[WFB] Fragments, inter alia

Lords

The Master – Master Necromancer – magic level 4, Talisman of Endurance, Feedback Scroll

Heroes

Margarita di Maddaloni – Vampire – shield, Biting Blade, Nightshroud, Aura of Dark Majesty, Dark Acolyte

Cora – Banshee

Clarice – Banshee

Core

Company of the Black Eagle – 39 Skeletons – champion, musician, standard bearer (Screaming Banner)

Templehof Pals – 20 Zombies – musician, standard bearer

5 Dire Wolves

5 Dire Wolves

The Local People – 10 Ghouls – Ghast

Special

Order of the Black Cross – 8 Black Knights – champion, musician, standard bearer

Black Monks of St. Herod – 1 Spirit Host

2 Bat Swarms

Rare

Crimson Order of the Dragon – 4 Blood Knights – champion, musician, standard bearer (Rampager’s Standard)

Lord Ruthven’s Repose – Black Coach

Total: 2000 points on the dot


The above represents a good faith attempt to recreate my fifth edition army list in eighth edition. The conditions of construction are as follows:

  1. the List is to avail itself of newfangled opportunities where possible (the Skeletons deploy in Horde formation, the off-colour Knights receive a vampiric upgrade)
  2. the List is to respect the necessities of the edition (a level 4 wizard and a secondary Lore of the Vampires caster)
  3. the List is to preserve the character of the original (Margarita as off-caster doing something useful for the army and helping out with wolves, Lord Ruthven as “absent presence” in his Black Coach, with the core units providing further continuity)
  4. the List must be constructed with models I already own (hence none of the “only in eighth” goodies like Terrorgheists, Mortis Engines or Crypt Horrors; while I like these things well enough they are dramatically out of keeping with the late-Nineties/early-Noughties aesthetic of the army as it stands and also I’m not buying them)

There are things I’d consider jimmying about. I’d like a magic standard on the Black Cross (even if ’tis but a War Banner), and I could go for Beguile and Summon Creatures of the Night on Margarita if I had more Dire Wolf models. I would also consider the Rod of Flaming Death instead of the Nightshroud, because I find that item hilarious (and it has a lot of battlefield control potential!) and the Banshees are just there for nostalgia’s sake, I could easily replace them with something else (in which case I would change out Margarita’s powers and the Skeletons’ magic banner and stop trying to make Fear happen).

I know it’s somewhat idiosyncratic. I wanted to avoid the photocopy special (Ghoul King Dragonbane Gem Red Fury blah blah Terrorgheist Mortis Engine yawn yawn Ghoul Horde fiddle fart) and instead try to uphold the spirit of the army as it was originally created.

This mania has in no way been inspired by the extended narrative on offer at Big Small Worlds, an exhaustive and quietly competent Warhammer campaign played under eighth edition rules that’s been occupying a lot of my screen time lately. Not at all.


“Why are you doing this instead of painting Wood Elves, Jonathan?”

Well, because it’s festival season, which means pop up book stalls, which means a lot of extra work for muggins ‘ere and I don’t really have the mojo to paint when I get home. This week I’ve been playing Total Warhammer instead, because it’s there and the vampire factions have received a little bit of a retool (not quite enough to make me enjoy Count Noctilus’ early game, but enough to get me over the midgame hump of Sylvania and into a position where I could win a campaign if I put a weekend into it).

I have every intention of getting back to the Wood Elves in September, once two out of three festivals are done with and I have a nine day streak off work. I’ve acquired the necessary materials to produce a new general, some Wild Riders and an additional Treeman in time for Resurrection II in November, and intend to give those units a good crack of the whip. Beyond this there are sixteen Dryads, another ten Eternal Guard and two Great Eagles to paint. I have my eye on a final character (further exploiting the scale difference between Citadel and North Star figures to make my heroes truly “heroic scale”) and I’ve just lately discovered that the Oathmark range is about to develop some cavalry figures, allowing me to add Glade Riders to the assembled Covenant.

