[WFB] The Twin Princes of Tiernmas

Barrow Kings.

That’s the lede, lest it not be buried. Now, the explanation.

I love the idea of the Tomb Kings: the ancient and eternal watchers over dead kingdoms, enacting timeless rituals over resting bones, rising and slaying when the living transgress on their domains.

I quite like the gameplay of the Tomb Kings: the distinction between Hierophant and General allows me to take risks with the army’s best fighter while keeping the army’s best wizard safe, and the magic, although subtle, is satisfying in its sheer reliability. As with my Vampires I find them a bit lacking in mid-sized games when I have to bring a narratively superfluous caster along just to keep my magical heft up, but that’s not their fault.

What I don’t like is the Tomb Kings models that I own. Most of my line troops are brittle mixed-medium Mantic kits that fall apart as soon as I look at them (yes I have heard of pinning; no I am not doing it for forty sodding Skeleton Archers); the “prime Zandri Dust and paint the details” approach hasn’t worked out as well as I’d like either, and they’re so samey, the worst thing for a reluctant painted like me.

What I also don’t like is that I have a huge bag of Gripping Beast Revenants (technically they are Mindless now, but I bought them as Revenants and Revenants they shall always be) which I don’t use because I live many miles away from any kind of SAGA scene.

But if you squint, those are solid single piece undead miniatures, off of which bits do not fall. And if you happen to go peeking online, you’ll know that Gripping Beast now do a wider range of undead infantry. And if you happen to be me, permanently frustrated in the search for third party cavalry and chariot figures that look remotely modern, the whole issue can be sidestepped if you go old-school and load up on whatever chunky single piece cavalry take your fancy.

The Twin Princes resolve all of this. Selling off my Mantic and TTCombat Tomb Kings should generate enough currency for additional Gripping Beast figures: an armoured warlord, a crowned and spectral sorcerer, a goodly number of armoured sword and board skeletons and some skeletons with bows. Put these alongside my existing big wizard and zombie horde, and that might be a credible (if slow) undead army. I can play that lot as about 1000-1500 points of…

Tomb Kings, with the new characters playing the part of Tomb Prince and Liche Priest respectively, and the Mindless Revenants serving as Skeleton infantry.

Army of Sylvania, since the Revenants also came with two big plague pits that make ideal Grave Markers and a suitably nefarious looking not-Vampire (probably going to brandish the Rod of Flaming Death so I get a third Bound Spell in there somewhere).

Undead, going all the way back to fourth edition: plenty of Wight Champions among the Gripping Beast Hearthguard figures, a unit of archers to provide covering fire, and a suitably vast blobule of Zombies for raising and disposing. And a Liche as my general!

The Revenants are already primed and inked, and they will set the tone for the proceedings nicely; all they’ll need is a coat of paint on their dead skin and some suitably incoherent, desaturated colours on their clothes.

Of course, the whole thing needs background, and this is where we turn to the narrative I worked up for The Maven & The Witch. We know that there are cairns of ancient civilisations dotted all over Bretonnia and Athel Loren, from the dark times between the fall of Nagash and the rise of Giles le Breton. We know also that such a collection of tombs lies within the region of High Tessonfroid, the chill high place overlooking La Vallee des Manchots Frenetique and the domain of Hiver le Sable, because my Wood Elves have been hard at work on ensuring that said tombs’ occupants remain firmly indoors.

And so we have it. Twin princes, from the ancient kingdom of Tiernmas that was before Tessonfroid. A warrior and a warlock, unalike in dignity, united in their goal: to take back what was theirs, to see the cursed winter never end, to drive out the living and reign as two kings!

Being no fool, and having struggled with Tomb Kings in my handful of games so far, I intend to try before I buy, taking “the build” in sixth edition, sneaking them in as the third-round opponents for The Maven & The Witch and nudging the points value of that engagement up to compensate. I am so in love with the concept and the painting possibilities here that I’ll probably do it anyway, but it doesn’t hurt to try. “The build”, incidentally, looks a bit like this:

Tomb Prince                154
Blade of Mourning, light armour, shield
Liche Priest               165
Cloak of the Dunes, Neferra's Plaque of Mighty Incantations

24 Skeletons (shields)     192
24 Skeletons (shields)     192
16 Skeletons (bows)        128

24 Tomb Guard              368
Champion, musician, standard (Icon of Rakaph)

1200 points: eggs, meet basket. I wouldn’t take an army like this to a pick-up game, but it’ll do to test the basic principle. They’ll be up against the Maven and her forest friends, not a force with a great deal of spell denial under their belt, so I’m hoping two Incantations will do the job, especially with a reroll to any embarrassing snake eyes from the Hierophant. The Blade of Mourning is in purely because I like its name, and it will help with shooing away the Dryads in the absence of auto-breaking.

The figures will be proxied by elements of my Sylvanian family: Skeletons will be acting as Skeletons, albeit with some spears and crossbows that aren’t really there. A Wraith and a Necromancer will do for the Prince and the Priest. My Drakenhof Guard have consented to lower themselves to pretending they’re ordinary sword and board boys for the outing. You are welcome to imagine members of this range hanging about the battlefield instead, or to picture my “they’re playing pieces so let’s ‘paint’ them as such” Revenants, from the featured image.

I shall be in touch. But right now, it’s back to painting trees.

[WFB] From Little Acorns

I missed out on Warhammer Warbands at the time. Third year of uni was a time and a half, lots of not sleeping for a week and then working on two dissertations side by side like a nutter, and what gaming time I had was increasingly devoted to Warmachine and Hordes and the original d20-based Iron Kingdoms RPG. By the time I was playing again, in Manchester, the blip had either been and gone or never happened in amongst the standard-issue 2000 point tourney practice pitched battle Borehammer of early seventh edition.

