[WFB] Battle Report: The Maven & The Witch, Chapter II – Grave Disorder

Warhammer Skirmish; Vampire Hunt scenario, hacked for speed running.

The Hacks

I compressed the battlefield down to 2 feet square, as before; removed the attackers’ supporting troops, as injury rolls have a tendency to bloat and delay the Skirmish experience; and I gave the Vampire a set location and set her victory condition to “escape” rather than “kill they heroes.”

The Premise

Thaniel had told his story three times in two days. Once to himself, as he hurried through the deep pathways of Deadwood, so fast and so far that even his sure elven feet had betrayed him here and there. Once to Rychell, and the veteran had nodded gravely and led him up here…

He knew the Court. He knew what to expect. But it was still a strange feeling, to see four gnarled and blasted stumps and to stand at the point between them, to address them by name and to watch as flesh flickered out of splinter and shadow, as the lords and ladies of Deadwood came back to hear the tale.

Mostly. Prince Hwel had not come, and Thaniel was grateful for that small mercy.

“It happens to us all,” Lord Gwydion said, and “not to me” Lord Gilfaethwy said, and that had been an end to Thaniel’s apologies. The Lady Bloddeuwydd had said nothing at all, until Thaniel’s tale was told, and then:

“Grimgroth did not raise himself from the dead. His crown was taken. His will was broken. Someone broke those seals; someone stirred him up and set him loose.”

Some interloper,” said the Lord Gilfaethwy, and “some necromancer,” said the Lord Gwydion.

Someone who has roused the Maven’s wrath. We must honour the covenant. But we must know how deep the rot goes; if we are beset from within. Brothers; will you go to the Tombs?”

And you to the Heart?” said the Lord Gwydion, “with all haste and all our strength?” said the Lord Gilfaethwy.

The Lady Bloddeuwydd bowed her head, and rose in a rustle of roots, a shiver of snowfall. “Ahead of the Maven, if I can,” she said, “and with Thaniel.”

The Forces

Wood Elves

Gwydion, a Noble: Alter Kindred, longbow, light armour and shield
Gilfaethwy, a Noble: Alter Kindred, greataxe, light armour and shield

Vampire Counts

Clarimonde, a Vampire Thrall: Von Carstein, with heavy armour, Summon Wolves and the Gem of Blood,
and a Bat Swarm

The Field

Ravenswild Forest, from Heroic Maps. Well. About a quarter of it.

This is where things become unusual. Normally I abhor 2D terrain; it is the mark of my own personal End Times, the herald of the millimetre counters and precision junkies who turned Warmahordes into a crude attempt at tt-sports and robbed it of all spectacle and charm. But needs must when the devil vomits into your kettle; storage space is limited, funds are short, AoS scenery has a resale value and I had just enough DriveThruRPG store credit to give this a try.

Further house rules were implemented. The cliff faces were treated as impassable; shooting from the paths up into the ruins was not permitted.

Clarimonde would start the game in the tower at the heart of the ruins, about her nefarious business with the Heart of the Forest; the Bats would be roosting in the nearby tree. Gilfaethwy and Gwydion would deploy in the opposite corner.

The Fight

I randomised who’d get the first turn; it went to Clarimonde and her associates. Since she didn’t know there was danger yet, but I didn’t want to pass the turn completely, I had her Summon the Dire Wolves from a random board edge, which turned out to be the top one.

I’d made a minor deployment whoopsie, placing Gwydion up front, meaning if I wanted to charge in with Gilfaethwy, they’d both have to get stuck in. No great hardship. Gwydion scored two critical hits, but all his injury rolls were ones or twos; he really knocked that Wolf down. Gilfaethwy, being more accustomed to melee combat, flattened his Wolf with a similar double-crit display.

The Bats, alerted to the sound of violence, fluttered out of the ruins and circled around behind the elven interlopers. Meanwhile, the last Wolf counter-charged Gilfaethwy, but didn’t manage to land a blow. For their part, the twins mustered a stun and a kill.

Gwydion, sure he could trust his brother to handle a few flying rodents, moved around toward the north entrance of the tomb, intent on establishing what was going on in there, although he did take a potshot or two at the Bats (dealing a wound). His faith may have been somewhat misplaced, since Gilfaethwy proved unable to eliminate one stunned Dire Wolf…

Clarimonde was still about her mysterious business (I didn’t roll a 6), so the Bat Swarm swept in to protect her, charging Gilfaethwy and scoring a critical! Counting as two hits (and, I presume, two wounds), they managed to stun the Alter Noble, and suddenly things were looking a lot less one-sided than they had been a moment ago.

