[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.

[WFB] Seeing the Wood for the Trees

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

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

Original Concept

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

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

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

Solo Campaign

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

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

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

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

Resurrection Campaign

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

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

Asrai Forge

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

Theme Items I Should Use

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

Good Items I Like Using

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Muster The Kindred

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[WFB] Warhammer: Resurrection I, Day 2: The Campaign (2/2)

“Seems to be going well so far,” said Rarbuik, from his side of the wagon.

“We’re a good four days from Kazad Urkbavak,” said Dougnec, from his, “and another half day to Karaz-a-Karak. Uphill, too, and probably in the snow.”

“It’s the middle of bloody summer,” said Rarbuik. “We’re going through the pass, not up the bloody mountain.”

“Stop your bloody swearin’,” said Fargon. He was the older member of the crew, and he’d not taken his sunhat off since they set out. “And watch the road.”

“Barely a road anyway,” said Rarbuik. He wasn’t entirely wrong. They were, more or less, following the course of the Skull River; though the shipments usually went by boat, the whole conceit of the operation depended on every wagon being a wagon, and easy to mix up, even if you were some halfwit goblin with mushrooms where his brain should be. Of course, the shipments usually went by boat because you had the Badlands on one side of the river, big nasty orcs down that way, and you had the Forest of Gloom on the other, and no bugger wanted to go in there if they could possibly avoid it. Even if it was a bit thin and scrubby this far south, it was still trees, wasn’t it?

“I told you to stop your bloody swearin’,” said Fargon, and Rarbuik realised he’d been thinking aloud for the last two hundred yards. Then he stopped, quite abruptly, because there was something on the road ahead of them, just peeping over the horizon.

It was a tall, black, pointy sort of something. On a stick. It looked a bit like a giant X-rune, with horns on and bits on the side. And it was bobbing up and down in a very threatening way, like… someone was carrying it. Upright. While they were marching.

Rarbuik thought he’d better mention it.

“Anyone else see that?” he asked.

“Anyone else see them?”

Dougnec was already scrambling onto the wagon. With his free hand, he pointed due west: sure enough, there was another banner pole (for such it was), borne in the armoured hand of a rider in black, who’d brought four of his friends along for a jolly gallop in the country by Rarbuik’s estimation. Rarbuik had a quick shufty off to the north, just to check, and it looked as if there was some kerfuffle going on up there too: lots of braying and bellowing that didn’t sit easily on his ears, and then there were the animal noises answering the Norscan voices, too.

“Get on the back of the cart, lad,” said Fargon. “We’re goin’ through.”

Rarbuik didn’t quite get on the cart. He would have, but something had settled on his hand, and was settling on the cart too, where it didn’t disappear quite so fast in the heat. It was snowing. It was bloody well snowing at midsummer, as if to prove Dougnec right.

And then, from the raggedy edge of the Forest of Gloom, the screaming started.

Act Two: “You call that soup? This is what I call soup…”

Back in the relatively chill side room for my last game of the weekend, against Brendan Sparrow and his jumbo tureen of Chaos Undecided. This was exactly the kind of game I enjoy. Brendan’s a lovely chap, quiet and contemplative and working things out aloud as he goes along so you can take the game as a conversation and smooth things along toward a nice refreshing conclusion. Also, his army was savage when I stopped and thought about it.

Chaos Lord, with the Mark of Chaos Undivided; Aspiring Champion with the Battle Standard and the Mark of Khorne; two Wargors, one with the Mark of Slaanesh and a Scroll, one with the Lore of Shadows and a Spell Familiar. Then a unit of Chaos Warriors (Mark of Khorne), a unit of Chosen Knights (Mark of Slaanesh), a Chariot (Chaos Undivided, nothing fancy) and screening Warhounds; a Beastherd, some Furies, three Minotaurs (Mark of Nurgle) and a big block of Dogs of War Norscans with flails.

When you break that down, that’s two blocks of Frenzied infantry, six casting and six dispel dice, a unit of 1+ save cavalry that cares not for psychology so you will have to kill all of them, some flying daemons and skirmishing bait and blockers with a 4+ save, and probably the two best spell lores Chaos can get. It’s an all round list with a lot of tech to it and, in a Breakthrough scenario, it has a lot of threats that can potentially add up to a win.