Which is a shame, because I love a good slow-grow way into a new army. I don’t think I’d have ridden the wave with my Vampires if I hadn’t come in with a Mordheim warband, and then Border Patrol, and instead been confronted with the hump of 1000 points just to get off the ground.

Hence this: my attempt at putting together one sprue each of my new models and getting a playable force for my trouble. The Small Warband is pretty restrictive but even within those restrictions, the sprues go so far and no further and I’ve had to take Champions to make up the numbers for now. (I’d have been very happy to take an Annoyance of Netlings instead, but I’m choosing to believe that counts as a magic item and is bad form for Warbands.)

The Maven of Deadwood
Branchwraith - 65

Black-Briar Kindred
5 Glade Guard - 60
Champion - 10

Helyg Coven
4 Dryads - 48
Champion - 12

Enough LISTS, I hear you cry. Enough THEORYHAMMER. Show us the PRAXISHAMMER. Show us the MODELS!

I know there are still mould lines on the archers; I just wanted to do a blog post before work, m’kay?

Now they’re stood next to the Citadel Dryads, those Oathmark plastic elves look even smaller and softer than they did on the sprue. I also need to have a little whinge about that bloke in the middle who’s just standing there demurely with his feet together like a schoolboy waiting for a first class bollocking. Every third party figure kit I buy seems to have a pose like this. I don’t know why manufacturers produce these nonentities: I suppose they’re meant to be leaders and standard bearers, but they’re just a weird looking waste of sprue if you’re not taking those options.

I really don’t like Champions in archer units – that extra point of Ballistic Skill makes the rolling untidy and I’d rather have an extra body in a unit somewhere – and they have more chance of teaching a Cold One calculus than they do of getting a flag and throwing Victory Points up the chutney, but I might try and make some little horns for them and put musicians in there. Those would actually be useful. I still don’t regret going Oathmark though – you get what you pay for and these were dirt cheap back line troops. They fit together nicely enough, they have the same sort of pretend-posability as the old Warhammer Regiments figures from the Nineties, they do the job: but they are definitely up for replacement if I score some second-hand Citadel figures or find a better kit somewhere else.

The Maven is a fine figure, bit fussy to put together but I like her now she’s done. I left off the weird snake-grub-worm-thing she comes with because frankly it makes me feel sullied and unusual. I also left off the twiggy back bits from most of the Dryads as they’re already quite tall and busy enough, although I did give the Champion some extra shrubbery so I can find her in the unit. Next job is to paint them, which will probably happen next “weekend”.

I might even do something uncharacteristic, once I have the trees built and painted up too. I might set up a little battlefield in the living room and try a little solo game. Always feels a bit weird, but then – I play computer games single player, all the time, and I play Scythe, which has a single player variant even if setting it up is such a faff that I invariably end up playing computer games instead. I bet I could knock together something like the old Kill Team with adversaries that drift randomly, charge if they can and so on, and I know exactly what I’ll use for them. Ghouls vs. Trees in the crypts of Crug Hywel. Bangin’ stuff. I’ll need to finish the mausoleum terrain but I’ve been stalling on doing that for ages anyway.

My scenery has been in that exact “drybrushed basecoat” stage since the summer of 2019, when this photo was taken. In my defence, I was very, very depressed.

[WFB] In Which Mr. E Contemplates a Sylvan Future

Every so often I get really into a faction on the Total War: Warhammer and come over all “what if I did them on the tabletop?” Normally this wears off after a weekend or two, but sometimes it sticks, and the last time it stuck I ended up with a Tomb Kings army.

This time around it’s Wood Elves. Now, I have many memories of being kicked around the table by armies that only have three actual Wood Elves in them (all Spellsingers) and no desire to lose friends and alienate people – but I have rather fallen for the Drycha army and the Forest Spirit models are the easiest to lay hands on in this day and age.

Further commentary to follow the units themselves, but first, the list!

The Maven of Deadwood          165
Branchwraith                    65
Level 1 wizard                  50
Cluster of Radiants             25
Annoyance of Netlings           25
Spellsinger                     90
Glamourweave Kindred            20
Dispel Magic Scroll             25
Divination Orb                  25
Noble                           75
Alter Kindred                   25
Helm of the Hunt                20
Glamourweave                    30
light armour, shield            4
great weapon                    4
Noble                           75
Battle Standard                 25
Moonstone of the Hidden Ways    35
Briarsheath                     15
10 Glade Guard                  120
10 Glade Guard                  120
10 Glade Guard                  120
8 Dryads                        96
8 Dryads                        96
5 Tree Kin                      325
5 Wild Riders                   130
Treeman                         285
Great Eagle                      50

The rough (and at this stage still hypothetical) plan is to pick up the post-Wood-Elf warband for that Warhammer Underworlds thing to make my characters, the Start Collecting box for the angry tree faction to… start collecting, boxes of Tree-Revenants and Wild Riders to round things out and then use third party ranges for the archers and eagle. The specific ranges and sets I have in mind will make it very easy to build bigger units if I decide this “MSU” malarkey is a bridge too far. Regiments of 16 Glade Guard and Dryads would take the edge off.

The Trees? Well, it’s not a proper Wood Elf army without a Treeman in my ever-humbles, and while the current miniature is very much a Bigger Giant it’ll go nicely with the Bigger Giants occasionally adorning my opponents’ armies. The Tree-Kin are there partly because I like the newer models and partly because all my armies have a big wedge of 40mm bases to take point or hold a flank and worry people.