Gwydion didn’t even have a charge lane to the bats (I think I flubbed the rule here, too much Warmahordes baggage still) but successfully stunned the Dire Wolf that would otherwise be gnawing on his brother’s tender bits.

Clarimonde completed her task (“awoke”, in the scenario’s original terms) and made a cautious move out of the ruined tower. Her Bats, regrettably, didn’t follow up their previous exemplary performance, fluffing their attacks on downed Gilfaethwy for the second round on the trot.

Said Gilfaethwy took to his feet and proceeded to absolutely ruin the Bat Swarm; inspired by this performance, Gwydion landed two critical hits on the Dire Wolf and killed it three times over, poor thing.

Now aware that she was alone and had to make good her escape, Clarimonde bolted for the board edge, opting for the path on the bottom left as the one farthest from whatever was going on so messily down at the foot of the crag. The twins set off in hot pursuit, but crucially lacked the Line of Sight to declare charges. They were reduced to a potshot with a longbow, praying for a lucky crit, and Gwydion managed to definitively miss that one, allowing Clarimonde to make good her escape!

The Result

A win for the Vampire Counts!

The Learnings

I’m not convinced I adapted this one as well for the solo experience. In particular, Clarimonde’s Summon Wolves at the top of the game was an impulse choice, trying to avoid a churned turn – I don’t think she should have done it until she knew there was something worth summoning to avoid. To be honest, Clarimonde’s whole kit was a bit of an impulse choice: I’d forgotten this scenario originally included a Strigoi with the usual 60 points of free kit (thanks, Alessio!) and Bloodline powers on top of that, and had to retune on the fly.

With the benefit of hindsight, I could have very easily taken Sylvanian rules into this, setting up a couple of grave markers (dispellable on the standard 4+) that were spawning Zombies for the boys to whack down, and maybe cheated a bit with Clarimonde’s powers, setting her up with a Countess spread of Summon Wolves and Summon Bats. That would make a better use of the title too, really hammer home the feeling that zombies are pouring out of the grave for some reason.

I also wasn’t quite sure about losing the troops for the attackers. Things would have been a lot slower with more models – Skirmish, in my experience, tends to derail fast if you start whiffing attacks or can’t make satisfactory injury rolls, and really needs a bypass to make stunned enemies easier to take out or something. Bringing the brothers on together felt right, but the two of them couldn’t really cover all three routes off the map. If they’d been able to move more decisively for the ruins (i.e. if the Wolves hadn’t been there) things might have gone perversely better for them and we might have had some head on conflict.

It worked well enough for something I could play in half an hour before work, and the result stands, but I think I’d like to play this one again with the premise and forces adjusted.

The Witch…

“Is it done?”

“You asked for the Heart of the Forest,” said Clarimonde, “and you’re all but on top of it. You asked for the Tombs to be opened, and I’ve done it, and survived. All the dead of High Tiernmas follow in my wake.

Her – what was the word? Employer was too crass, too mundane. Mistress was too permanent, and had some unlovely connotations. Cohort? Collaborator? Those suggested a partnership of equals, which this was certainly not, in either of their minds.

Whatever she was, the Witch was apparently unpleasable. Her eyeless gaze roamed over Clarimonde, over the paths out of the clearing, over the distant ice-topped river.

“It’s not enough. The Heart eludes. It resists. Resists me, Clarimonde! I won’t have it. I need the army at my back. I need you at my side.”

You will have your army. But you will not have my sword. I wish you good fortune, madame, in your quest. I am weary of this wretched forest. I must feed, and the Heart will not bleed for both of us. You’ll need all that it can give.”

The Witch’s skull turned to face her; the trailing shadows about it stirred and shifted, unseen currents drawing them this way and that.

If I am to be whole again.”


I’ve nearly finished all my Dryads (and two thirds of the Glade Guard), the last sprues are queued up for painting this week. That means next week I’mma paint some Tree-Kin and the week after that I can stage Chapter III – A Maven’s Folly.

[WFB] The Court of the Crag (1 of 2)

A much needed “weekend off” after the actual weekend burned my brains out; I still feel like parts of my head have been put in a vice and squeezed. Time for a day or two of long films I’ve seen before and painting, I think! I’ve now done three out of four Ylthari’s Guardians Alter Kindred Heroes and I have names for all of them.

First up, Gilfaethwy. You’ve seen them before, but I wanted to post another, unflattering photo so that everyone got one.

Gilfaethwy is armed with an extremely great weapon and probably the Stone of the Crystal Mere or something. I vaguely want to give them the Fimbulwinter Shard but it’s at its best on a mounted character in an army that isn’t mostly Dryads. I must find some way to sneak that into the army, though.