Despite this, I came out swinging. I was determined to even the odds by the end of the day. Whatever else happened, this one was going to go the distance. It did, and by all the gods of the bloody great wheel it was a cracker.

I don’t know if I want to write it up as a story or a conventional report, because so much happened. I’ll try and do both, and hope it all makes sense somehow.

Ahead of the Black-Briar, the spirits of the Deadwood made their stand; time was needed for the arrows of pact-pledged to reap their toll, and time they would have. Uchelwydd strode to the fore, the dry soil cracking under his every tread. The Brotherhood of the Pact turned to hold the flank against hoof and iron. And from the trees the Maven shrieked her war-song, hate and fury and wounded pride dragging the dying trees in her wake.

Although Strangleroots didn’t do them any damage, the Minotaurs advanced into short range of all the Black-Briar and rapidly learned why that wasn’t the best idea. Even the Mark of Nurgle can only soak so many hits.

Blood. Iron. Pain. Hunt. Kill.

There was more to Hywel’s thoughts, but the struggle was always there. The forest had taken him and sent him back; touched him and changed him. Always its simple will pressed back his own, inexorable as the seasons.

This was why he did not lead. This was why he dared not lead. The Maven was cruel, but she was sane. Saner than him. She had tricked him and he had no right to rule, not now. What folly would he lead them to next? What choice had he had?

No. These thoughts were poison. The forest had a simpler way. Pain? Hunt. Kill.

This was why he stood, now, with half an army before him; his bow took shape from his wooden flesh, and he nocked a single arrow from the empty air.

Two knights fell. It had begun.

I ummed and ahhed about this, but there was nobody I trusted to clean up this flank more than Hywel. The Hail of Doom might have been better used against a lighter unit, but I figured forcing through as many S4 hits on the Knights from the earliest possible moment was my best chance at bringing them down. Two kills from fifteen hits, against that armour save? I’ll take it.

Steady, steady, steady…

The beasts would come. The beasts would throw themselves upon her lines in disarray. The beasts would bring themselves to her…

Yet hatred stirred in the Maven’s heart, and she knew she must kill. Had she vowed vengeance and the breaking of bones to do nothing? Had she been trampled to sawdust to stand idle now?

I really shouldn’t have done this; I should have made the bait go around or keep the Norscans blocked. I think in my heart I’d chosen to roleplay the Maven as if she now hated Beastmen, after all the kickings she’d had from them lately; I also admit to wanting to win a round of combat, so badly. Charging the obvious bait might have been a good idea, chasing them down was absolutely not, but I had hatred in my heart even if it wasn’t on my character sheet.

Next would be the winged ones, the false-kin of the skies. They swept down on wings of spite and coward’s courage and fool’s hope – real enough to fly, real enough to fight, but Hywel could see them for what they were. But when your sword is the winter’s cold fury, the hard ground and the hoar frost, made every bit as real as these poison thoughts in flesh, they die soon enough, either way.

Mister Magic Weapon is introduced to the Furies. It goes as well as can be expected. I really wanted to give him the Sword of a Thousand Winters but I don’t want to load any more gimmicks into this army; it’s already struggling without the burden of nonsense.

This one led them! This one defiled! This one tore his skin from the bones of the earth! This one would pay!

But as the Maven’s scythe spun and danced in her hands, as his blows were caught by haft and crook, her sisters were dying again. Heavy iron met faerie flesh. Every blow that landed was execution.

I mean, what actually did for the Dryads was, as ever, static combat resolution. They really need a friend who isn’t a skirmisher like them, but I cannot get these units that all move five inches a turn to line up and fight nicely together for some reason. There’s a Minotaur in their flank, who killed two Dryads and wasn’t helping matters any, but at least they managed to kill him in return.

The little sister was dying again.

Uchelwydd sighed heavy, planted roots deep. Sometimes he regretted answering the call; why had he not slept the winter away like all his brothers? Eternity in a curse-bound slumber was starting to sound like a relief.

There were men, in steel skins. They had axes. Uchelwydd roared his rage, and still they came on; yet as they came the roots burst the ground beneath them, and one-two-three-four, four fewer axes to bite.