I’m not entirely sure about the odd 180 points. The Great Eagle is there because the giant budgies are such classic pestering units, while the Wild Riders are a frivolous “whyever not?” choice largely motivated by my wanting at least some cavalry and them being still in production.

I want to go fairly light on magic and not bother with a Lord choice, just to provide a firm contrast to my top-heavy Vampire Counts army. I’m hoping that five Dispel dice, a bonus from the Divination Orb on any big casts and an emergency Scroll will be enough to nurse me through most magical nonsense, while my own magic phases will be two (three?) casts of Tree Singing to see what happens.

The Alter Noble is there largely because I know Dr. Shiny has some bad memories with them and I delight in causing him the conniptions. Certainly seems to throw out a lot of attacks, and I opted for mixed weaponry to keep my options open. Finally, there’s a Battle Standard Bearer whose job is to teleport key units out of peril and stay close to the Treeman to ensure the big lug remains in the fight. (I am tempted by the Bow of Loren and Alter Kindred on this fellow instead of the Big Flag, and would appreciate insight on this front from people who know what they’re talking about).

There is also the matter of colourscheme. While I flirted with the idea of an autumnal army, all reds and oranges, and while autumn is my favourite time of year, there are many pressing influences in another direction. I have a winter-styled board at home – it may not be at ease with my old-fashioned DIY approach to terrain, but the battlemat and the mausoleum pieces I have somehow ended up with are already snow-encrusted and I am likely to buy the plastic Citadel wood simply because… the free wood for being Wood Elves is part of your army, it should be models, and these are of a good standard size with the hole in the middle for moving your units about in.

Beyond this, I must think of my opponents. Dr. Shiny’s Bretonnian army hails from a realm of eternal and unnatural snow because he’s a big old goth like that. Discussion with my learned colleague reveals he was thinking of doing a companion force of Wood Elves, and is rather glad that one of us has finally acted on the impulse. Basing my army to match his (dark earth and piled snow) would create two armies that look like they’re from the same place, and we can synergise our backgrounds around the Curse of Tessingfroid to justify a sort of on-and-off alliance between our forces, turning nasty on each other but uniting against outside interference.

Ruminating on the concept suggests an isolated, deep-frozen and withered heathland of Athel Loren, bereft of leadership and long neglected. Its inhabitants have become more spectral and quixotic than even the average elf, and their leadership is doing the best it can with gnawing cold robbing them of what sense they had. Occasional friendly contact with the local Bretonnians does occur – at least, when Amaranth the Damsel of the Lady speaks, the Maven stares intently and does not kill her, for reasons that don’t bear too much analysis – but when the seasons of the world should turn the Deadwood Conclave have a habit of forgetting pacts once signed and sealed. The Deadwood Conclave, or something like that.

A strong argument for the pale kin of bleak midwinter, then. Dryad Bark and Drakenhof Nightshade on the two-tone Tree-Kin of modern times, with red and yellow leaves clinging on here and there to denote the units; some blue-greys and smoother mid browns on the archers’ clothes to create variety. I like the idea of doing everyone with blue-tinged skin though, really ham up that magical curse aesthetic. I may even break out the Polished Blue for trinkets and things: it’s a very rich colour for Wood Elves but they don’t have much metal so it should be allowed to pop.

This is all assuming the enthusiasm doesn’t wear off in a week or two, anyway. I might end up spending the money on more Ghouls or something equally mundane.

UPDATE: it looks like the enthusiasm has not, in fact, worn off, and we are, in fact, doing this.

[WFB] In Which Mr. E Contemplates a Slaaneshi Past

The other day, a conversation on classichammer.com got me thinking about the army I don’t constantly bang on about on this blog. Before I was a Vampire Counts player, I was a Chaos Warriors player: for all that the Undead were my gateway drug, Chaos was my actual point of entry, largely because I had to get as many points per pound sterling as possible in those days of pocket money budgets.

I had one of those “£50 gets you 2000 points” Chaos armies back in fifth edition: two boxes of Warriors, one of Knights, a Chariot and a couple of characters. All that and a Lord of Change for my birthday. Spray ’em black, drybrush ’em silver, make a complete pig’s ear of the Greater Daemon and job was a good ‘un.

The games were a drudge. I remember six sorry weekends of trudging across a table into the teeth of my friend Mike’s fourth edition box set High Elves. My Chariots were immobilised by an ocean of S3 shots pinging the horses off, my units were kicked in the ‘nards and left for dead by High Magic and I was punished in the afterlife by my complete inability to get my Chaos Lord out of the Black Gem of Gnar, or not turned into a Spawn, or into combat at all after his Daemonic Steed suffered spontaneous existence failure.

Roll around sixth edition and after a disastrous foray into Orc and Goblin land I was determined never to take another terror or panic test again if I could help it. I broke out the purple paint, bought a job lot of Daemonettes and a Warhammer Quest Chaos Warrior (I’d lost the mounted General somewhere), and went to work. Result thus.

Sorcerer Lord: Mark of Slaanesh, Chaos Daemon Sword, Talisman of Protection: 390
Exalted Champion: Mark of Slaanesh, greataxe, Crown of Everlasting Conquest: 174

12 Warriors: Mark of Slaanesh, halberds, Champion, musician and standard: 242
12 Warriors: Mark of Slaanesh, shields, Champion, musician and standard: 230
5 Knights: Mark of Slaanesh, Champion, musician and standard (War Banner): 260
Chariot: Mark of Slaanesh: 130
Chariot: Mark of Slaanesh: 130

12 Daemonettes: 180
12 Daemonettes: 180
5 Furies: 75

On paper it’s certainly a very elite army, and mass Immunity to Panic is certainly a big deal, but even typing it all out and checking the sums has me thinking it could have been tuned up and turned over (especially if I’d found that infernal mounted Lord model).