Nevertheless, a comforatable “done” is in sight for the Wood Elf project, probably around the 3000 point mark. It’ll all depend on how they perform at Resurrection II. There will come a point where a chain of defeats no longer forges a narrative worth the hearing, and if I sustain another brace of defeats there’s every chance that something slightly more cadaverous in nature will turn out for the 2022 season. See, Warhammer: Resurrection is to expand into a biannual narrative weekend as well as a heat-heat-final series of tournaments, and this expanded arena may be able to contain certain larger-than-life personalities who’ve been on the outs for a couple of years now…

Rumours of his death? Exaggerated.
Rumours of his retirement? Premature.
You can’t keep a bad guy down…

This is what’s on my mind at the moment, Warhammer-wise. As well as maybe liquidating some of the Tomb Kings. I wonder if I don’t like the idea of myself as a Tomb Kings player more than the reality of it, and I still don’t feel in love with the Mantic models, whereas Oathmark’s plastics and the TTCombat resin elites do speak to my soul rather more. Oathmark’s figures are also a fat sight easier to paint in the classic dip-and-go style and that might be what I need right now.

Another option would be breaking the habit of a lifetime and paying someone to paint them for me. If anyone knows a reasonably priced tabletop standard commission service, lemme know in the comments. I can supply several cans of my own primer that I’d be very glad to get out of the house.

[WFB] Battle Report: The Maven & The Witch, Chapter III – A Maven’s Folly

600 / 1200 points | Woodland Ambush | Wood Elves vs. Tomb Kings

The Premise

The woods were waking up. Slow, sluggish, breathing deep and laboured in the perpetual cold, but clawing their way to life and fury, answering the Maven’s call.

Her allies had answered, better late than never; the kinbands of the Black-Briar crept at her side, arrows nocked. Her sisters strode at her back, and in the whisper of leaves she heard that others were on their way, drifting down from the high vale beyond the river.

And the dead were coming. Score by score, bony feet shuffling through the snow. One clutched an old bronze blade to its chest; one had its head thrown back, its hollow throat raised in a dreadful monotone chant.

There was no time to wake her brothers, no time to wait for the Court. The Heart was in peril and the time to act was now.

Continue reading “[WFB] Battle Report: The Maven & The Witch, Chapter III – A Maven’s Folly”

[WFB] The Platonic Ideal

I have, in the past, had some things to say about pick-up gaming, tournament practice, Pitched Battle and the unsatisfactory takeaway of the soul that this kind of setup tends to result in. Of course, it’s very easy to thump one’s tub on the dot-coms and tell people they’re doing Warhammer wrong, which is why I’ve decided to “share best practice” like what my teacher training taught me to do.

What follows is an attempt to lead by example: a wargaming day myself and Mr. Ben staged in the summer of 2019 before the borders were closed and Trafnidiaeth Cymru nerfed into the ground. As hosting player, I had a look through the available resources and picked some scenarios appropriate to the participants, the terrain, and the timeframe we had available.

The forces in these little engagements are my Tomb Kings, in their embryonic “first attempt at a paint job” state, and Ben’s Skaven, in their “what do you mean you’re doing another new army” launch condition. The terrain selection is the Age of Sigmar stuff I acquired in a good-faith attempt to give Soul Wars a go during my year off blogging. The timeframe was a long afternoon, kicking off about noon and ending about six with late lunch at the local hostelry. (We’d reserved the evening for a round of Drunkhammer featuring our “main” armies, and that may see the light of day at some point too.)

I – The Border Patrol

(Rules for which can be found in Warhammer Chronicles 2004, if you’re interested. A Border Patrol usually takes sixty minutes or less to play, if you’re on form and keep your bustle hustled.)

This little encounter represented a Skaven incursion into the outer reaches of the necropolis of Rasetra. The scenery was set up to suggest the outer edge of a poorly fortified settlement; we had a house rule that attacking Skaven units could charge the fences and spend a combat phase knocking them down, as they weren’t terribly robust. The forces were deployed in opposite corners because that made most sense with the orientation of the buildings (and corner deployment always makes a nice change).

