[WFB] Battle Report – The Maven & The Witch, Chapter IV – Season Of The Witch

Rearguard scenario. 1200 points of Wood Elves vs. 600 points of Vampire Counts.

My original plan for this one was to stage a nice big climactic Ambush scenario, but then I actually bothered to read the rules for that one and realised it was built for a 6′ by 4′ table; I could only get away with it by so compressing the Undead deployment zone into a straight line, and we already played that one last week…

So I went back to basics: look at the board, think about the story, choose something that works. I’d been hacking at the scenario trying to encourage the Undead into moving for one specific table quarter, containing the Heart of the Forest; what I needed was a scenario that turned on one specific table quarter, and cast one army in a position of desperation (after the stonking the Undead had taken so far).

Rear Guard it was.

The Premise

This was the end.

The Heart of the Forest heaved and strained in the clutches of dark magic, and Thaniel knew without knowing that when the sun failed the rite would be done. It could not stand. It must not stand.

He would not fail again. This was punishment, but this was also redemption, for his kinband would press the last attack, the final reclamation of Deadwood from the dead. The Brotherhood of the Pact would deliver them; the Maven, reborn, would not let them fail.

Behind the walls the Witch was waiting. So little time; an hour, maybe less. With the sun’s last rays she would be flesh and blood once more, and she could quit this awful place. The last of her risen dead, her carrion children, and the beasts of the dark wood who’d flocked to her call; all of them could perish for all she cared. All that mattered was the Heart. The power. The light.

The Hacks

Tree Singing may not move any of the trees (it’s winter, and their spirits are slumbering).

Rules from Warhammer: Lustria apply to movement. Flyers move 15″ if their Unit Strength is 1, or 10″ if it is greater than 1. Infantry of Unit Strength 1, if not fleeing or in close combat, may adopt or abandon Loose Formation as a reform move (unless they have a musician, in which case they simply do it without penalty).

Models adopting Loose Formation move up to their normal M characteristic, ending 1″ apart. Models in Loose Formation are treated as Skirmishers, except that they may only be 1″ apart, may not march within 8″ of an enemy, and may not shoot; enemies shooting at them do not suffer the -1 to hit penalty. Units in Loose Formation should be set up all facing the same way. They are not true Skirmishers; they have just broken ranks in order to navigate the terrain more easily.

Designer’s Note: this isn’t something I’d suggest for everyone playing this scenario. It’s an attempt to get around how cramped and crowded my paper scenery is, allowing the Undead some freedom of movement, and to evoke the feel of a desperate battle for the deep woods. I didn’t go Full Lustria with this, adding Events and Encounters, because I’m doing all this by myself and didn’t want to add too much cognitive load in one go.

The Field

Paper scenery is Ravenswild Forest by Heroic Maps – £10 of store credit well enough spent, although best for skirmish play.

The rocky ridges are very difficult ground. The frozen river is difficult ground. (If I wasn’t still learning how the Wood Elf models work, I’d have broken out the General’s Compendium for additional frozen river rules.)

There are three layers of relative high ground on the board: the frozen river is the lowest, the Heart and the clifftops facing it are the highest, and everything else is on the middle layer.

All wooded areas are treated as light forest, per Warhammer: Lustria (i.e. difficult ground, blocking line of sight after 2″), although individual trees do not block line of sight to whole regiments (use some discretion). The shrine of the Heart is a ruin, per Warhammer: Lustria (i.e. difficult ground, hard cover, defended obstacle).

The Forces

Wood Elves

The Maven of Deadwood
Branchwraith (magic level 1) with an Annoyance of Netlings and a Cluster of Radiants: 165

Bloddeuwydd
Spellsinger (magic level 2) with the Deepwood Sphere and a Dispel Scroll: 175

Black-Briar Kinbands
16 Glade Guard with standard bearer (Aech: Banner of Springtide): 237
5 Glade Guard Scouts with Champion: 95

Cildraeth Celyn
8 Dryads: 96

Cildraeth Eiddew
8 Dryads: 96

Brawdoliaeth Pren Mawr
5 Tree Kin with Elder: 345

There was no question of not using my freshly painted Tree Kin for this one, and I wanted to have my Spellsinger hit the table sooner rather than later (and also spread my magic levels around a bit so I’d have plenty of Dispel dice).

The scenario demands absolute aggression across unfavourable terrain: I can’t afford to hold back. The Tree Kin will be going front and centre, straight up the path, with the Dryads and Scouts scaling the cliff faces to outflank.

Since Tree Singing wasn’t going to be hugely useful I actually bothered to roll the Maven’s spell and got The Hidden Path, which I swapped for Tree Singing as it was going to be knack all use (everything was already moving at a goodly rate through everything anyway). Bloddeuwydd got Tree Singing anyway and also Call of the Hunt, which could be huge if I actually managed to cast it!

Vampire Counts

The Witch
Necromancer (magic level 2) with Cloak of Mists and Shadows: 145

25 Zombies with musician and standard bearer: 165
5 Ghouls with Ghast: 50
5 Ghouls with Ghast: 50
Bat Swarm: 60

2 Spirit Hosts: 130

The Witch has a simple job here: hold out until she’s consumed the Heart and recovered her full strength, at which point she’ll quit the field. As a result, she’s loaded up on sacrificial and delaying troops: everything but the woman herself is disposable, with the Bats and Ghouls fast enough to rush out and interdict specific units, the Spirit Hosts able to move down the cliff faces without penalty, and a big block of Zombies to hold the path leading to the Heart itself.