Next, Gwydion.

Gwydion is waving the Bow of Loren around, as the Alter Kindred’s additional attacks and single-model line of sight make them an excellent carrier for this traditional weapon. I may yet add some snow to Gwydion’s tactical rock.; I’ve not decided.

Finally, there’s Blodeuwedd. Not an amazingly photogenic figure, but she looks better in person. There’s quite a subtle merge-and-yet-distinction between the leaf skirt, the vine corset/basque arrangement and parts of her skin that led me to basically wet blend a few layers around Nighthaunt Gloom to ease the transition, and I think it’s worked quite nicely.

She will generally be carrying either Calaingor’s Stave or the Deepwood Sphere (subject to testing) plusa Dispel Scroll (I refuse to indulge the photocopy special, but I’m allowing myself one in the interests of furthering this magic-light approach. She can’t be Alter Kindred like the others on account of being a Spellweaver, nor can she be Glamourweave Kindred without saddling up on a steed or unicorn for some reason (although Mat Ward seemed to get away with it in the inaugral battle report for the army book, and I don’t think it does lasting harm, it’s basically a cheap 5+ ward, worse things happen for 20 points).

The fourth figure isn’t painted yet. These are merely his offspring and retainers. I’m saving him for the next milestone, as I intend to save him for larger games. But he’s primed, and he’s named, and the world will be hearing from Prince Hwel of the Crag at some point.

Talking of which: The Maven & The Witch. I must beg your indulgence for another week. The aforementioned brain rot has really slowed me down, and I have now successfully flogged off the last of my Age of Sigmar scenery. A substitute has been identified, and purchased, but needs to be prepared, and I need to do that once I’m back in work. I’ll probably get the second game played next “weekend”, now that both the heroes I need are painted.

[WFB] The heroes we deserve…

Progress continues apace: I am still able to put in a couple of painting sprints a week before work, and having cleared my OWAC commitments for the month, I now have many damned things to show you.

The first Damned Thing is this Alter Noble, for such they are. Honest.

Hark says they looks like they’re in a power metal band: “like Lordi but arboreal”. i think they play bass.

I know the Alter Kindred are supposed to represent the weres and shifters of yesteryear, thus sating the grogs who’d doubtless been groggin’ about them vanishing from the list since the week after fourth edition WFB came out. I don’t own any of those figures. I do know a bargain when I see it, and four freaky-looking half-tree monsters for £15 is definitely a bargain by GW standards. They even have good approximations for the appropriate kit: this specimen is sporting a great weapon and the Stone of the Crystal Mere knotted up in their branches, along with a 5+ save ably represented by their generally robust tree bits and some sort of spite (it’s a pity the spites start at 25 points, but you can’t have everything).

Emboldened by the use of Drakenhof Nightshade on the skin here, I tried it out on the faces of my next rank of Glade Guard. They have also had a new spot colour introduced, as a way of identifying regiments at a glance when they go all MSU.

i already did one “da ba dee da ba di” this week and i’m not doing another.

I think it works well enough that I can skip the temperamental “thinned down red then thinned down green” stage inherited from my Retribution of Scyrah models. I’m not so convinced by the brown boot trims and gloves. The thing with these Oathmark figures is they don’t have the extra layer of garments the Citadel figures do, so it’s harder to bring in a spot colour or break up the bodies. You gets what you pays for, and I am still content with them for the price, but as I work on these I am more appreciative of how GW’s plastic kits at their best stand apart from the pack.

With fifteen elves done it was high time to finish an 8×2 line with something a bit different: a metal Oathmark champion.

if heroes get a tactical rock, champions can have a tactical snowdrift

I’m well pleased with this one. It’s a simple enough figure, but with just a little extra complexity compared to the rank and file, with the chainmail and the studs on the hood and the hair. It’s also brought home to me how different metal really is to plastic, with a painting style like mine. When I’m literally working on the metals and plastics side by side, doing the same stages on each one, the comparative crispness and texture of the metal is apparent around the time the first wash goes on. I’m not saying I’m gonna chuck all my figures RIGHT NOW and join the all-metal all-the-time brigade (I’m not made of money!) but I do appreciate their argument in a new light.