Ben lost this one. This is mostly because the Screaming Skull Catapult is very, very good at panicking Skaven units and the compulsory Liche Priest did nothing but ensure it could shoot twice every turn. Some Clanrats did make it some way into the Necropolis and regained a little glory by beating up my Skeleton Archers, but it wasn’t to last. All of this meant I would be setting up second and going first in the final game, as the Tomb Kings seized the initiative above ground.

II – The Skirmish

For our second game we played the Lost Tomb of Hamon Ra scenario from Warhammer Skirmish (the book of scenarios which expands on the Skirmish rules in the core manual; I believe most of it’s available in other forms online).

Some jimmying of the forces to suit available models was required – I had an Ushabti instead of the two Tomb Swarm bases – and we house ruled a little regarding the “crumble” moment, allowing my Tomb Prince a small radius of Leadership to keep some of his associates on their feet after my Liche Priest was destroyed.

Victory for the Skaven would deny the Tomb Kings 10% of their forces in the final battle (and if we’d been playing 2000 points as we originally hoped to, would also deny me the Crown of Kings).

The scenery here is set up to denote the outer walls of the Tomb and provide some internal decoration. There’s not a great deal of cover, although we were generous regarding figures stood immediately behind a sarcophagus or gravestone.

We were at this one for something like two hours as models fluffed hit rolls, wound rolls, injury rolls, and the endless loop of “can’t disengage from melee, can’t roll fives or sixes” set in. In retrospect I now know that Mordheim has a workaround for this (knocked down or stunned models are automatically taken out if wounded) and if Skirmish doesn’t have that I advise bringing it in. The other option is playing Warbands instead: Warbands has the traditional “fail save, lose last wound, you’re dead” resolution and tends to result in faster, more decisive games.

On the flipside, Skirmish also generates moments of real excitement, as even the disposable single-wound trooper can roll over, dust themself down and stage a comeback.

In our game the Skaven Assassin gave his all to destroy the Liche Priest, only to be cut down by a Tomb Prince moments later, and it was a mere Clanrat who retrieved the prize and dodged past an enraged Ushabti to make his final break for the surface, a lone survivor carrying the treasure of the Tomb.

(Ben won, that’s what I’m trying to say here.)

III – The Battle

With the Crown in the hands of the Skaven, we opted for a Breakthrough scenario, in which the Rodents of Unusual Size attempted to make their escape with their ill-gotten gains. I only had 1500 points of Tomb Kings so 1500 points is what we played, or rather 1500 vs 1350 as I’d lost the second game. I think I left out two Ushabti and my Icon Bearer’s magic flag. The terrain was essentially a flip of the first encounter; this time the Skaven would have the open space and the Tomb Kings holding the line on the fenced side of the battlefield.

I don’t really remember much about this game other than struggling to get anything done magically (turns out one Liche Priest isn’t enough at 1500 points, especially against two Warlock Engineers) and my Catapult not putting in the same sterling performance (only one shot per turn and an early misfire). It only went to about four turns – once my Ushabti had folded I didn’t have the speed to close off every avenue of assault and most of Ben’s army had free reign to move off the board.

What I do remember is the context of it. Because we’d set it up with the distraction raid and the temple pillaging, there were mechanical twists to an otherwise routine engagement, rewards for having done well in the early stages. Continuity was furthered by the terrain we used for the first and third battles.

Beyond that, because Ben won (again), my Tomb Kings now have something to do with themselves in future encounters, to whit going out to recover the Crown or maybe fighting their way home after having done so. All my future games with Ben, and maybe the entire backstory of my new army, can be shaped by the outcome of this only-slightly-curated day of play.

All of this was done with by-the-book armies, published scenarios, and terrain I already owned. I don’t think I’d even named my characters at the time! No extraordinary or even especial effort on our part was called for – we were just curious and selective about the wealth of additional material on offer in sixth edition WFB.