After a lacklustre show so far, Uchelwydd’s Strangleroots does ten hits to these oncoming Chaos Warriors. That would be a panickin’, in a less sensibly constructed list. They did their best to sink some wounds onto him, but I don’t think they even brought him halfway down. If I could back that big log up properly he’d be a superstar: as it is, he’s my best unit right up until he breaks, at which point the game has usually given way around him. I think I might want two of these.

Hold the line.
Save the wood.
Serve the Maven.

They had all made the Pact. They had all sworn the vow. They were brothers in endless service; ghost-flesh, dead-wood.

There was something coming. It struck the line. A spike of steel cut deep.

The Brotherhood of the Dead Wood closed ranks.

There wasn’t something coming any more.

Brendan was spectacularly unlucky with his Chariot charge; the impact hits didn’t really wound much, the crew missed, and the horses were struggling to make a dent on T5 Tree-Kin. They whomped it to matchwood, as you do, but were functionally out of the game at this point with nothing left to charge or hold the flank against.

Arrows had flown and the forest had sung. Many a beast had died, many a throat had been pierced. The Maven was trampled in dust, but she would rise as she always rose; curse as she’d always cursed; endure, as the bitch always did.

Bloddeuwydd didn’t know where that thought had come from. How had that malice, that murder-lust slipped into her mind? The Maven was not to be trusted – the Maven had done something, long ago – but what was done was done, and the Maven was their only hope, then as she was now, as it ever was.

Gilfaethwy stood beside her, arrow after arrow springing to his hand, nocked to his bow. He struck from the shadows, again and again – until the shadows struck back. In a whisper and a flicker and a flurry he was gone – just like that. Only darkness remained. Only darkness, and the Black-Briar trembled and knew fear in the dark, and they were gone.

I’ve been quiet about it so far, but after the initial “two dice three spells never works out” conversation, Brendan was dominating with his magic. Luxurious Torment is such a subtly nasty spell; it takes control of a unit away, it inflicts damage right through the game, it has to be dispelled up front or you’re stuck with it because it doesn’t Remain in Play, and… arse biscuits, I’ve just realised it also renders the unit immune to panic, so these Glade Guard should be standing proud and trying not to froth at the mouth too much. I know they’re immune to panic when they have frenzy, I just forgot about the frenzy in amongst the d6 hits every round. Still, man. Slaanesh/Shadow. The perfect combination.

There was little left. Still the arrows flew, from the quivers of the Black-Briar. Still steel shuddered, still men fell, but not enough, not enough. Still came on the men of the North, and still the shadows and whispers were all around. Blodeuwydd felt it welling up in her cold ensorcelled heart; the heat, the burning heat. She trembled where she stood, on the edge of this forest in a foreign land; her lips parted and she moaned, helpless, pinioned by the gaze of the One Who Thirsts.

There was only one thing to do, and she did it. She shut her eyes, flung back her arms, and hurled herself forward into the embrace.

She was dead before she fell from the Lord of Chaos’ outstretched sword.

Kharnak the Usurper didn’t even break his stride.

With the demise of Blodeuwydd, forced to charge the Chaos Lord by yet another casting of Luxurious Torment, things were looking very bleak. I did everything in my power; Standing, Shooting, praying for numbers, but I couldn’t quite kill the last of the Chaos Warriors or even one of the Knights. Unseen Lurker catapulted the Brayherd into the lines as well, and altogether that was just enough points to get Brendan the win. Barely.

He reckons if I’d had Hywel charge into his Chaos Hounds and overrun into the Knights I’d have got it, and it’s hard to disagree (although I think I threw the game a bit with that Dryad charge, too). I think there was a reason why I didn’t: maybe the overrun angle was bad. Nevertheless I had the movement to reach the Knights and should have encircled them rather than pulling my most powerful aggressive fighter back to the centre where there wasn’t much left to do.

Other than that, a delightfully tense game, never a grim word said or grumpy face seen. This sort of thing is what we pay the ticket money for.