Of course, if we’re going for a metal champion and a classic regimental lineout, we have a spare figure flying around from the ten man unit, and an opportunity is knocking.

not certified for use in Albion; not Lore of Heavens safe

Young Thaniel – the former unit leader who disgraced himself so in Ghosts in the Fog – has had his sword of bossdom-denoting confiscated and been given a Responsibility, in the hope that it’ll help him hold his nerve and set a better example. It’s not done, but papercrafting banners is definitely on the “later” end of my priorities.

why has the colour blue forsaken me after all these years of loyalty?
blue Chaos, blue Mercs, blue Trollbloods…

Finally, there are the latest harvest of Dryads. These have come out a bit funny, and I know exactly why. I gave the Nighthaunt Gloom a good shake before adding it and it came out super globby, drowning the lower layers in technical blue. It’s not a wash, even if I’m using it like one, and less is more when I get to that stage on the Spirits. I might skip it entirely on the next few and see how much of a difference it makes. These were rescued with another pass of Drakenhof Nightshade, which has at least given the unit a nice bit of variation when it’s all formed up together.

Speaking of which, since we now have some bigger-than-minimum-sized units, shall we enjoy some beauty shots?

With another week of this, I’ll have done all the Dryads, and two thirds of the Glade Guard. High time to move on into Special units, at that stage, and pop some Tree-Kin together ready for Chapter III of the solo campaign. Chapter II will be forthcoming Soon (TM). I need to paint up the second Alter Noble for that one, and also sort out some new scenery as I’m successfully shot of the plastic tombs. I also need to put some hustle under my bustle, as there may be only a few weeks until the bookshop can re-open properly and I may be in line for more hours at work, moving hobby activity back to a “days off, either paint or play” endeavour. In the interest of cracking on with the campaign, I may be about to make… a compromise. We’ll talk about that later, once I’ve figured out if it’s worth doing.

[WFB] Battle Report: The Maven & The Witch Chapter I – Ghosts in the Fog

Warhammer Warbands (200 points); A Little War scenario; objectives were Hold Territory (Wood Elves) and Invade! (Vampire Counts)

The Premise

Grimgroth opened his eyes.

Was it time? Had the bell been rung, its doleful peal sounding the Time of Ending? He swung slowly off his graven slab and took up his axe and followed the breeze out of his tumulus. His huscarls were stirring, skinless hands closing on sword-hilt and shield-grip, as they followed him into the twilight of the gods, and also of the sky.

Grimgroth closed his eyes, then opened them again, dessicated lids flapping in ponderous amazement, then closed them again to have a good hard think.

Who had put those bloody trees there? When he had been laid down to rest, all this had been fields; the fields of High Tiernmas of old.

Now he was starting to remember. There had been… others. In the long winter that had never seemed to end. The elves had come. They had put Tiernmas to flight. They had relieved Grimgroth of his kingdom, his crown and his life, in that approximate order, almost in the one day. They had sealed him into the tomb dug for him long ago.

Grimgroth opened his eyes. He kicked away the carrion-eater who was reaching out a filthy calloused paw for one of his favourite toes; the ghoul fled, yelping, into the woods. Yes. The woods. Through the woods and out, out into the world. Out to glory, for the Old Kingdom. And they’d put a stop to any Time of Ending that happened to be going on, and all.

The Forces

Wood Elves

The Maven of Deadwood, a Branchwraith
Cildraeth Celyn, 4 Dryads
Black-Briar Kinband, 5 Glade Guard Scouts

Vampire Counts

Grimgroth, a Wight Lord
The Tomb-Born, 10 Skeletons
The Bone Gnawers, 5 Ghouls

The Field

In the woods, the howl of a kicked ghoul and the whisper of bony feet on snow fell on interested elven ears. Thaniel nodded to his troop, hooted once like a barn owl and twice like a screech owl, and motioned them to keep their heads down. The Maven was haunting these woods tonight, and she would want these draugr for her prey.

Somewhat less than inspiring stuff, I think you’ll agree. I had every intention of playing this out over a battlemat, but then I took the battlemat out, realised it was obnoxiously busy with implied scatter terrain and my models would simply disappear on top of it, and promptly chucked the thing on eBay because I’ve never liked it anyway. I don’t actually remember how it ended up here in the first place.

Anyway. I played this over a 2′ by 2′ board to give the undead a fighting chance (four square is much too big for an engagement this size anyway, SAGA has the right idea with its standard 3′ x 3′ and even that uses more models than this).

I used a scatter die to determine where Grimgroth and co. arrived, then set up the Maven and her associates in the opposite quarter. Units would have to have their back corner touching the board edge, unless they were Scouts in which case they could set up out of sight of and around 10″ away from the enemy. Grimgroth would count as an Undead General, allowing his units to march, and neither character could start the battle in a unit.

When it came to actually making the moves and choices I did more or less what I thought the troops would do, given their objectives.

Grimgroth’s mind was bent on securing his escape, so he wouldn’t stop and fight until he was in the Wood Elves’ starting quarter; the Ghouls, being cowardy cowardy cutlets at heart, would attempt to not get shot at while protecting their new master as best they could.