We could have simply played a Breakthrough scenario at 1500 points, and when we might have three people wanting a game each on neutral ground with strict departure times hanging over our head, that’s the sort of thing we settle for. But if you have the opportunity to do even a little prelude or aftermath for a game, to make a day of it and weave a little context and set the scenario up as something more than yet another points matched game of Borehammer, I heartily recommend you do so.

[Actual Build Review] Troll Trader (TTCombat) Desert of the Dead Kickstarter

What with one thing and another, these models took their sweet time arriving. As a late backer I expected to be at the end of the queue anyway, but there’s an unhappy middle ground between “GIEF THINGS NOW” and “dang, forgot I backed that” in which the ole buyer’s remorse sets in and I start looking up how to chargeback. Big love to Troll Trader as a company though, they’ve been swift and honest in their communications and while my expectations were not perfectly managed, I am perhaps more neurotic than the average customer and this must be borne in mind.

After two half days on the assembly line the bulk of my stuff is ready to show off and talk about. The Chariots aren’t done yet as I shall need to paint them before full assembly, lots of reaching past painted bits will ensue if I don’t.

Usual rigmarole: product starts off with a 5/5 and I knock off a point for everything that disgruntles me. I’ll say up front that I don’t like resin kits as a rule, and some of these make me see what all the fuss was about over Finecast. Nothing is getting points docked just for being made of this stuff but when the material has let down the sculpt you will be hearing about it.

Character models: two Kings, two Liches (one off the limited edition Chariot, which I promptly split up into more game-ready dispositions). These are more than adequate; the staves are a little bendy and the pieces dance in my clumsy fingers, and a few feet and fingers snapped during the shipping and prep. I’m not sure if that’s the brittleness of the material or flaws in the casts; nothing insurmountable, in any case. 4/5.

Carrion: these were clearly designed for form over function. The poses are nice, the detail pretty crisp, but they are attached to their bases by tiny and often singular ankle joints. Two of them have wings that will come off the moment they’re put in a case. 3/5 for being a ballache. They look good though.

Scorpions: I rate these, they’re cute as buttons and easy to assemble. I could whinge about the overhang on the bases (how is this supposed to stand in base to base contact, mm?) but GW did worse so it really would be petty of me. 5/5, they’re neat.

Catapult: Head on it looks fine, but turn it sideways and… oof. The framework and arm are cast in some sort of rubber that can’t support its own weight and sags distressingly even when it’s sat in my display case. Unfit for purpose. Such a shame as it’s otherwise a really nice sculpt; the base block and crew are lovely. I’ve emailed TrollTrader about this as I’m not convinced it isn’t a dud cast that got rushed out in the hurry to finish shipping. Nothing else in the pack was floppy! 0/5, pending a response.

UPDATE: well, TrollTrader got their asses in gear and sent out replacement parts, so that’s brownie points for them! 5/5 for the Catapult, you don’t have to base it so I’m not taking points off for it being too big for the chariot base.

Casket: a nice conceit but honestly a bit silly, with the Keeper perched in top like that, and did not warrant the huge base it came with. I’ve rebased mine and will be parking a Priest in front of it on the table. Goes together very well though and I like what they’re trying to do with a difficult concept, it just looks a bit weedy for a 0-1 army-wrecking Rare choice. 3/5.

Giant: 5/5. Good sculpt, sensibly cut, fits together very tidily and has some great presence on the table. I’m looking forward to painting this, and I don’t say that very often.

All of this, plus other deliveries and a crisis at work, has meant the next instalment of The Maven & The Witch is postponed for another week – but it is coming! In the last month I have done 600 points of Wood Elves, plenty for a Woodland Attack; the Maven will thus be bringing some archers along to see how they perform on a deeper table. Her adversaries will be drawn from the Vampire Counts list, as I don’t think these Tomb Kings will be traded out. I like them too much.

[WFB] The Twin Princes of Tiernmas

Barrow Kings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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