Defeat for the Wood Elves once again, but we sold our lives dearly, almost to the last elf. Oh, and I lost my general again, so…

Death for the Maven! Death for the Maven for One Thousand Years! I’m fine with it; she’s had enough lucky escapes from being locked in challenges while her sisters get butchered around her, and her luck can’t realistically hold out forever. Killing her allows me to move the army’s story forward in exactly the way that this event was designed to do (and justifies a bit of redrawing in the list department as well).

It goes wthout saying that I enjoyed this side of the event immensely: this is the sort of Warhammer I want to get out of bed for, and the tournament day before was really a warm-up for me. I’d have liked to do better, but it’s a new army and one with a lot of unusual quirks compared to what I’ve spent the last eighteen years playing. When I came home Rob asked me if I’d had a good time, and I was all ambivalent and “event was good, opponents were nice, not sure I enjoyed the army.” As I wrote this game up the love came back. That’s not to say I won’t be making some changes, but that’s a matter for the next post. In the meantime, here’s the wrap up in character…

The three dwarfs watched as a tide of shrieking, yammering things poured out of the forest; in their wake, lines of ashen-faced elves in cowls, long bows of new wood in their hands.

For half a moment, Rarbuik thought they’d get away with it. The great lumbering mass of a Treeman planted himself right between the dark horde and the road; the horde of Dryads rushed forward, howling blue murder at the beastmen as they rushed in. On the road ahead, something tall and lean with sweeping horns and a mane of cloudy hair bounded toward the Knights of Chaos; was that a bastard long sword or a recurved bow in his hands, and did it really matter? Rarbuik and the lads weren’t sure it did.

Yet the wave broke, on the rock of Chaos. The Dryads disappeared beneath iron-headed flails and iron-capped boots. The Treeman wavered as they fell, and in his moment of weakness the dark warriors surged around him as he toppled. Still the elven archers stood their ground, but too late, too late.

Rarbuik saw the elf with the horns once more, before the end. He stood atop a little rocky outcrop, surveying the scene; he threw back his head and he howled with an anguish none of the dwarfs had heard come from any living throat.

It was Dougnec who’d seen why, though he wouldn’t live to put two and two together and say so. Dougnec was facing backwards, and he’d seen the elf maiden in her cloak of briars throw herself onto the Chaos champion’s sword with the sort of outcry a dwarf normally saved for a plate of curry and a cold pint.

The archers melted back, into the woods, a ragged handful giving ground before the last warriors of Chaos. The elf with the horns shook his head, leapt from his crag, and followed.

“Bloody perfidious elves,” said Raurbik, and then “sorry, Fargon.”

“Fuck it,” said Fargon. “Don’t think it really matters, now.”

They were coming closer. The old dwarf stood up in the driver’s seat. For the first time since they’d left Karak Dron, he tugged off his hat and threw it down in the dust. With his free hand he coaxed his line of thick, tufty orange hair back upright, or as close to upright as he could manage. And finally, Rarbuik understood what they were doing up here, and why Fargon hadn’t been in any hurry to reach Karaz-a-Karak at all.

“You lads had best be off,” he said. “No sense us all getting done in.”

“What, and shave my head myself for my trouble?” said Dougnec.

“Like you said,” said Raurbik. “Fuck it. Right?”

“Good lads,” said Fargon, and took the reins tight in his hands. “They’ll never take us alive. Ya mule!”

Prince Hywel never saw the explosion, but he heard it all right. He heard it from half a mile away, and gave a grim nod. Whatever else happened, the Forest of Gloom had been protected. No minion of the Usurper had made it past the old dwarf road, of that he was damn sure. And for the first time in a thousand years and change, he was thinking clearly. What had this wretched Pact ever done for them? His own mind, a prison; his son, his daughter; both dead. And if he ever set eyes on that treacherous spite of a Maven again, she’d regret not staying dead this time

[WFB] Warhammer: Resurrection I, Day 2: The Campaign (1/2)

It was the height of summer. An oppressive heat rested on the Badlands. Birds abandoned the wing and took to their sheltered nests; beasts lay spread upon the ground, all lolling tongues and fur matted with sweat. Langorous the breeze stirred the canopy, a hot dry wind from the south. Dust, and salt, and blood, and the sound of drums and the echoes of war rode on the back of the wind, and they fell on the rich dark summer leaves of the Forest of Gloom.