The Maven would hold her starting quarter unless she had an opportunity to engage and destroy Grimgroth; the rest of her army would attempt to envelop and exterminate the undead nuisance, sweeping as much of the grove (i.e. as many table quarters) as they could occupy.

The Fight

Only a dozen or so, Thaniel said to himself. Easy pickings for the Maven and her sisters; but it wouldn’t hurt to even the odds just a little, as the draugr marched by. There was something else stirring further in the woods, but it was hard to make out what. The mist was rising. She was coming.

Grimgroth shelters from the Glade Guard behind the Skeletons; the Ghouls scurry around to check for any nasty surprises behind the tree. Glade Guard shooting plinks one Skeleton (I didn’t fancy their chances hitting skirmishers, in cover, at long range).

As they came upon the clearing, three paths winding out between three vast gnarled trees, Grimgroth slowed his pace. Something was wrong, beside the tearing up of good honest roads and the planting of a forest where his serfs had once been toiling. The snow was fluttering and stirring about them, the freezing clouds shifting as if the forest breathed out a warning. Which way was out? Which way led down to the lowlands? And as Grimgroth considered, an arrow shot past him into the dark, and another, and yet another took brave Darven in the empty eye and sent him off to a second death. Elves.

The Wood Elves spread out. In response, the Ghouls swing back around to threaten the Glade Guard and cover the Undead rear (oo-er). Grimgroth takes up the missing space in the Skeleton unit; another two Skeletons get shot.

They bobbed and weaved around the old oak tree, arrows nocked and flying at the slow-shambling draugr. Thaniel could hear the song of the woods now, keening high and fierce through the mists; he knew without knowing that the hunt was almost on him. Another volley, more draugr fell; the carrion eaters snarled and hissed at the stone where Thaniel had stood whole seconds ago.

The Undead are successfully march-blocked, and Grimgroth begins a slow shuffle toward freedom. The Ghouls realise they have to do the business or get off the pot, and place themselves between the Skeletons and the Dryads. I also buffeted the tree on the right, moving the surrounding miniatures whole centimetres out of place and rendering the result of the game NULL AND VOID in the eyes of all the millmetre-counting why-in-goodness’-name-don’t-you-stick-to-video-games turbo-spods out there. Of course, I am now five years free of Warmahordes and consequently put things back more or less right and decided to be generous with the matter of measurements in the next turn.

Grimgroth hefted his axe and plodded on; no sense in chasing ghosts in the fog. Let the ghouls taste elf-flesh instead of breaking teeth on his old bones – and then he heard their yammering and yelping cut short by an eerie whistle, piercing and clear, on the upper edge of hearing yet echoing through the trees. The trees were screaming. The trees were moving! Something came shrieking and wailing out of the fog, right at him; some fiend in woman’s shape, a long plait whipping behind her, a scythe in her hands. A peasant’s weapon. Slow. Clumsy. Grimgroth braced himself to take the charge.

The trap is sprung! Kind of. Boxcars on the Glade Guards’ fear test leaves the Maven going it alone. It doesn’t go well; while she lands a wound on Grimgroth in the challenge (of course he challenged, he wasn’t going to let her whack his honour guard to death!), he lands a Killing Blow with a magical Wight Blade on her. The Dryads only kill one Ghoul, and a flurry of outrageous rolls (four sixes!) see one Dryad poisoned to death in return and a break test only just passed. I’ve had better trap-springings, put it like that.

She. She! Thaniel held his hand down, holding the troop back, watching the cold and hateful heart of the forest beat once, twice, and launch the Maven into life. She ran for the dead with scythe upraised, rallied to reap, ready to kill! Cyfamod Pren Mawr demanded his troop join her… but the sound, the awful sound of the Dryads in full fury, and would they keep the pact? And then the draugr’s leader stepped forward, and turned his face to Thaniel, and winked with his dead eye as he caught the scythe in one hand, its weight ripping his arm from its socket, but he moved with it and brought his iron adze sweeping across the Maven’s throat, pulling her onto the deathblow. Perhaps he imagined it, but Thaniel swore he heard a taunt in broken Asrai fall from the dead man’s lips.

“You’re next, chum.”

I had Grimgroth overrun, so he could get into position to achieve his objective, and then turn to face the Glade Guard, the only unengaged foes. Might not have been tactically sound, but I feel it’s what a Wight Lord running on autopilot would do.

The Glade Guard don’t fancy their chances against said Wight Lord. Fortunately, the Dryads absolutely butchered the Ghouls on the Undead turn, and are now free to avenge the Maven. They underperform, allowing Grimgroth to barge his way into combat and kill one of them, but in the next round a Dryad gets another set of boxcars and that’s it for Grimgroth.

