this, and I don’t say that very often.
All of this, plus other deliveries and a crisis at work, has meant the next instalment of The Maven & The Witch is postponed for another week – but it is coming! In the last month I have done 600 points of Wood Elves, plenty for a Woodland Attack; the Maven will thus be bringing some archers along to see how they perform on a deeper table. Her adversaries will be drawn from the Vampire Counts list, as I don’t think these Tomb Kings will be traded out. I like them too much.
Warhammer Skirmish; Vampire Hunt scenario, hacked for speed running.
I compressed the battlefield down to 2 feet square, as before; removed the attackers’ supporting troops, as injury rolls have a tendency to bloat and delay the Skirmish experience; and I gave the Vampire a set location and set her victory condition to “escape” rather than “kill they heroes.”
Thaniel had told his story three times in two days. Once to himself, as he hurried through the deep pathways of Deadwood, so fast and so far that even his sure elven feet had betrayed him here and there. Once to Rychell, and the veteran had nodded gravely and led him up here…
He knew the Court. He knew what to expect. But it was still a strange feeling, to see four gnarled and blasted stumps and to stand at the point between them, to address them by name and to watch as flesh flickered out of splinter and shadow, as the lords and ladies of Deadwood came back to hear the tale.
Mostly. Prince Hwel had not come, and Thaniel was grateful for that small mercy.
“It happens to us all,” Lord Gwydion said, and “not to me” Lord Gilfaethwy said, and that had been an end to Thaniel’s apologies. The Lady Bloddeuwydd had said nothing at all, until Thaniel’s tale was told, and then:
“Grimgroth did not raise himself from the dead. His crown was taken. His will was broken. Someone broke those seals; someone stirred him up and set him loose.”
“Some interloper,”said the Lord Gilfaethwy, and “some necromancer,” said the Lord Gwydion.
“Someone who has roused the Maven’s wrath. We must honour the covenant. But we must know how deep the rot goes; if we are beset from within. Brothers; will you go to the Tombs?”
“And you to the Heart?” said the Lord Gwydion, “with all haste and all our strength?” said the Lord Gilfaethwy.
The Lady Bloddeuwydd bowed her head, and rose in a rustle of roots, a shiver of snowfall. “Ahead of the Maven, if I can,” she said, “and with Thaniel.”
A much needed “weekend off” after the actual weekend burned my brains out; I still feel like parts of my head have been put in a vice and squeezed. Time for a day or two of long films I’ve seen before and painting, I think! I’ve now done three out of four Ylthari’s Guardians Alter Kindred Heroes and I have names for all of them.
First up, Gilfaethwy. You’ve seen them before, but I wanted to post another, unflattering photo so that everyone got one.
Gilfaethwy is armed with an extremely great weapon and probably the Stone of the Crystal Mere or something. I vaguely want to give them the Fimbulwinter Shard but it’s at its best on a mounted character in an army that isn’t mostly Dryads. I must find some way to sneak that into the army, though.
Gwydion is waving the Bow of Loren around, as the Alter Kindred’s additional attacks and single-model line of sight make them an excellent carrier for this traditional weapon. I may yet add some snow to Gwydion’s tactical rock.; I’ve not decided.
Finally, there’s Blodeuwedd. Not an amazingly photogenic figure, but she looks better in person. There’s quite a subtle merge-and-yet-distinction between the leaf skirt, the vine corset/basque arrangement and parts of her skin that led me to basically wet blend a few layers around Nighthaunt Gloom to ease the transition, and I think it’s worked quite nicely.
She will generally be carrying either Calaingor’s Stave or the Deepwood Sphere (subject to testing) plusa Dispel Scroll (I refuse to indulge the photocopy special, but I’m allowing myself one in the interests of furthering this magic-light approach. She can’t be Alter Kindred like the others on account of being a Spellweaver, nor can she be Glamourweave Kindred without saddling up on a steed or unicorn for some reason (although Mat Ward seemed to get away with it in the inaugral battle report for the army book, and I don’t think it does lasting harm, it’s basically a cheap 5+ ward, worse things happen for 20 points).
The fourth figure isn’t painted yet. These are merely his offspring and retainers. I’m saving him for the next milestone, as I intend to save him for larger games. But he’s primed, and he’s named, and the world will be hearing from Prince Hwel of the Crag at some point.
Talking of which: The Maven & The Witch. I must beg your indulgence for another week. The aforementioned brain rot has really slowed me down, and I have now successfully flogged off the last of my Age of Sigmar scenery. A substitute has been identified, and purchased, but needs to be prepared, and I need to do that once I’m back in work. I’ll probably get the second game played next “weekend”, now that both the heroes I need are painted.
Progress continues apace: I am still able to put in a couple of painting sprints a week before work, and having cleared my OWAC commitments for the month, I now have many damned things to show you.
The first Damned Thing is this Alter Noble, for such they are. Honest.