It has no units with a full rank bonus, bad weapons on at least one Warrior unit, no Chosen at all, mostly middling armour saves, only six Power Dice to insult the intelligence and quite a lot of the models are feeble, Unstable Daemonettes who vanish in a whoosh of lavender if anyone looks at them funny. I don’t even have the Rapturous Standard!

If I had my time over again I’d probably do a 1000 point mostly-Marauder army (as an excuse to use my beloved sixth edition Giant and pick up the rather spiffy female Marauder-esque character from the Age of Sigmar range) and then summon in a Keeper or Prince and his little friends for 2000 point games. There’d probably be one unit of actual Chaos Warriors or Knights along for the ride (although they might be carrying the Rapturous Standard, because I’m only human and it’s very good). Something like this:

Angharad the Aghol: 176
Exalted Champion, Mark of Slaanesh, great weapon, shield, Bindings of Slaanesh

Grishenkov: 156
Sorcerer, extra magic level, Mark of Slaanesh, barded Chaos Steed, Sceptre of Domination

Men of the Aghol Tribe: 145
20 Marauders with flails
Champion, musician, standard

Knights of Ashteth: 285
5 Knights with Mark of Slaanesh
Champion, musician, standard bearer with Rapturous Standard

Oglaf the Giant: 205

992 points

Keeper of Secrets 625

10 Daemonettes 150

10 Daemonettes 150

5 Furies 75

+ 1000 points

Still pretty terrible, to be honest, but it has a lot of the things I think are fun about Slaanesh armies, and takes advantage of the Hordes book’s excessive flexibility to flip the script in bigger games. It’s either this or a delivery system for the Shaggoth, possibly my favourite Chaos model, and the plastic Dragon Ogres which eventually emerged to match him.

[WFB] List Maintenance: Lord Ruthven Restored

Because I’m a whocking great nerd, I keep a battlefield journal. Not exhaustive “and then I rolled a three and a two and he rolled a four and a six” level stuff because life is much too short, but a “no more than one A5 spread per thing” record of the games I’ve played and the army lists I’ve used (or considered using).

Despite my respect for the Stillmanic principle in some regards (I am still using the same army I started on my eighteenth birthday and have barely touched some of it with a paintbrush since), I’m an inveterate tinkerer and fine tuner and consider this a pleasure I shall not forgo just because ol’ Nigel doesn’t think it proper.

Here are the post mortem notes on the list I took to that London back in March, straight from the Book.

Rod of Flaming Death works – it worries people just enough that they always Dispel it.

Pretty clear there, past me. I used to look down on the Rod and not bother with it, now I understand that opponents don’t want to risk an automatic Panic test for having one model get fried. The Rod is one of those items which can subtly turn a game even if it never actually works – and, as a bonus, it doesn’t run out of juice!

Use the Stone early to draw out scrolls – don’t save it!

The more spells I can push through in the early game the more Dispel Scrolls I can dummy out, giving me more freedom to cast in the middling turns where it matters more. Necromancy spells turn the game by tipping combats in my favour and that makes them most impactful when the battle-lines are either about to hit or have just done so. The Stone also allows me to slam five dice down on a key spell from Rosenkratz the Necromancer, cutting through the three-dice casting cap he normally has to labour under. I find this sort of thing far more decisive than bringing a single Dispel Scroll and fretting about what’s important enough to use it on.

Swap in the Aura.

Aura of Dark Majesty has returned to must-take status now that I’ve started playing on 6′ x 4′ boards more. I’d hoped that I could wean myself off it and get used to a mere 12″ bubble but the stage of the game where my fast units need to turn around and get stuck back in really needs them to keep marching, and sometimes the tide of battle draws my Lord away from them in the horizontal plane.

Stick to a Wight Lord BSB for Leadership 9.

What it says on the tin. I love Vampire Thralls, don’t get me wrong: mine is a cheap source of fast-moving chariot-wrecking arrow-scoffing extra hits right where they’re needed, and I’ve gained a new respect for the Necrarch and Strigoi variants as I help out putting tactical together for the Online. But a Thrall does not take hits well, nor lead units, and the high Leadership is excellent for keeping a combat unit where it should be after my General bites it, or when pursuit needs to be deterred in favour of good positioning.

Skeleton spears. In both games they got charged and having spears paid off. I CURSE THE VULGAR FASHION!

For years and years I misplayed the hand weapon and shield rule in sixth edition and never understood why the hardcore said sword and board was better than spear. Now I finally have a unit of Skeleton Swordsmen and am using them with a vigour, so I think my past self wants talking to here. As I go forward I find myself bringing two Skeleton units: spearmen to take point and get charged, swordsmen to deliver a flanking hit. My Zombies are reserved for filling a spare Core slot with the most minimal of caster bunkers, or raising.

Consider a steady list with swappable Counts?

I worked out a range of similarly-coster Vampire Counts a while back and considered trading them in and out of the army to see what difference it made. The drawback to this plan? My aesthetic is very much a Von Carstein army: I can get away with a Lahmian or Blood Dragon as I have appropriate Generals on foot for that, but Strigoi or Necrarchs, the most different and powerful Bloodlines, are closed to me because the rest of the army doesn’t match. (If I ever did a second Vampire Counts army, it would be mostly Ghouls and more bronze age style Skeletons, deliberately geared toward playing with these two Bloodlines.)