There they were. Grimgroth had them now. The she-daemon was dead, cut down, and the woodland fools had shown their hands. He knew the way now; these elves would be guarding the safe path, driving him onto a wrong turn. Past them and down, into the lowlands, into the light. And now he knew the way… he could afford to take his leisure. His guard fell into rank beside him as he turned to face the elven scouts. Their leader was still quailing with his sword half out of its sheath. As their gazes locked… as their gazes locked, Vandam and Erl flew across his vision, torn to pieces. More of these cursed, screaming sprites! Grimgroth turned, pushed his way through the ranks; one would die like any other. He struck one across the back as it lunged past him, but as he turned he saw the branch swinging straight for his helm.

Grimgroth closed his eyes.

The Result

Victory to the Wood Elves by default; a tabling for the Undead, although they preserve some honour by dispatching the Maven.

In reflection on the armies: the Dryads are every bit as brutal as I remember, Initiative 6 (and 8 on the Maven!) putting them well ahead in later rounds of combat. They weren’t too well suited to fighting the Toughness 4 Ghouls, though. I was less impressed with the Glade Guard, and I ended up holding them back from a charge once Grimgroth had his front presented to them as I didn’t fancy feeding him kills. The Maven… well, these things happen, you can’t account for Wight Blades, and she did have to leave her defensive kit at home. If nothing else it’s a good excuse for her having the Annoyance later on; she won’t be fooled again. On the whole, the Wood Elves seem good at landing the hits, but maybe struggle to convert.

In reflections on the game: there were a few things I had to look up besides stats, including what the shooting maluses actually are (look, I play with Banshee screams and Asp Arrows against magic missiles and wonder weapons: modifiers don’t really come up!) and how the hell skirmishers charge when their way is blocked by other skirmishers but not completely… in the end I opted for the least gamey, smoothest flowing option of having the Dryads charge the Ghouls instead of a dodgy two-in-one-looping-around move that would have barely had them in contact anyway.

In reflections on solo play: it seems to work! I think this scenario did me a lot of favours as it set clear objectives for each side, so I could lean into those whenever I needed to make a characterful decision.

The Maven…

Thaniel rose from his furrow behind the old oak tree. He was, he suspected, a dead elf walking; the forest spirits would surely be furious, his inaction had surely led to the Maven’s downfall. He dropped his sword, handed his bow to Ithain, walked toward the trio of surviving dryads with his head held down; they parted, to let him pass. Surely they were the Despairs, come to claim him. Surely the forest itself whispered his name…

“Thaniel…”

Fresh snow was falling, on the bones and the blades and the body of the Maven. Thaniel dropped to his knees, cradled her head, heedless of splinters. It was all his fault. Failure. Traitor. It would be the Waywatchers for him, if they’d have him at all.

“I am sorry. I am so, so sorry. I…”

Help me.”

He looked down. A purple light was shining, crashing out of her open throat; he took the head more firmly, settled it onto her neck, felt the wood grind and gristle back together.

A dryad held out her scythe, and she took it, rising slowly, crone-bent and weary, her voice a hiss from somewhere deeper than her wound. Thaniel stayed on his knees; surely, surely the blade would fall, the forest would reclaim him for what he’d done?

You will restore amends. Rouse the kinbands. Honour the Covenant. I go to wake my sisters, stir my brothers. This will not stand. This will not stand…”

By the time he dared look up, the dryads were gone, into the fog.

Coming soon: Chapter II, Grave Disorder. Once I have some Alter Kindred painted. I’m not sure about the tomb scenery, which I fall into and out of love with every time I get it out of the box. I think I’ll use it for the time being, but leave it up on the Bay of E and see if I can’t get shot of it too in the long term.

[WFB] On a cold and frosty mourning…

LOOK MA, GAME LEGAL UNITS

I’ve really hit my stride with these now. Thanks to the combination of no kids, six hour shifts and morning insomnia I can crack out a sprue each of Dryads and Glade Guard each week and get them done in three days before work. They aren’t particularly sophisticated paint jobs, of course, but they are entirely fit for purpose. Except that row of archers whose faces are still a bit green. The flesh recipe isn’t always forgiving.

I’m quite pleased with the Maven, though.

I’m still getting the hang of the regiment bases and putting things on at the right angle so they’re not stabbing their mates in the back of the head. Mostly I have to remember nocked arrows stand further back.

Arboreal GOBSHITE

These damn things look pretty nice once they’re together, and will be ideal for the rules-standardised “free wood,”*, but lore do I regret not painting them on the sprue. Sometimes my old-fashioned insistence that Build comes before Paint is at odds with the best way to approach a kit. Hand priming this was knackering and I’m gonna need a bigger brush to tackle the other two.

