[WFB] The Battle of Hel Fenn

2 x 3000 points | Vampire Counts & Army of Sylvania vs. Empire & Dwarfs | Narrative Scenario!

No battle plan survives contact with the enemy. First, Tom C had to drop out because Work, then Thomas Æ came down with Nineteen Crows Disease and had to stay at home.

Thus it was that muggins ‘ere had to pack up the rest of his dead, bang out an extra 3000 point army list (putting almost every model in the collection onto the table) and do his best to match wits with Kris W (my biggest and, indeed, only fan) and Ed H (the tallest Dwarf you’ll ever meet and the one of us who could be arsed to remember all the rules).

Might have gone full kit for this one. Not sorry.

The enemy army lists are currently written up from memory and best guesses. I don’t know Dwarfs Dwarves well enough to speculate on exact rune loadouts so I’m describing the effects I encountered.

The scenario was loosely adapted from the Hoodling’s Hole 20,000 point extravaganza. In lieu of hiding units in the marshy bits we simply plopped my Grave Markers in them to similar simulative effect, but otherwise the conditions remained the same.

Photography was carried out by Vicky, who was also drifting around taking snaps of the other tables, which is why one or two key moments don’t have direct illustrations (they happened while she was elsewhere, and I needed all my brain tape to play and record the game).

Last of the Von Carsteins

  • Mannfred von Carstein (Necromancy)
  • Vampire Lord (level 3, Walking Death, Power Familiar, Talisman of Protection) (Necromancy)
  • Wight Lord (Battle Standard; Hell Banner)
  • 25 Skeletons (sword and board, full command)
  • 5 Dire Wolves (Doom Wolf)
  • Bat Swarm
  • Bat Swarm
  • 3 Spirit Hosts
  • 8 Black Knights (barding, full command, Banner of the Barrows)
  • 8 Black Knights (barding, full command, Screaming Banner)
  • Banshee
  • Black Coach
  • Black Coach
  • Adolphus Krieger: Vampire Lord on Zombie Dragon (level 3, Wristbands of Black Gold) (Death)
  • Vampire Lord (level 3, Spectral Attendants, Ring of the Night) (Necromancy)
  • Laibach Ruthven: Vampire Thrall (greatsword, Flayed Hauberk, Wolf Form)
  • 25 Sylvanian Militia (spears, full command)
  • 20 Sylvanian Militia (crossbows, full command)
  • 10 Sylvanian Levy (standard & musician)
  • 6 Dire Wolves (Scouts)
  • 20 Drakenhof Guard (full command, Banner of Doom)
  • 3 Spirit Hosts
  • Banshee
  • Banshee
  • 12 Drakenhof Templars (barding, full command, Drakenhof Banner)

The Flower of Stirland

  • Martin, Count of Stirland: General of the Empire (Hammer of Judgment, Van Horstmann’s Speculum)
  • Priest of Ulric
  • Priest of Sigmar (barded warhorse, great weapon, heavy armour)
  • Priest of Sigmar (great weapon, heavy armour)
  • Captain of the Empire (Battle Standard: Gryphon Standard)
  • 30 Spearmen (full command): 10 Free Company (detachment) & 5 Archers (detachment)
  • 10 Crossbowmen
  • 16 Handgunners
  • 13 Knights of the Divine Sword (Inner Circle, full command, Steel Standard)
  • 6 Knights of the White Wolf (Inner Circle, full command)
  • 24 Greatswords (full command): 10 Free Company (detachment)
  • 5 Pistoliers
  • Great Cannon
  • 24 Flagellants
  • 14 Duellists
  • Steam Tank

The Throng of Karak Raziak

  • King Razzik: Dwarf Lord & Shieldbearers (runed-up reroll-misses great weapon and some other bits that didn’t matter)
  • Runelord (Rune of Balance, +1 to Dispels rune, runed-up reroll-misses hand weapon)
  • Runesmith (2 x Runes of Spellbreaking)
  • Runesmith (2 x Runes of Spellbreaking)
  • 2 x 20 Longbeards (full command)
  • 2 x 10 Thunderers (full command)
  • 10 Warriors (full command)
  • 20-odd Slayers (lots and lots of Giant Slayers)
  • 20 Ironbreakers (“no fear” rune)
  • Grudge Thrower (Engineer, a rune)
  • Grudge Thrower (Engineer, a rune)
  • Organ Gun
  • Organ Gun

The Archmage Finreir

  • High Elf Archmage (level 4, Staff of Sorcery, Dragon Bow, Dispel Scroll) (Heavens)

Preamble

Oddly enough for a battle with five Lord level wizards involved, magic didn’t end up playing an enormous part. I rolled mainly Invocations, Danses and Vigours, plus a Gaze for Mannfred and a Wind for Krieger, but no Doom and Darkness or Curse of Years. Kris got Uranon’s Thunderbolt, Second Sign of Amul, and some other bits he never got to cast. He spent most of his time zapping single wounds off Banshees, and dispelling everything that wasn’t a Grave Marker adding to my Levy unit or raising Crossbowmen in my back line.