If war was coming it mattered not why, nor who; they would come with fire and iron. They would cut wood, burn brush, tear stone and dam rivers. The Forest stirred from leaf to root, and from root to world-root, and so the echoes of war came to maddened ears – half elven, half other, all wrong.

The Forest of Gloom was calling, and the Deadwood of Tiernmas was answering.

It was the height of summer, but for the briefest handful of moments, something moved in the heavy hot dark of the woods; the shortest flurry of snow, melting in the air, gone before it touched the ground.

Deadwood marched.

The Flight from Karak Dron

Of course, there were other things going on in the wider world, but do you think the Court of the Crag give a tinker’s hoot? Two generations of mad elves slowly turning into trees, a psychotic woodland sprite who is perfectly happy with a slow death as long as she gets to be in charge of it, and a hippy wizard who has better things to do than troop across the Old World and take on another lost cause – this lot can barely keep their own bonsai trimmed, never mind anyone else’s. Frankly, it’s a miracle they turned up at all.

Nevertheless, we should note for posterity’s sake that the dwarf hold of Karak Dron, far to the south, has been stockpiling precious mineral ores as well as other supplies in preparation for evacuation. Wagon trains have set out across the Badlands roads; some toward Barak Varr and the sea, others to the Grey Mountains and their more defensible holds. Word has gotten out, as it does (you can’t hide anything from superior Skaven technology), and so the canny dwarfs have concocted a plan. Mercenaries have been hired to protect some of the wagons; others have been emptied of valuables and filled with sweet-knack all or worse; others sent north alone through the Forest of Gloom to Zhufbar. After all, if enemies come and rouse the Asrai, what are the elves more likely to do? Attack a lone wagon, or fall upon a marauding army?

The Deadwood Covenant

Since day two was going to be a story-driven affair, I decided I’d walk back from the compromise cast and bring my original band of named characters along for an outing. Here’s the army list I put together in the bath the night before.

Prince Hywel of the Crag
Highborn: Alter Kindred: light armour, shield, Sword of Might, Helm of the Hunt, Glamourweave, Hail of Doom Arrow

Gilfaethwy
Noble: Alter Kindred: additional hand weapon, shield, Bow of Loren, Briarsheath

Bloddeuwydd
Spellsinger: level 2 wizard: Deepwood Sphere, Dispel Scroll

The Maven
Branchwraith: level 1 wizard: Annoyance of Netlings, Cluster of Radiants: Army General

Kinbands of the Black Briar
10 Glade Guard
10 Glade Guard
10 Glade Guard: standard bearer: War Banner

Celyn y Eiddew
16 Dryads

Brawdolieath Pryn Mawr
5 Tree-Kin: champion

Uchelwydd
Treeman

I wanted to try the big Dryad swarm at least once, just to see if it out-performed the smaller units somehow. I also decided to lose the Scouts, as they’ve been a bit of a let down in the past: most boards simply haven’t had a good place in which to Scout them and they end up as a third, less efficient unit of Glade Guard. Instead, I thought “why not take a unit of Glade Guard that brings a +3 to combat resolution and see if that does any good?” Rolling out one big unit of Tree-Kin was a last chance saloon job and also made the mathematics easier if I needed to drop down for an Ambush scenario, as I was warned I might: lose them, lose Hwel, lose the War Banner, that’s under 1300 and basically good enough for jazz.

The main event is of course the Alter tag-team. Prince Hywel has been patiently waiting for his first outing and I had quite high hopes for him: an 18″ charge, followed up by six S5 attacks at very good Weapon Skill, and of course the Hail of Doom, but a massive opportunity cost in giving up Leadership 10 generalship and not being able to take a decent wizard, hence his relegation to the story day. Gilfaethwy is an experiment that I wanted to get out of my system: four shots out of the Bow of Loren at very solid Ballistic Skill, and the Briarsheath to help him not be shot back. I still think it’s got legs, but these games weren’t the best test bed, as you’ll see.

Act One: “Careful, It’s Soup”

Scarcely had the spirits woken, barely had the elves nocked their bows, when the brayherd was upon them. The air was rank – not merely with the reek of blood and dung and spittle but the sweat of horses, the tang of steel in summer, and everywhere the rich drifting spice on the edge of smelling. Foul magic. The Changer of Ways at work.