What do you need: Wraith or Wight? Both games had the BSB pay off but also Terror made a big impact.

This is a recurring problem for me. Both these heroes have been excellent additions to my collection and I’m a tad flummoxed about which one to leave at home when slots are at a premium. Since the Wight Lord doesn’t have quite such an established character or set of kit (he was swapped into the army at the last moment) I’m going to stick with the Wraith for the time being.

Periapt ain’t always so hot: consider another Stone.

Don’t get me wrong, the Black Periapt is fine; it’s just a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul every other turn because this phase often has to get by on seven dice so I can have nine later, and there’s a level of cognitive load involved in planning around the dice-storage gimmick that can slow me down and stop me playing decisively. I’m still umming and ahhing about the Periapt, which I think is only essential in 2000 point games where a fella only has three level 2 wizards to play with. Up here I can probably get away without it by ensuring I have enough dice in the first place, and enough powerful wizards to make good use of them.


To these vestiges I’d add a few more observations that came out of the report-writing process. I really like Death Magic on my Vampires and am close to considering it the default as I go forward, outside the Army of Sylvania of course (there I don’t have the luxury of faffing about without Necromancy).

The big unit of Knights is a necessary evil in a Sylvanian list but otherwise I think I need the flexibility of two units operating on opposite flanks or sweeping one together.

Finally there’s the small matter of casting power. At present the 3000 point army is too dependent on the Master and once he’s copped it, I am knocked back to 2000 point levels of casting power: not good enough. This “Master and Margarita” list archetype is therefore reserved for fifth edition from here on out, and Lord Ruthven will be making a return to wrangle the army. I also plan to shout FIE to the high heavens, bust the shield off my Imperial Noble model, and simply use the figure who matches the army’s aesthetic as Lord Ruthven. If anyone gives me grief about his breastplate I shall say it’s got warpstone in it or something. Life’s too short.

A few additional cuts have been made in terms of magic banners, unit champions and so on and so forth. Magic banners may yet be restored to the Knight units at the cost of some Dire Wolves.


Lord Ruthven: Von Carstein Vampire Lord: extra magic level (Lore of Death), Biting Blade, Ring of the Night, Walking Death, Aura of Dark Majesty435 points

Walravius: Master Necromancer: extra magic level (Necromancy), Cloak of Mists and Shadows, Power Stone: 290 points

Rosenkratz: Necromancer: extra magic level (Necromancy), Book of Arkhan, Power Stone: 150 points

Guildenstern: Necromancer: extra magic level (Necromancy), Rod of Flaming Death: 150 points

Whispering Nell: Wraith: Cursed Book: 140 points

Lord Ruthven’s First of Foot: 20 Skeletons: spears, light armour, champion, musician and standard bearer: 245 points

Lord Ruthven’s Second of Foot: 20 Skeletons: light armour, champion, musician and standard bearer: 225 points

Templehof Pals: 10 Zombies: musician and standard bearer: 75 points

Verhungernhund Claw: 5 Dire Wolves: 50 points

Verhungernhund Fang: 5 Dire Wolves: 50 points

Order of the Black Cross: 8 Black Knights: barding, champion, musician and standard bearer: 240 points

Order of the Crimson Wing: 8 Black Knights: barding, champion, musician and standard bearer: 240 points

Black Monks of St. Herod: 5 Spirit Hosts: 325 points

Cora: Banshee: 90 points

Clarice: Banshee: 90 points

Emmanuelle’s Hearse: Black Coach: 200 points

TOTAL: 2995 points
Tower of Power: 13 dice
Pile of Denial: 8 dice

[WFB] Herohammer – Fun With Fifth Edition

There’s talk of a Wales and South West Middlehammer meetup, with a small no-stakes low-restrictions tournament at its heart. This is good.

Somehow I’ve ended up involved with organising it and doing test games to remember where the exploits and snags are. This is good.

It’s… fifth edition?

It would have to be the one for which I don’t already have an army list written up and ready, wouldn’t it?

A Shameful Confession

I never really played my Vampire Counts under fifth edition rules. Oh, I had a modest Undead army, or at least a bunch of plastic Skellies plus metal Liche, Vampire Count and Skull Chucker, but those were laid aside when I learned you could build a 2000 point Chaos Warrior army for about £75 and still have some birthday money left for the Lord of Change. Sure, I pre-ordered the first Vampire Counts book, but I got as far as painting a buck-toothed Necrarch and a handful of Zombies before sixth edition rolled out and Mordheim happened and everything sort of… went sideways.

The point is I’d be retro-engineering here, taking my collection of models for sober, sensible, troop-focused sixth edition and seeing how well they transferred to the age of BanishmentBlack Gems of Gnar, and flying Chaos Lords with sixteen attacks and a sword that stops all your magic items working.

I do more or less remember how fifth edition works, and how the Vampire Counts work within it – it involves being able to reliably cast and recast very cheap support spells like Vanhel’s Danse Macabre or Summon Skeletons, keep your General alive and a character in almost every unit, and focus your efforts into juuust tipping the balance in combat since most things you beat and outnumber will be running for the hills.

The terms of engagement are pretty simple – 1500 points (to keep a tin lid on some of the worst excesses) with no named characters (because enough of us still have hangups about them twenty years down the line) but no other restrictions (because restrictions emerge organically out of a living ‘meta’ and we don’t want to start banning stuff before we see how the community evolves).