The Vampire Counts, mounting an aggressive defence, had to set up and go first. This would prove to be a problem. I should have put my Black Coaches (as the units most concerned about entering marshland) down first, and keyed everything else around them. I did not: they ended up stuck behind Mannfred’s Knights, where they could be seen and shot but were thoroughly blocked in, which meant… well, you’ll see.

WHY DO I LET THIS HAPPEN?

I also ended up with the Zombie Dragon behind the only cover available, which meant Ed could set up directly opposite it with Slayers and Organ Guns and big stodgy Ld 9 and 10 T4 units that could absolutely handle it. I’d intended to have it go after Finreir, but he was safe in the midfield, bubblewrapped in Duellists, and getting the Dragon to him would mean running the Dwarf gauntlet or flying across my own lines in full view of the Empire cannons and Grudge Throwers.

“Turn it around a bit and I won’t be able to see its arse.” Thanks Kris!

Living After Midnight (turns 1 & 2)

The good news: I managed to break an Organ Gun crew straight off the bat, ploughing the Scout Wolves into them at full pelt. Didn’t catch them, what with the woods and all, but it was a fine start.

The bad news: I had to move Mannfred up full speed to create space for my Black Coaches to spread out and charge, which left him and his Templars in charge range of the Knights of the Divine Sword. Spurred on by the frothing of their Warrior Priest, said Knights charged at full tilt and slew half of the Templars in the opening hour of the battle!

“OK, so Mannfred’s in combat bottom of turn one. I can work with this.”

The middling news: Kris’ Steam Tank proved to be a damp squib, suffering from chronic Misfires and spending most of the battle shaking itself to bits in the corner. Serves them right for driving it into the marsh!

The excellent news: the Drakenhof Templars held and my Knights of the Black Cross were able to charge in and drive the Divine Sword off (failed Panic test), creating space for Mannfred to fry most of the Crossbowmen with a Gaze of Nagash before charging Martin, alongside the Black Coach that hadn’t been crushed to matchwood by a Grudge Thrower. The Black Cross, meanwhile, charged the remnants of the Divine Sword…

It’s the stray Artillery die I feel sorry for.

Meanwhile, the rest of the army trudged on…

The Dark Before Dawn (turn 3)

With the Dwarves largely pinned by ghosts, wolves, bats, raised Levy and some cowardly Knights of the White Wolf who clearly couldn’t bring themselves to hurt even a dead dog (two failed fear checks on the trot), I felt confident enough to send forth Krieger. Or at least, I felt that hiding my other 700 odd point model away for another turn wasn’t going to do me any good.

“Dogs aren’t dangerous, you cowards!”

It didn’t work out too well. Although Krieger survived, thanks to his Wristbands, the Dragon was blown out from underneath him, though it did take an entire Dwarf shooting phase to achieve that so I shouldn’t whinge. The Wolves and Knights who’d been riding ahead of the Dragon were able to charge Organ Guns, Thunderers and Warriors, shooing several smaller Dwarf units off the table and making a break themselves.

Seconds later, these Knights would be straight through the Dwarfs and off the table. In the good way.

The Banshee chorus took some time out from serenading the Divine Sword and leapt on an opportunity; one of them had the line, the length and the space to get near Finreir, who couldn’t hide in a unit, and so I took the shot. One 10 on 2d6 later and the Archmage was down. Luck not skill, of course, but you don’t get the jam if you don’t grab the jar (or something).

This is another Banshee, who is screaming at Pistoliers to make them go away.

Sadly, all was not well on the left flank. Mannfred’s attempt to infuse his Knights with Hellish Vigour (with dice, so it would be harder to Dispel) backfired as he did a big Miscast; a double one in fact, which would have had him go down the hole if not for the scenario special rules. As it is, he was left mildly frazzled, distracted perhaps by a thin ray of sunlight piercing the murky skies.

Ray of sunlight POV.