In the dark of the woods, Ursakah had been waiting. He knew. He’d followed the colours only he could see. The Knights couldn’t see them; that’s why they needed him, for all that they rode around acting the big chief. Joekle couldn’t see them; it was all brown to him. Tchar had given Ursakah the lead and Tchar had said to him: the Usurper’s on the way. Clear the path. Don’t be here when he is. Let him take the prize. He’ll regret it.

And now the elves had fallen into his trap too. Pretty magic – but spent now, by bringing them here. Easy prey, now. Ursakah smiled a goaty smile and unslung his horn from his side. Time to go.

When I saw Joseph’s army I wondered if he’d unpacked his competition list by mistake. Fourteen power dice Tzeentch Chaos soup? In a narrative event? What kind of swine, why didn’t I pack the Sylvanians, et cetera ad nauseam. In other words, I came into this one tilted, bitchy and not in the best mindset. Joseph knows me well enough to forgive and forget, but the game was certainly more bitter than it needed to be and that’s because of me. (I still think the list is legitimate filth, but it serves me right for thinking “narrative” meant “soft list” – lesson learned, Stormwind Fallacy acknowledged, improvement striven for.)

It didn’t help that we started late and, with two skirmisher-heavy armies, took forever to set up. It also didn’t help that I deployed very badly, blocking the Tree-Kin in and arguably putting Uchelwydd on the wrong side (I didn’t have enough units to set up, really: Joseph could dummy out my entire deployment and then align his big beefy units with preferential targets).

Besides the Beastlord and an Aspiring Champion Battle Standard Bearer with the Mark of Tzeentch, he’d brought two Bray Shamans (Lore of Beasts, Staff of Darkoth on one of them), two Beast Herds, four Warhound packs, four Minotaurs with the Mark of Tzeentch, five Knights with the Mark of Tzeentch, two Chariots (who mercifully didn’t have the Mark of Tzeentch) and seven Chaos Ogres.

The good news is, we were playing Breakthrough and, as the valiant defender of the forest attempting to secure its borders (and, incidentally, keep the Beastmen from reaching the road along which the convoy would pass), I could afford to lose an awful lot of elves as long as the big expensive units were kept at bay. Ogres, Knights, Minotaurs: Joseph would have to get two out of three across the field to win through.

Spurred on by Paul’s tale of woe from the day before, I had Bloddeuwydd unleash the Fury of the Forest and Hwel loose the Hail of Doom into the Beast Herd containing the Beastlord and a Bray-Shaman: in other words, the magic horn of ambush-signalling and six out of ten magic levels. If I could get those off the board in turn one, I’d have breathing room to deal with the things that actually mattered. (We had some tension over my communication of how the spell worked and shooting modifiers and how to clean up after mistakes: the same not-excuse-but-explanation as yesterday applies, Joseph took it on the chin but he didn’t seem very happy about things. Opponent makes the frowny face: that’s a learning moment. Don’t do whatever it was you did again.)

Anyway, it nearly but not quite paid off and after that I was on the back foot a little. I’d pushed Uchelwydd up to meet the Minotaurs and the big Dryad swarm up to a point where they could reach either the Ogres or the big Beast Herd. Some good rolls on Strangleroots thinned out the Minotaurs well enough and at least one of the chariots got its comeuppance too; a solid performance from the Asrai shooting gallery.

Joseph’s counter-attack wasn’t too bad at first. Like a lot of players who are spoiled for choice with power dice and spell availability, he went wide and ended up not casting enough to overwhelm the defences. I did have to use my one permitted Boring Scroll to stop the Maven and her mates being turned into Horrors, though.

At this point, I made a series of questionable decisions which ensured we wouldn’t be playing out the full six turns. Firstly, Hwel declared a charge into the Chaos Knights, who fled: this left me with very high hopes of them not coming back, and maybe rolling some panic through the back line. Secondly, the Maven and the holly and the ivy and all that charged the much-depleted Beast Herd hiding the two Beasts o’ Tzeentch, instead of the Ogres who were going to flank them if the Beastmen didn’t break. Thirdly, my Treeman made a conservative advance to throw some Strangleroots at the Minotaurs and keep himself open to move back into the middle, if he was needed.