First out, I toyed with the idea of a Lahmian Vampire as my general (since her essential 5+ unmodified save and always-strikes-first capacity come from Bloodline Powers and not magic items which can be Deadlocked, Plaque of Dominioned or Sword of Destructioned away) and a Necromancer Lord (automatically able to recast spells and powerful enough to get them through reliably).

Thing is, I’ve always played Von Carsteins. The other thing is, I wanted to try some more authentically Middlehammer wackiness, like being able to stick large monsters in your army without necessarily strapping your single-point-of-failure Vampire General on them, or taking multiple Vampire Counts in any size game I liked.

1500 points is not quite enough to take my Zombie Dragon (I could do it, but I’d have no other characters or decent defences for the Count on its back, and if a stray cannonball took him off his ride it’d be game over in one shot) and I don’t own a Winged Nightmare any more, so back to the drawing board again.

Two Counts. That had some potential. They could cast the big Necromancy spells, the ones that are too expensive to really bother with recasting and great for drawing out Dispel Scrolls, and then a relatively budget but still reliable Necromancer Champion could spam out the two spells that actually matter.

As a bonus, these three characters could scale; 1000 point games could feature a cheap Count, Thrall and level 1 Necromancer, while at 2000 or more I could roll out the same models as a power trio of Vampire Lord, Vampire Count and level 3 or 4 mage. All this was going around my head when…

Pseud’s Corner

I’m not an imaginative soul when it comes to naming characters, but when my army’s steeped in Gothic horror traditions I don’t have to be.

During its sixth and seventh edition heyday, my legion of the living-impaired was commanded by Lord Ruthven and his Thralls, Carmilla and Varney. Later efforts of course featured Clarimonde and Romauld, as chronicled elsewhere on ‘ere.

My Necromancers have always been supporting cast, with different naming conventions; I’m not proud of the brief “völkisch occultism is f a s c i n a t i n g” phase that led to Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels, but Rosenkratz and Guildenstern (they died a lot, you see) were okay.

When the moment of serendipity came this time, it was an alignment between conversations: proxying Mannfred as an ordinary Count just to get the model on the table in one window, and translating Russian classics as mock Big Bang Theory scripts in the other. Click. If my Mannfred would be acting incognito it only made sense that he wouldn’t have an actual title, and my suitable footslogging Count is female…

The Master and Margarita

I named the Necromancer after my favourite fifteenth-century demonologist (what, you don’t have one?) and was in business. Here’s the list I came up with for testing games.

Characters: 720/750

The Master: Von Carstein Vampire Count: barded Nightmare; Unbending WillpowerStaff of Damnation: 251

Margarita: Von Carstein Vampire Countess: Pure Blood, Carstein Ring: 240

Walravius: Necromancer Champion: Destroy Magic Scroll, Cloak of Mists and Shadows: 229

Regiments: 727 > 375

5 Wight Cavalry: lances, heavy armour, shields, barding, flag, trumpet: 252

19 Zombies: flag, alleged musician: 105

19 Zombies: pointed stick, blunderbuss: 105

5 Dire Wolves, including 1 Doom Wolf: 65

4 Vampire Bats: 100

1 Banshee: 100

Monsters: 50 / 375

1 Bat Swarm

A weird mix of troops because I honestly don’t remember what’s good in fifth edition. I want more Wight Cavalry but crikey they’re expensive, and I slightly regret two units of Zombies but I wanted two solid line infantry units and my full kit Skeletons (who come in at 12 points per head) just don’t fit in a game of this size.

The list is built around either Count working as the general. There’s definitely a default setting (Margarita in command, being harder to reach, better protected and less inclined to take risks, which is honestly a nice little riff on the novel too) but it’d be interesting to try and wrong-foot people by making the Master an expendable general (if he’s dead, the Wights are probably dead too, and the Zombie units can recover from d6 casualties well enough). In either case all the chaff will implode but again, I don’t bet on Wolves or Bats outliving their commander.

Now all I have to do is fix the models.

[WM/H] Road to SmogCon: How Would You Finish This List?

I’m currently tinkering with the 35 point list I’ll be taking to SmogCon in February. The two events I’m going to be entering are Hydra (35 points with a random caster from a pool of five chosen by myself – four rounds so someone’s gonna get benched – assume 5 warjack points) and Scalpel (35 points with a sideboard – can swap anything represented by a whole card in or out, so no min units for max units).

The core of the list is pretty much decided:

* Phoenix
* Sylys

10 Houseguard Halberdiers
10 Dawnguard Invictors
Stormfall Archers

While I wanted so so badly to take the Hydra to Hydra, I’ve been forced to accept that the sheer utility of the Phoenix puts it ahead. In the first three games of the club league, it’s carved up a Dire Troll (freeing up my infantry to finish off Mulg in the same turn) and enabled me to arc some doom spells onto Epic Doomshaper’s stupid troll face; it’s let me Arcantrik Bolt Kraye’s battlegroup from a position of safety; and it’s dealt the killing blows to both the Black 13th and Mr. Kraye himself in short order. The arc node and gun on the same chassis also means it can be set up in the second wave and still, well, get to do something, although I haven’t actually fired the gun yet – it’s always been easier to charge the target and hit it slightly more reliably.

Sylys is in because some of the casters need him and I think everyone at least wants him if he’s available – and he is. The Houseguard are, to my mind, one of the best chaff units in the game; they have absolutely everything they need on their cards (Set Defence, Shield Wall and Ranked Attack – Brutal Charge and CMA are very tasty gravy that mean the survivors are very likely to do some good). Likewise, the Dawnguard get in for their sheer utility and their in-Faction status (I was tempted by the Nyss Hunters for the same points, but the thought of replacing the unit again made my fingers cramp up in terror). The Stormfalls are, well, they’re Stormfalls, they run, then they Snipe, then they either set you on fire or Brutal Damage you until your eyes drop off.

