WFB Sixth Edition. 6000 points. Vampire Counts vs. Bretonnians and Dogs of War.
Frankly, if that doesn’t wake you up inside, I don’t know what will. It certainly kept me going for about eight hours, even though I hadn’t actually slept for two nights on the trot and was fast succumbing to ye pestilence and, frankly, was only kept functional by a hideous cocktail of OG Relentless and cranberry juice. Lee hadn’t had the best night either, with two fire alarms going off in his hotel during the wee hours, but damn it all we’d been planning this for weeks and we weren’t going to let anything stop us now.
Neither force was what you’d call “legal”, although the conventions regarding numbers of Lords and Heroes, as well as Core, Special and Rare troops under them, were still obeyed. The goal was for myself and Lee to plonk our entire painted collections on the board and give the other attendees of yer actual Exeter Games Gathering something to gawp at in between doing each other over. If you have a 6’x4′ table for the whole day, you might as well make use of it!
We cobbled together a makeshift scenario by mashing up the Flank Attack and Capture ones from the WFB rulebook. Flank Attack would make the most of Lee’s divided forces by not actually considering them the same thing; Capture would relieve us of the need to calculate or even consider Victory Points, with victory determined by Who Was Closest To The Shed at the end. The well-paid and foolishly courageous Dogs of War would start entrenched behind enough linear obstacles to make a Dwarf blush (to ensure I couldn’t sweep them all away by turn two), while the Bretonnians would advance from a flank of Lee’s choosing at the top of turn three (giving me a turn to at least brace for impact before the inevitable charge).
We needed something suitably high stakes to draw these mighty forces together, so I elected not to bring the Carstein Ring, and instead place it within the retirement cottage of one Felix Mann, Esq, once of Altdorf and now long deceased. Why was this important? Look at who showed up…
Vampire Counts (attacking)
Mannfred von Carstein
Lord Ruthven (Vampire Lord on Zombie Dragon; some kit which ended up being totally irrelevant)
Countess Carmilla (Vampire Countess on foot; Summon Bats and Spectral Attendants)
Sir Francis Varney (Vampire Thrall in Wolf Form)
Walravius (Wight Lord Battle Standard Bearer, waving the Hell Banner about)
Whispering Nell (Wraith with the Cursed Book)
Rosenkratz, Guildenstern and Haeckl (three Necromancers with a Power Stone and Dispel Scroll apiece)
30 Skeleton Spearmen
20 Skeleton Crossbowmen
2 (independent) Bat Swarms
10 Dire Wolves
20 Drakenhof Guard (with the Screaming Banner)
28 Black Knights (one unit of 12 with the Drakenhof Banner, two units of 8 with nowt fancy to their name)
1 very large Spirit Host
2 Black Coaches
Dogs of War (defending)
an unnamed but courageous Hireling Wizard, late of Bretonnia no doubt, brandishing the Staff of Sorcery (Lee’s spare Damsel coming out to play)
a foolhardy Paymaster
Leopold’s Leopard Company
the Marksmen of Miragliano
a Pikeman company whose resemblance to the Alcatini Fellowship is entirely coincidental
an off-brand Crossbowman company
Bronzino and a Galloper Gun
Dadallo and the Birdmen of Catrazza
Lumpin Croop and his Fighting Cocks
the Giants of Albion and Hengist
King Louen Leoncoeur
Morgiana la Fay
The Green Knight
a Paladin on a Pegasus
a Paladin not on a Pegasus (bearing the Battle Standard)
two footslogging Paladins
a slightly overwhelmed Damsel with the Silver Mirror
half a dozen Grail Knights (playing escort to the Fay and the BSB)
eight Knights Errant
two dozen Bowmen
a dozen Men At Arms
two fistfuls of Mounted Yeomen
We both figured the Dogs of War would need a lot of luck to make it through the game, but things would doubtless turn Lee’s way when the Bretonnians arrived. Were we right? Read on…
Opening Gambits (Turns 1 and 2)
Bretonnia Rides (Turns 3 and 4)
Desperate Times (Turns 5 and 6)
There followed a chain of events which I was too tired to photograph, and I hope Lee can supply suitable imagery in good time. But here’s what happened.
Mannfred was finally able to cross the hedge and take control of the Mann residence. All he had to do was survive one last turn. To that end, he and all his Necromancers attempted to cast Invocations to restore him to full capacity of Wounds. Lee Dispelled Mannfred’s Invocation, and I failed to cast the other three. Suddenly, everything was back on the knife edge again.
In the middle ground, I was able to Summon Bats, redeploy Ghouls, and shove Skeletons forward so that Lee’s Knights had very few charge opportunities left.
The second Giant stumbled in its charge on Carmilla and her guard; about to Jump Up and Down, the drunken oaf ended up falling at Carmilla’s feet, and she took great pleasure in avenging her last outing against the Giants by cutting it down in person.
King Louen descended on the Necromancers, cutting their zombie bodyguard to ribbons but leaving the casters themselves alive.
Hope, such as it was, rested with one man…
Whirling his Delirious Blade about him, the Green Knight, immortal defender of Bretonnia, charged in and challenged the Vampire Count to single combat. Lacking any alternative, Mannfred drew his sword again and hoped against hope that he could prevail. It was not to be. The Ethereal care not for hedgerows, and so the Green Knight fought at full efficiency, liberating Mannfred from the mortal coil.
Defeat! Defeat at the very last round of combat on the very last turn! Honestly, I couldn’t ask for a better way to go out than that. When you’re playing a supervillain like Mannfred, hubris and trickery and defeat snatched from the jaws of victory by an immortal force of righteous fury is fitting and there’s no bones about it.
Lee was delighted at the chance to field all his forces together and for that matter so do I; one never normally gets to take things like Dragons and so many spellcasters that the Lore of Death on two of them doesn’t feel like a waste. On top of all that, it was a delightfully close game which could easily have gone either way, and if we played it again (ideally when we weren’t both half mad with sleep deprivation) I for one would do things a little differently.
I’d probably stack the cavalry on that open flank, and let the Spirits lead the charge into those pike blocks (since they don’t give a monkey’s chuff about hedges). That might leave my infantry lagging a bit, but to be honest, their job was to ferry the spellcasters and Wraith forward and then block as many charge lanes as possible. I wouldn’t change the list much, except for maybe slipping Call Winds onto Carmilla for the early turns… and of course, not leaving home without the Banner of the Barrows.
“I see from your frowns that you do not recognise me – truth be told I would not recognise myself, tied upside down to a tree in this gloomy wilderness so far from my humble home. Yet I assure you, it is I – honest Akbar! Yes, yes, that Akbar! Honest Akbar of Honest Akbar’s Discount Machineries and Magics! You have heard of me perhaps? You have heard my claim of over one thousand generals satisfied with the performance of Akbar produce?
“No doubt you are wondering how your old friend and comrade Akbar ended up in this mess, mm? Do not worry. I remember it all. Well, bits of it. The violent bits.
“It all started the day I sold the Wand of Jet. I knew the customer was not to be trusted. The foul texture of his skin – the crack and grumble of his bones – that wild, unkempt beard – I knew him for a student of the dark arts the moment I laid eyes on him. But his gold was good, you see, and Akbar, Honest Akbar… he does not discriminate.
“Yes, yes. Perhaps I should explain.
“As I say, it started the day I sold the Wand of Jet…”