* – despite my prior kvetching about this rule – do Dwarfs get a hill in every game? can Tomb Kings elect to erase all foliage from the table on principle? – it still serves a grand purpose. If you want to deny me favourable terrain, you’ll just have to play something other than Pitched Battle. What a shame. I don’t have an agenda at all.

Not shown: Dr. Nurke’s Hair Restorative Tonic, one pint bottle

Forgive the janky photo. This is a WIP, a sneak peek, before I get the putty out and ruin everything. One Nomad Prince, with the rather spiffy flag from the Tree-Revenants (shaved down to remove the fingers and tuck neatly into his cloak) and a head from the Oathmark kit. I don’t especially care for the big pointy helmet he comes with, and the damn thing’s lost anyway. It flew off the sprue and hit me in the eye en route to Parts Unknown, and I was too busy cussing and blinking to see where it landed. No great loss. Bare heads are more Asrai anyway: helmets are for Ulthuan ponces.

Having bashed these out during the week, I can now spend my “weekend” (Monday and Tuesday, because people want to buy books at their weekend, apparently) setting up the table for the first instalment of that solo campaign. No promises about finished terrain, but I will try to get it all done by the time I hit the last instalment.

[WFB] The Maven and the Witch

The Moon, she hangs like a cruel portrait,
Soft winds whisper the bidding of trees
As this tragedy starts with a shattered glass heart
And the midnightmare trampling of dreams
But oh, no tears please;
Fear and pain may accompany death
But it is desire that shepherds its certainty
As we shall see…”

Danièl de la Saleté, bard of the Forest of Chalons

I have had an Idea. The Idea is loosely inspired by several things: the old campaign packs for fifth edition WFB; the “Patrol, Skirmish, Battle” structure for gameplay that myself and Ben P. tried out in the summer before Nineteen Crows; and my own conviction that a game in hand is a boot up the arse as far as painting is concerned.

To be fair I’ve maintained my momentum rather well with the Deadwood Covenant, as the featured image should show – it’s been nice having some Dryads as messy figures to paint up in between stages on my more fussy OWAC Ork commitments – but will I feel the same way when I’m on my twenty-seventh Glade Guard?

I shall probably end up playing these with myself (stop that sniggering at the back!) rather than deferring into the never-never of “when we’re out of lockdown” – it’ll be nice to have some scenarios tested out, in any case, before inflicting them properly on other people.

Click the headings for the individual reports!

Chapter I: Ghosts in the Fog

A 200 point Warbands encounter, played on a very small board (two feet by two?).

The Maven (a Branchwraith) commanding 4 Dryads and 5 Glade Guard Scouts, vs. Grimgroth (a Wight Lord) commanding 10 Skeletons and 5 Ghouls.

“Something has stirred unfortunate Grimgroth from his tomb… we must discern what has roused these mindless, vengeful dead.”

The Maven of Deadwood

Chapter II: Grave Disorder

A Warhammer Skirmish scenario: the Vampire Hunt, adapted away from “Johann and Wilhelm vehicle” as follows.

Two Alter Nobles (one with greatsword, one with longbow) hunt a Vampire Thrall with attendant Bat Swarm amongst the tombs of High Tessingfroid.

“Does this seem like a trap to you, brother?”

“Absolutely.”

Gwydion and Gilfaethwy

Chapter III: A Maven’s Folly

A Woodland Ambush from the Wood Elf book, 500 points of Forest Spirits against 1000. Given that Undead don’t panic, this is likely to be a difficult one for the Wood Elves to win on points, but any points they score here will be knocked off the Undead’s total in the final battle.

A storm is rising. I go, to rouse my sisters before it breaks.

The Maven of Deadwood

Chapter IV: Season of the Witch

An asymmetric battle: exactly how asymmetric will be determined by the previous games, on a best-of-three basis.

If the Wood Elves have the best of three, the final battle is an Ambush: 1000 points of Wood Elves face 1500 points of Vampire Counts, led by the VVitch: a spectral terror represented here by a Necromancer with the Cloak of Mists and Shadows. The Maven has been able to strike fast and first, disrupting the VVitch’s attempt to shatter the Heart of the Forest and consume it.

If the Vampire Counts have the best of three, the final battle is a Last Stand, with 1000 points of Wood Elves defending against 2000 points of Vampire Counts, led by the empowered VVitch: a Master Necromancer! The Deadwood Covenant must sell their lives dearly: perhaps dawn will break the VVitch’s spell?