Despite his, and the Knights’, and the Coach’s best efforts, including a lance strike that left Martin on his last legs, they couldn’t quite break the Spearmen (or the remains of the Divine Sword, in the other charge across the lane), and the two Counts met in a challenge on the second round. Out came Van Horstmann’s Speculum; Mannfred made all his saves but couldn’t do much with Martin’s comparatively feeble statline and consequently, crumbled along with his overmatched Templars, broken on the points of good Empire spears.

The Sun Also Rises (turns 4 & 5)

Though the immortal will of the Vampire Lords kept their respective regiments intact, the Banshees, Wolves and Spirits slowly faded from the world over the ensuing “double-dip crumble checks.” Ed only let me get off some inconsequential raises of fresh Crossbowmen, and one of my Vampires miscast a crucial Danse at exactly the wrong time, terminating the final magic phase of the day.

“Nice NMM on that sword.” Yeah thanks Kris it was a busy week, OK?

Krieger cut down the Organ Gun crews and Runesmiths, while young Laibach Ruthven (a vampire to watch, I think) threw himself into one of the Grudge Throwers (the other, in a remarkable feat of accuracy, pulverised eleven Skeleton Spearmen in a single shot!). The Sylvanian Levy (bolstered by dozens of bodies from the Grave Markers) crashed headlong into the Empire lines, routing the Free Company and ploughing into the Flagellants behind, but too late, too late… the crumble claimed them too.

I only paid for ten of these.

Kris sent the Stirland Greatswords out to face the Drakenhof Guard, slaying half a dozen but not enough. Outflanked by Skeletons and a female Vampire surrounded by shrieking ghosts, their nerve failed them and they were chased down by their undead counterparts. Sadly, Mannfred’s subordinate on the left flank was unable to imitate their success; though he led his ranks of Skeletons into Martin’s Spearmen they couldn’t land the final conclusive blow on the Count of Stirland. Beset to their left by Free Company, their right was open to the rallied remnants of the Divine Sword.

The story was the same across the field. Finally free of marsh and Zombie, the Lords of Karak Raziak were free to charge the Sylvanian Militia front and flank, and avenge their manling allies. The White Wolves rode hard for the Skeleton Crossbowmen, hammers in hand. The Giant Slayers of Karak Sadra had turned to face down the Knights of the Black Cross, the only undead to break through the Dwarfish line. Even the triumphant Drakenhof Guard were facing enraged Flagellants, and vengeful Duellists drew a bead on Krieger.

At the end of the fifth hour, the dawn finally broke over Hel Fenn, and the outnumbered and outmanoeuvred dead lay down, keeling over on the dry land they had struggled so hard to reach. Laibach Ruthven, finally free of the burdensome Dwarf Engineers, did what his masters could not; he quit the field, fleeing west, out of the Empire and out of history.

Von Carstein concedes top of turn 6: a 7:28 Absolute Thrashing for the Vampire Counts!

Post Mortem: the Tactics

I made the decision to treat this as a historical refight, i.e. coming into it expecting to lose, and giving up a couple of advantages in the scenario as written to instead go for full Stillmania. In that respect I succeeded admirably, but in terms of actual generalship I shat the bed in grand style on this one and it’s probably worth working out how and why.

I’m not one to make excuses, but I was certainly up against it regarding the list; a last minute job which included several troop types I had originally deemed unfit for a battlefield of this nature. I also threw a lot of points into magic banners and Bloodline powers which ended up doing nothing at all (nobody shot at the Banner of Doom unit, the Screaming Banner unit never provoked a fear test and no Soulfires went off anywhere near the Drakenhof Banner). I did refuse all lending of miniatures (I’m not sorry either; I find that sort of thing malaesthetic at the best of times, let alone in Warhammer World at an exhibition game) and to be honest I’m not sure what the offered Grave Guard and Skellies would have achieved: I really needed more Ghouls and Bats to get across the marshes faster. First time I’ve regretted selling my Fell Bats!

The early stages of the logjam.

Getting into the actual battle, there were a few misfortunes. Not rolling a single Curse of Years or Doom and Darkness, and those two Miscasts, and the utter failure of a Vampire and Wight Lord to finish off Martin. (It occurs to me that the Vampire should have been whomping Free Company and hopefully cancelling out their counter charge, though, so that’s a poor choice compounding bad luck.) But again, I can’t complain too much about luck since that fluke shot at Finreir paid off and I was fortunate that Krieger survived his enforced dismounting for as long as he did.