Shooting went well-ish, I think this is where Uchelwydd started showing misfires on his Strangleroots rolls, but when we came into the close combat stage disaster struck. With the Beastlord out of the picture, locked into a challenge with the Maven, I had something like fourteen attacks with which to kill three Beastmen and maybe put a wound on the Shaman if I was lucky. Not one single Beastman fell. They didn’t kill any Dryads either, but because they had a flag all I could muster was “er, outnumber?” for a drawn combat.

Next turn, the Ogres turned around and messily devoured the Dryads, the rest of the Beastmen turned up and forced my Glade Guard to spin around and cover their backsides (devouring one unit wholesale with a Staff of Darkoth charge) and, with my wheels well and truly off, for some reason I charged Hwel into the Ogres and just let him die. Oh, and the Chaos Knights rallied, because of course they did. Bloddeuwydd panicked and fled out of her forest hidey-hole so I had no dispelling power left to stop the magical bombardment either.

And that’s all she wrote. I simply didn’t have enough hard-hitting stuff left to stop more than one of the big beefy units from being where they needed to be in another two turns’ time. Breakthrough is a funny old scenario: if you don’t pay attention you can lose it by throwing away the high-value units (it’s only units, not characters or monsters, that score) you need to win, if you do pay attention you generally know who’s won by turn two.

What I should have done (see, I was awake enough to at least read my losses with this one) was a) deploy better, with my Tree-kin out on a flank, either one would have done it, this “back field” business doesn’t work for them and b) go after the Ogres with my Dryads, they’re hard to wound but easy to hit and their Leadership isn’t great.

Ah yes, Armour of Damnation again. Because killing you was EVER going to happen.

The Maven rose. At least, she tried to.

It was not at all easy. The beasts’ chief had stuck her and struck her with a saw-tooth from a dragon’s head, and it felt as if the very dragon had gnawed her down to heartwood.

Hand over hand, length by length, she dragged herself into the trees, through the filth and the dust and the splinters of the ogres’ charge. They had trampled her sisters and torn up the roots; broken the bodies and beaten the branches. Her brothers lumbered down the track; Uchelwydd strode behind them, his great eyes dark and hollow with shame. Somehow, she knew the mageling at least had lived; and poor Hwel, he’d come to avenge her, screaming his vengeance. They hadn’t even broken their stride.

At least some of them had made it out of the ambush alive. They had come to hold the line; they had been tricked and trapped. The Changer of Ways had reached into the worldroots and filled the Maven’s head with lies! Man becomes beast; beast becomes man. Prey becomes predator; predator becomes prey.

There would be vengeance. There were elves here, too. Other kinbands, deeper in the wood; cowards! The Maven had been broken and the Court had been bled to do their duty; now they would answer to her call. There would be vengeance, oh yes. Just as soon as she could stand up again.

Defeat for the Wood Elves: The Maven gains “Hardened”.

(Losing a character in this one meant you had to roll on the Mordheim injury chart to see what happened. The Maven picked up a trait that rendered her immune to fear, utterly useless on a Forest Spirit; Alex was kind enough to convert that into a +1 Leadership as she swore her oath of revenge on, oh, anyone really. Whoever’s about.)

This post is already running a bit long, so I’ll break here. I’d like to introduce a little more personal narrative into the affair, since I was basically a side player for the event overall; I’d also like to give the last game its due as it was among the best and certainly the bloodiest I’ve played with this army. So here are a few more pictures of events on the roads away from Karak Dron, just to tide you over…

Word had spread, all right, far beyond the Forest of Gloom. At the very gates of Karak Dron the throng stood proud, axe and hammer stained with green blood. In the high passes to the Dark Lands, Ogre tribes bellowed their warcries, lumbering down to the lowlands to fill their guts with meat and gold. In Sylvania, the Von Carsteins raised their levies living and dead, and sent them south through the Black Fire Pass, intent on plundering the precious gromril ore. Along the Black Gulf, Skaven scuttled from their underways to swarm the ports, waiting until the dwarf-things thought they were safe. But everywhere, the tide of darkness rose; the woods were alive with beastmen, and from the far north, from the Great Skull Land, the Warriors of Chaos were coming…