By the time all this is done and prepped and played and photographed I should have 1000 points of Wood Elves painted, not to mention a wood and some tombs finished at long last. I shall be reporting on the games as and when they occur but wanted to have a masterpost here just to put everything into context.

[WFB] In the bleak midwinter…

I have returned to my grubby hand priming roots with these figures. It’s far too cold to apply spray primer, and my cottage is far too cramped for the resulting fumes, and by the time I’ve got a box and taped figures to a stick and gone back over to catch all the bits I missed there has been no time saved at all. So it’s a layer of grey gesso to start and then on with the glazes and layers to proceed.

brown trees on their brown bases

These are test models, so nowhere near finished yet – just basecoated so I can play around with colour placements and stages, see what does best where and in what order. I liked the cold tone on the Dryads but they’re very dark and boring. They needed… texture.

grün

This is after a drybrush of Nurgling Green, a heavy going over with Nighthaunt Gloom, and another drybrush of Nurgling Green, working back from the claws and faces. They might need a coat of actual paint on those fingers to add some pop.

are you hitting me with your sister?

I’m leaving the Maven well alone for the time being, until I work out how to keep the Dryads lively, but I had to test out the Nighthaunt Gloom by itself on her scythe. Couldn’t resist.

this one’s my favourite so far

The Archers are looking better. Still feeling out the right order to paint all the bits in, but the drab grey cloaks with paler greys and greens underneath are working for me.

bases, faces and… boots? back to the drawing board!

The next issue: bases, faces and blades! The bows were far too plain so I went back and redid those in the pale green. Much more better. Part of me wants to push things further, into a colour range with some whites in. Something a bit like Joe Sturge’s army from White Dwarf 321. Not a period of Dwarf history I normally venture into, falling as it does months after the Bigger Giant fiasco and the emergence of Owen “magazine for people who don’t read” Rees’ web-crazed half-text noodlings as editor, but not without its gems.

less qq, more pew pew

The subsequent models are probably going to go on regimental bases – the old four-in-a-line jobs. I have quite a few of these lying around and for an army that’ll probably change its formation more often than its trousers they should be easier to wrangle than movement trays. I have ten 80x20mm ones, which is plenty, and twelve of the 100x25mm ones, which make me think unwholesome thoughts like “eighth edition” and “Dryad horde.”

I’ve also started work on the next batch, mostly because Ylthari’s Grauniads arrived and I wanted to play around with the newest kit. These are some flimsy, springy models, but they DO all go together without glue as long as you look, think, and take note of where all the pegs are.

I glued Gallanghan’s body into place because I had trouble finding a peg, and I cut off Ylthari’s weird-looking worm sprite – unfortunately, it turned out to be load bearing and her head pinged off too, so that was another dob of poly cement called for. And they needed gluing to their “new” old bases too, natch.

alter images

While sixth edition technically callls for 20mm square bases, these models are far too big for that. They do fit nicely enough on 25mm though. I don’t think it makes that much difference. Most of them will be Alter Kindred and unable to join units, or rolling alone by choice as sixth edition is kinder to independent characters on foot than I remembered. It does mean none of them can chill with the Eternal Guard, so I might be in the market for a footslogging Noble if a unit of those becomes appealing.

reduce, reuse, regenerate

Their newfangled fully modelled round bases will not go to waste. The various sprites, twiggy bits and other sundry additionals I leave off my models will fill those gaps nicely and bingo bongo, I have spell tokens or encounter markers or something.

That’s as far as I can go for now, with the Dwarf Bronze I wanted to use for arrows out of commission. It’s back on the Oldhammer 40K Orks for me tomorrow. OWAC won’t O-WA-A-AC itself, after all.

[WFB] From Little Acorns

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

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

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

The Maven of Deadwood
Branchwraith - 65

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

Helyg Coven
4 Dryads - 48
Champion - 12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HEROES
The Maven of Deadwood          165
Branchwraith                    65
Level 1 wizard                  50
Cluster of Radiants             25
Annoyance of Netlings           25
                                160
Spellsinger                     90
Glamourweave Kindred            20
Dispel Magic Scroll             25
Divination Orb                  25
                                158
Noble                           75
Alter Kindred                   25
Helm of the Hunt                20
Glamourweave                    30
light armour, shield            4
great weapon                    4
                                150
Noble                           75
Battle Standard                 25
Moonstone of the Hidden Ways    35
Briarsheath                     15
CORE
10 Glade Guard                  120
10 Glade Guard                  120
10 Glade Guard                  120
8 Dryads                        96
8 Dryads                        96
SPECIAL
5 Tree Kin                      325
5 Wild Riders                   130
musician
RARE
Treeman                         285
Great Eagle                      50

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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