I certainly threw the Dragon away but there wasn’t much I could do with it; it wasn’t going anywhere near the Slayers and there was no safe route across the line to engage suitable targets without eating two cannonballs and two rocks with good “scatter into the army” options. At least it ate a round of Organ Gun and Thunderer fire that would otherwise have laid waste to the units that did get through and do some damage to Ed’s lighter stuff. I don’t really know how to use the flying deathtrap since it had no place in the vast majority of my games; to really learn to love it I think I’ll need to play more 3000 pointers and figure it out.

The one thing for which I should be martyred in space was moving Mannfred up so far in the first turn; he survived the charge and the Divine Sword were seen off, but the loss of tempo and bodies in the Knight unit meant he was taking a longer and more delayed shot at Martin than I’d have liked and his supporting Knight unit ended up facing the wrong way. Again, this is inexperience talking. I can wrangle Mannfred’s casting potential but I don’t normally mount my Vampires up and put them in Knight buses, so I don’t really know how to keep him safe or ensure the first strike (since my Knights are usually on flank-and-spank duty instead of being high value targets that take point).

As it was, my worst painted unit performed the best. OF COURSE.

At the bottom of it all I think I was simply out-teched and out-planned, though. I had to move through lanes between the marshy patches (or have units horribly slowed down by moving through) while their firepower could engage whatever was closest at leisure. Their bonuses to Dispel and the five Scrolls meant I wasn’t going to get key spells off even if I didn’t Miscast them. All their Lords, barring Finreir and Martin, were buried in units I couldn’t really take on. And once Mannfred was gone, I was losing the remnants of my units (giving away points) while their odd models and lone characters were holding on and I didn’t have chaff to hunt them down (not giving away points). After two years out of the saddle I am simply not the Vampire Count I used to be: I even forgot that Zombies always always always strike last, barring Hellish Vigour, which is baseline: how embarrassing!

It’s difficult to talk about “learnings” when this is a highly unusual encounter using an army I don’t really play any more. Certainly there are things I could add to the army that would make this kind of encounter flow more easily, but the figure case is very extremely full now and I’d have to junk something (possibly that ugly-ass third Knight unit) to make space. More Ghouls (mine are not Citadel and not numerous enough to make a difference), more Bats of all sizes and possibly a hard turn into some better crossbowmen (Von Carstein militia or Dogs of War) wouldn’t go amiss. The main “learning”, I suppose, is that it’s not really a 6000 point army even though that’s what it adds up to: it’s a comfortable 3000 with a deep bench of reserves.

Post Mortem: the Experience

Everyone has been lateral flowing like mad, don’t worry.

All of which said, the point of this meet-up was to play some dream games, hence Hel Fenn, Waaagh! Grom, a three-way rumble in the Nurgle-infested jungle and the War of the Beard going on across the line of tables. In that respect the event was an unalloyed and inarguable success. We certainly drew a lot of favourable gazes, including from studio folks (hello JT-Y, yes I have known you for years, you are right as usual, I just haven’t seen your grumpy old face for quite a few of them and my poor ravaged brain has lost a lot of salient data lately), and my table certainly did a lot of “yes, people do still play it… there’s a Facebook group, yes… yes, there are events… OK, we’ll see you there.” Absolutely worth turning out to fly the flag, and now… well, now I have a bucket list game.

I’d really like to play some of the first War of the Vampire Counts, with Vlad ‘n’ Izzy ravaging the Empire. Maybe Schwartzhafen, or Bogenhafen, or a street fight in Middenheim with an army of ghosts, or maybe we should just go all out and do the Siege of Altdorf (although I’d need a lot more bodies for that).

All that remains is for me to thank Kris and Ed for being sterling opposition and thrashing me without provoking the frowny face even once, Joseph B for arranging it all, and my lovely hostess Vicky for a) putting me up all weekend and b) taking over photography duties for the day so I could at least try and focus on the game.

Death is but a window onto eternity. I’ll be back.

[WFB] Never Start A Land War In Sylvania

“Hel Fenn?” the Lord Ruthven said to me. “My dear boy, everyone who’s anyone says they were at Hel Fenn. There are scions of our line barely out of their grave who’ll tell you they remember it like it was yesterday.”
“Do you?” I asked.
“History will tell you,” said the Lord Ruthven, “that I was nowhere near the place; that it was Adolphus Krieger who stood with Mannfred at the last, while I was derelict in my duties to my lord and still mourning my fair Emmanuelle.”
History, I reflected, is written by the winners; and history is very clear that at Hel Fenn, the house of von Carstein came off the worse…
But history, I also reflected, is frequently a lot of old cobblers.


Remember when I said I’d be retiring my Vampire Counts, “except for maybe the odd big exhibition game or something?”