The ‘caster pool I’m thinking of is Kaelyssa, Ravyn, Garryth and Ossyran, with the final slot tied between Vyros and Rahn. Rahn seems to need more stuff with ‘House Shyeel’ in its name than not, for the sake of his feat; but then, Vyros seems to demand a decent-sized battlegroup and at the moment I’m only rocking one ‘jack.

Which brings me to the rest of the list. By my calculation I have six points left. Combinations of possibilities throng before my mind, chiefly around a 4:2 split.

For 4 points I can get UAs for both units, a Griffon or Aiyana and Holt (the budget option since I already own them). The Griffon is most tempting; it gives me something to set up Flank on the Dawnguard, and a second ‘jack to ensure some mileage out of Vyros’ feat. Does mean spending money, of course, but I’m pretty much resigned to that.

For 2, the options are a single UA, or one of the oddball solos – a Mage Hunter Assassin or House Shyeel Magister or Ghost Sniper. A pair of Arcanists seems slightly redundant when I only have two warjack; although there is the prospect of an Arcanist and a Soulless Escort, I guess?

As Unit Attachments go I’m torn; if I had to pick one I’m not sure whether I’d go for the Dawnguard’s or the Houseguard’s. The Houseguard have been surprisingly effective combatants, so I’m edging toward theirs, but the Dawnguard seem to need the UA more in order to do what I want them to do, i.e. drop scary Combined Ranged Attacks from a reasonable distance away.

There’s also the outsider option in a 5:1 split – a second unit of Stormfall Archers, or a unit of Battle Mages (I’d consider running Rahn instead of Vyros, in that case) and an Arcanist. It’s not often that I put my hand up to wanting two units of something, but I am very fond of Stormfall Archers.

So, bearing in mind the whole ‘random caster’ thing, what would you do? How would you spend those last six points, and would Rahn or Vyros occupy your last slot?

[WM/H] Road to SmogCon: The Houseguard, the Dawnguard and I

Long-term readers may have received the impression that I am not very good at using units in Warmachine (or Hordes for that matter). This is blatantly and horribly true. It’s something to do with the way in which they work; each model activating, moving, attacking and existing individually is a bit taxing to someone who cut their teeth on the “just roll for all of ’em” approach of WFB and post-second-edition 40K.  That they don’t have to shackle one another within 2″ but are instead free to move around within a circle of diameter usually between 16″ and 20″ which moves with one key model only adds to the brain-fatigue, as does the presence of two or three such units in the successful Warmachine army, which is the ultimate cake-taker.

And yet… I’ve been doing all right with the Retribution, so far, with one unit of ten, one of six, one of four and one of two angry elves making their appearance in my 25 point list.

Partly it’s down to the rules on the units. The Houseguard Halberdiers, for instance, have Shield Wall and Combined Melee Attack, which encourages them to bunch up into little tight-knit groups of three or four, moving and attacking together. They also, crucially, have Ranked Attack, which eliminates many of the cludge-up problems I usually experience with units; the rest of my army shoots and consequently can pretend the Houseguard aren’t there. The Dawnguard Invictors have a similar principle; Defensive Line jumps them from ARM 15 to ARM 17 if two of them are standing together, and two of them standing together are pumping out the effective RAT 8 POW 12 Combined Ranged Attacks that I’ve been finding so effective of late. Aiyana and Holt tend to stand next to each other in order for Ayisla’s Veil to do its thing and make them both Stealthy. Only the Stormfall Archers are actually individual actors: the rest of my units are pairs or small groups, such that a unit of ten models might comprise five or fewer actual actors, since models will tow others after them to maintain Shield Wall or Defensive Line, or to share targets for Combined Attacks.

Partly it’s my sense of what the army should be doing. The Houseguard are chaff which occasionally charge to clear routes or tie up enemies; their activation is generally “run and fan out” in the first turn, then “close in and Shield Wall” in the second, then “charge” in the third. The Stormfall Archers like to close the distance so they can pick more fun things than just Snipe; their activation is usually run on turn one, move and shoot or aim and shoot on turn two, aim and shoot on turn three and thereafter. Only the Dawnguard are complicated and even they are basically moving and shooting or aiming and shooting until lanes are clear for them to charge. Everything has a job to do and does it.

Partly it’s that the actual games I’ve played have suggested roles for the infantry.

Against Skorne, in a No Man’s Land mission, the infantry were necessary to keep those marauding Titans at bay. By maintaining some depth between the Halberdiers and Dawnguard, I could ensure that any Trampling Titan would get free-struck and Dawnguard-charged into ineffectiveness; by keeping the Halberdiers in tight knots I could back-stop them against slams and prevent the Titans ploughing into my lines that way. That the early push with the Halberdiers left one in charge range of Hexeris to actually seal a game was sheer blind luck and not something which I planned for or deserved at all, but still!

Against Khador, meanwhile, the infantry’s job was to contest the Mosh Pit scenario area, and create overlapping threat ranges through which it’d be tricky for him to advance his Demo Corps without, again, entering Free Strike City. I don’t know what possessed me to bunch them up in deployment – it made them spray-bait for the fully armed and operational Winter Guard Death Star – but their acceptable ARM kept them going and they did conveniently block Sorscha’s Line of Sight to the Stormfall Archers and Ravyn, on whom I was relying to actually eliminate those Khadoran infantry and claim the Pit.