I know the Alter Kindred are supposed to represent the weres and shifters of yesteryear, thus sating the grogs who’d doubtless been groggin’ about them vanishing from the list since the week after fourth edition WFB came out. I don’t own any of those figures. I do know a bargain when I see it, and four freaky-looking half-tree monsters for £15 is definitely a bargain by GW standards. They even have good approximations for the appropriate kit: this specimen is sporting a great weapon and the Stone of the Crystal Mere knotted up in their branches, along with a 5+ save ably represented by their generally robust tree bits and some sort of spite (it’s a pity the spites start at 25 points, but you can’t have everything).
Emboldened by the use of Drakenhof Nightshade on the skin here, I tried it out on the faces of my next rank of Glade Guard. They have also had a new spot colour introduced, as a way of identifying regiments at a glance when they go all MSU.
I think it works well enough that I can skip the temperamental “thinned down red then thinned down green” stage inherited from my Retribution of Scyrah models. I’m not so convinced by the brown boot trims and gloves. The thing with these Oathmark figures is they don’t have the extra layer of garments the Citadel figures do, so it’s harder to bring in a spot colour or break up the bodies. You gets what you pays for, and I am still content with them for the price, but as I work on these I am more appreciative of how GW’s plastic kits at their best stand apart from the pack.
With fifteen elves done it was high time to finish an 8×2 line with something a bit different: a metal Oathmark champion.
I’m well pleased with this one. It’s a simple enough figure, but with just a little extra complexity compared to the rank and file, with the chainmail and the studs on the hood and the hair. It’s also brought home to me how different metal really is to plastic, with a painting style like mine. When I’m literally working on the metals and plastics side by side, doing the same stages on each one, the comparative crispness and texture of the metal is apparent around the time the first wash goes on. I’m not saying I’m gonna chuck all my figures RIGHT NOW and join the all-metal all-the-time brigade (I’m not made of money!) but I do appreciate their argument in a new light.
Of course, if we’re going for a metal champion and a classic regimental lineout, we have a spare figure flying around from the ten man unit, and an opportunity is knocking.
Young Thaniel – the former unit leader who disgraced himself so in Ghosts in the Fog – has had his sword of bossdom-denoting confiscated and been given a Responsibility, in the hope that it’ll help him hold his nerve and set a better example. It’s not done, but papercrafting banners is definitely on the “later” end of my priorities.
Finally, there are the latest harvest of Dryads. These have come out a bit funny, and I know exactly why. I gave the Nighthaunt Gloom a good shake before adding it and it came out super globby, drowning the lower layers in technical blue. It’s not a wash, even if I’m using it like one, and less is more when I get to that stage on the Spirits. I might skip it entirely on the next few and see how much of a difference it makes. These were rescued with another pass of Drakenhof Nightshade, which has at least given the unit a nice bit of variation when it’s all formed up together.
Speaking of which, since we now have some bigger-than-minimum-sized units, shall we enjoy some beauty shots?
With another week of this, I’ll have done all the Dryads, and two thirds of the Glade Guard. High time to move on into Special units, at that stage, and pop some Tree-Kin together ready for Chapter III of the solo campaign. Chapter II will be forthcoming Soon (TM). I need to paint up the second Alter Noble for that one, and also sort out some new scenery as I’m successfully shot of the plastic tombs. I also need to put some hustle under my bustle, as there may be only a few weeks until the bookshop can re-open properly and I may be in line for more hours at work, moving hobby activity back to a “days off, either paint or play” endeavour. In the interest of cracking on with the campaign, I may be about to make… a compromise. We’ll talk about that later, once I’ve figured out if it’s worth doing.
Warhammer Warbands (200 points); A Little War scenario; objectives were Hold Territory (Wood Elves) and Invade! (Vampire Counts)
Grimgroth opened his eyes.
Was it time? Had the bell been rung, its doleful peal sounding the Time of Ending? He swung slowly off his graven slab and took up his axe and followed the breeze out of his tumulus.His huscarls were stirring, skinless hands closing on sword-hilt and shield-grip, as they followed him into the twilight of the gods, and also of the sky.
Grimgroth closed his eyes, then opened them again, dessicated lids flapping in ponderous amazement, then closed them again to have a good hard think.
Who had put those bloody trees there? When he had been laid down to rest, all this had been fields; the fields of High Tiernmas of old.
Now he was starting to remember. There had been… others. In the long winter that had never seemed to end. The elves had come. They had put Tiernmas to flight. They had relieved Grimgroth of his kingdom, his crown and his life, in that approximate order, almost in the one day.They had sealed him into the tomb dug for him long ago.
Grimgroth opened his eyes. He kicked away the carrion-eater who was reaching out a filthy calloused paw for one of his favourite toes; the ghoul fled, yelping, into the woods. Yes. The woods. Through the woods and out, out into the world.Out to glory, for the Old Kingdom. And they’d put a stop to any Time of Ending that happened to be going on, and all.