The moment long awaited has come. Mr Joseph B, esquire of any parish he happens to be in, has arranged a day of fun and frolics at Warhammer World in two weeks’ time, with some big scenario-type fantasy-historical refight games afoot. One of which is a Hel Fenn game, basically adapted from the Hoodling’s Hole battle report but scaled down to four players and a modest 6000-ish points a side. One Thomas Æ, admin of the VC Facebook group and thus my online liege-lord, was to command the Vampire Counts tag team against a force of Empire, Dwarfs and one token High Elf Archmage, after the works of the revisionist Savile. But what’s this? Oh no and crikey, the other Vampire Counts player has had to drop out. What’s needed is someone with a Von Carstein or Sylvanian army ready to go and a drive to play big narrative driven games of Warhammer at the drop of a hat.

Oh hey. Whaddup. It’s your boy.

So Thomas has called dibs on Mannfred, which is actually fine by me as it frees me up to take the other big centrepiece figure I never get to use, i.e. my Zombie Dragon, and with Mannfred as overall General and the only figure whose death will induce army-wide Lancashire cheese behaviour, I can actually throw my Zombie Dragon into battle and not worry about the consequences if its rider gets shot off the back. Bonus.

I offered Thomas the choice of two army archetypes to support his fairly balanced 3000 point force (Mannfred costs no points in this scenario, but still occupies his normal triple helping of character slots). It was either going to be a cabal of dark wizards (Necromancer Lord, three Necromancers, Wight Lord BSB and the Dragon, plus a giant Spirit Host and Banshees to go) or the Army of Sylvania rising to defend their home (two Vampire Lords, one on a Dragon and one anchoring the defensive line of crossbowmen, spearmen, ghosts and Drakenhof Guard).

Thomas opted for the Sylvanians and so here’s me writing a list I never thought I’d actually get to field. Time to put some The Vision Bleak on the ol’ stereo and have at it.

In my heart, the year is ALWAYS two-thousand-five.

By the end of track three, this is what I had together.

LORD GLENARVON & AUGUSTA
Lord + Hero + Hero: Vampire Lord: magic level 3; great weapon; Zombie Dragon: 639
LORD RUTHVEN
Lord + Hero: Vampire Lord: magic level 3: 335
MEDORA VON CARSTEIN
Hero: Vampire Thrall; Army Standard: 105
LORD RUTHVEN’S REDOUBTABLE REGIMENT OF FOOT
Core: 30 Sylvanian Militia: spears, shields and light armour; Champion, musician and standard bearer: 325
Core: 20 Sylvanian Militia: crossbows and light armour; Champion, musician and standard bearer: 225
CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT
Core: 5 Dire Wolves: Scouts: 55
Core: 6 Dire Wolves: Doom Wolf: 60
Core: Bat Swarm: 60
Core: Bat Swarm: 60
GRAND ORDER OF THE CROSS OF SYLVANIA
Special: 20 Drakenhof Guard: Champion, musician and standard bearer: 340
Rare: 12 Drakenhof Templars: barding: Champion, musician and standard bearer: 340
THE WOE OF THE HOUSE OF RUTHVEN
Rare: Cora, a Banshee: 90
Rare: Clarice, another Banshee: 90

Magic items have yet to be selected, and will round the army out to the full 3000 points. I usually like to keep it simple in large games, but with access to the unusual Sylvanian bloodline powers I might have to go for some moving parts on the Lords. With only three characters to administrate things won’t be too complicated (he hopes).

It’s a little different from my normal Vampire Counts outing. Being Sylvanians, I can’t take two units of Knights, so I’m going to break out my massive unit with the actual Von Carstein shields and Drakenhof Templar colours for the occasion. Being Sylvanians, I can take my Drakenhof Guard and Crossbowmen, so they’re in without a second thought. And the nature of the scenario allows me to bring the Dragon, so there’s no way in hell she’s not coming out for a ride.

To cover all of this one significant cut has had to be made; I am not fielding my usual giant Spirit Host (which would normally get billing over any kind of Grave Guard). I also turned down the opportunity to take two Black Coaches as I know the scenario will have some big boggy areas and I don’t think the chariots are the best choice in those circumstances.

I won’t divulge the plan ahead of time, as I’m sure my canny opposition will be reading the blog (this is also why I’ve no intention of revealing my magic item collection). I do have one, albeit a very crude one, but it’s going to depend on exactly what Joseph does with the table on the day.

Of course, all this is assuming Thomas doesn’t veto me back into the Stone Age and demand I bring the Necromancers instead when he sees what I’ve done here.