For someone who dislikes infantry, I’m actually finding them easier going than the warjacks. I’ve been finding that the potential of the Retribution ‘jacks isn’t quite met by their actual impact; not that they’re bad, just that I seldom have much to do with them other than move, pot-shot, and put them somewhere where they’ll draw attention by looking scary. Perhaps I’ll review the House Shyeel heavy chassis next week?

[WM/H] Road to SmogCon: Decisions and Revisions

For those canny folks who bought their SmogCon tickets ahead of the game, last night marked the pre-registration for the tournaments and organised casual hobby time (you know what I mean, the stuff where a space needs to be set aside, like speed painting or RPG stuff). With my fingers a-hoverin’ over the trackball, I was there right on time, eager to shimmy into the 35 point events while everyone else was battering for the generally-preferred 50-pointers. In order to make sure that everyone got some formal games in and nobody over-committed and burned out, registrants were allowed to pick two tournaments and two non-tournaments for the course of the weekend.

My original plan was to take on the Hydra (hail Hydra!) event, on the grounds that I’d only have to buy and build one 35 point army plus four alternate casters; a much more achievable prospect than three 50 point armies with no FA: C choices repeated, and then to dip my toes into competitive Malifaux with the Hardcore event on the Saturday.

And then I thought about the £60 I’d just spent on the two infantry units for my Retribution – I went for Houseguard Halberdiers and Dawnguard Invictors in the end, incidentally – and the £10 or so that each run to the Clapham club for a practice game sets me back, and the current confusing state of Malifaux (I still can’t walk into the shop and see the rulebook on the shelf, which is kind of a bummer when you’re trying to get into a game), and I said to myself, “self, do you really think you’re going to be able to practice a 35 point Retribution list with five different casters and learn to play Malifaux to a standard where you won’t slow-play and get your head around the IKRPG by February?”

“Probably not, no,” said I.

So here’s the new plan. I’m still taking the Gremlins to SmogCon, but I don’t intend to inflict myself on the tournaments for that system. Instead, I’m signing up for Midnight Madness: Scalpel on the Saturday. Another 35 point Warmachine event, single list but with a sideboard capacity (you can swap out things that cost the same number of points, but you have to swap out actual cards, not just upsize and downsize units). That sounds… fun, and within my financial and tactical remit.

Admittedly, there’s the small problem of my being a career Morning Person and so usually braindead by about nine p/m. However, I also live less than an hour’s train ride from the convention. This is promising.

My cunning plan is still slightly nebulous. If someone is kind enough to lend me floor space in their hotel room on the Saturday – someone who’s playing in a daytime tournament and so won’t be needing it – I’ll crash at SmogCon and buy them dinner or something. If not, I’ll just catch the first train home on Saturday morning, sleep in the comfort of my own sweet bed, dine in on Saturday evening and then troop back out for Midnight Madness. My two casual sign-ups have been expended on some IKRPG time on the Sunday – a nice, no-pressure come-down that I can probably walk into with naught but a nap and a shower to my name – so it won’t be worth coming home on that day anyway.

Things like food can also be manipulated around this; I’m trying to avoid paying stockbroker-belt hotel prices for too many meals. At some point closer to the event I’ll have to weigh up the available cash and establish whether it’s cheaper to eat/sleep at home and pay extra train fares, or crash at the convention and eat out all weekend. At the moment I lean toward the former option, but we’ll see.

There is a budgetary constraint on this operation, but it’s looser than might be thought; basically, whatever money I get from selling off my Necrons is going towards building the Retribution and attending SmogCon. I’m not sad to see the Necrons go; I’ve had fun with them over the last couple of years but 40K is such a massive palaver and I only play it a couple of times a year, a long way from home, with people with whom I can just play other games.

At present, the financial situation looks like this:

  • IN
    £80 from sale of Necron units (after eBay fees)
  • OUT
    £53 – ticket
    £60 on extra Retribution stuff required for competitions
    Projected £200 from selling remaining Necrons, surfeit of 40K tokens, unused RPG rulebooks &c. &c.

So, slightly over budget at present. Better hope those Necrons shift.

[WM/H] Road to SmogCon: Retribution List Building

As we discussed before, my basic Hydra build is looking a bit like this.


  • [House Shyeel heavy of some sort]
  • Griffon
  • Sylys Wyshnylarr

Full Dawnguard Invictors / Nyss Hunters (always an option, and could serve in other faction contexts)
Full Houseguard Halberdiers
Stormfall Archers

PLUS – exact choice dependent on cash and points available
Aiyana and Holt
Unit Attachments for Invictors and/or Halberdiers
Eiryss + Arcanist

I’ve been noodling around with possible ways to make this build concrete – trying to use as much of the stuff I already own as I can, for economy’s sake, without compromising battlefield effectiveness too far. If I can get away with spending £45 or so on the two infantry units and an Arcanist, I’ll be happy.

The Dawnguard vs. Nyss option is something that’ll ultimately be decided by factors on the edge of gameplay. One: will I seriously follow through on that idea to build a pGoreshade Theme Force at some point? (If so, the Nyss could appear in all my Warmachine forces, and strike me as an extra-special-value purchase just for that.) Two: will I actually be able to get hold of them? (I’ve seen one box on shop shelves and Privateer Press’ UK supply line has these… moments of intermittency.) Three: would I prefer to build and paint Dawnguard than my third unit of Nyss Hunters? (Almost certainly.) Four: how many of the Retribution casters will prefer an in-Faction unit? (I’ll have to look and see. Might be a future post in that.)

Anyway. The lists.

Continue reading “[WM/H] Road to SmogCon: Retribution List Building”