Spell rolls were not kind. The Maven ended up with the worst possible outcome: Invocation actually rolled up, and Hand of Dust as the other spell. Hand of You Will Not Be Casting This Until It’s Too Late To Matter And It Never Does Anything Anyway Because You Still Need To Hit And Wound With A Sodding Necromancer’s Single Rubbish Attack Dust.

The Fight

The defenders, i.e. the Witch, set up first, and I admit it: I went full nobber this time. For verily, when the scenario allows a full quarter in which to deploy, and the enemy must deploy a great distance away from all our troops, who among us does not put our cheapest fastest chaffiest things right up the front and force our opponent back unto the very board edge, while chortling and caressing our beard? Only a yoghurt, and I was determined to give the Wood Elves a run for their money this time. So the Bat Swarm went front and centre and some Ghouls locked down both flanks in the same style; there were only a few tiny bubbles where Wood Elf units could ackshuwally be deployed at all. Quinlank be praised! The Spirit Host deployed where it could see and thus charge through the walls of the Heart’s shrine, and the Witch deployed out of sight and well away from any trees.

As the attacker I naturally cursed the beardy sod who’d deployed in the manner of a tossbag, no fun allowed, game for two players you know mate, we’ll be having words outside afterwards. My entire army was corralled into the bottom right corner except for Thaniel and his scouts (I was suddenly very glad I’d taken Scouts) who could at least have a pop at some cheeky flanking.

Wood Elves Turn 1

Everyone marched. Everyone had to march, even the Glade Guard who were successfully blocked in by the Tree-Kin, except for Thaniel, who led his Scouts on a more cautious advance into short range of the Ghouls. Bloddeuwydd could not cast Call of the Hunt, Tree-Singing on the Ghouls who’d carelessly stood in a wood was dispelled, and Thaniel and co opened hostilities by shooting three Ghouls through the ghoulie bits.

Vampire Counts Turn 1

The Bats went full nobber again, flying up and angling themselves right in the way of the Tree-Kin; all the Ghoul units went double-time, avoiding trees and staying out of line of sight of the elven archers. Invocation of Nehek was dispelled on a straight match, ten for ten.

Wood Elves Turn 2

The Tree-Kin charged the Bat Swarm (they might as well, no point going around); everyone else, once again, had to march. Even Thaniel, this time, as he couldn’t see anything to shoot. One Ghoul was still carelessly trailing into a tree (the Wood Elf half of my brain decided that if the Vampire Counts half of my brain was going to play the rules and not the game, no quarter would be given on that front) and so Tree-Singing whomped him and one of his mates. (It would have been four if they were T3 – no kidding, Wood Elves really struggle with tougher than average targets, and I once again see that all those formative games against Skaven and Empire have made me overestimate ranged attacks.)

The Call went off, and the Witch showed a double 1 on her Dispel roll, so the Maven was able to surge 7″ forward, suddenly into the game! I should probably have cast it on the Tree-Kin though, since eleven attacks showed eight ones and twos, and the Bat Swarm was left alive on one wound.

Vampire Counts Turn 2

No point in charging anything, said the nasty little voice in my head. Don’t give them overruns. Make them waste their moves. So the Spirit Host did a 3″ shuffle, and that was all she wrote. The Witch even managed to miscast her Invocation and end the magic phase, while the Bats were cheerfully obliterated by the Tree-Kin elder.

Wood Elves Turn 3

The Maven and the Eiddew Dryads charged the Ghouls right in front of them, the rest of the Forest Spirits marched forward unfettered. I’d hoped to get the Tree-Kin forward through the lane I left, but the Witch showed a mighty fifteen on her dispel roll and that was the end of that plan. Thaniel and the boys climbed up the rock face and took aim at those cowardly Ghouls again, wiping them out in the subsequent flurry of arrows. The Glade Guard were finally able to nock arrows and loose too, killing three Zombies. In combat the Dryads whiffed spectacularly, only the Maven managing to kill her opponent in the challenge; fortunately the Ghouls failed to hurt anyone either and legged it, outpacing the wrath of the woods by a good three inches.

Vampire Counts Turn 3

The Ghouls rallied, the Spirits moved up to block the Maven (yesss, yesss, play like a jeb end), and the Witch backed up as there were some trees a little bit closer to her than she liked them. Invocation was dispelled on a double six, and that was another “no, you play the game” turn done with.

Wood Elves Turn 4

Both Dryad units charged headlong, with the Tree-Kin moving up in support; Thaniel and his Scouts danced around to get line of sight on the Ghouls. Call of the Wild Hunt was just not quite cast, Thaniel shot a Ghoul, and then it was on to the fun bit.

The Maven and Eiddew Dryads absolutely wrecked the Spirit Host, and overran into the Ghouls; the Celyn Dryads tore apart every Zombie who could hit them back and began the long process of expanding, lapping, killing, grinding…

Vampire Counts Turn 4

The Witch pulled back further, into the round tower; this time it wasn’t even worth Invoking, as it got the Wood Elves’ Dispel Scroll quick sharp. The Maven tore the Ghouls apart all by herself, and was now free to move, while the Celyn Dryads repeated their exact performance from the previous turn.

Wood Elves Turn 5

There are no penalties for Skirmishers to cross obstacles, and so the Maven was off, finally within lunging distance of the Witch! One good solid Call of the Hunt would see this nonsense over and done with, and of course Bloddeuwydd failed to cast it. Thaniel darted for the board edge, since he couldn’t harm the Witch, and you may already be sensing the game-terms conclusion to this engagement already…

Vampire Counts Turn 5

“I’m ethereal,” says the Witch, and possibly “bitch” as well, and simply walks back through the wall to where the Maven can’t see her. And then the game ends on the roll of a 2.

The Result

Not a single casualty taken by the Wood Elves. One Vampire Counts model left on the board. A win for the Vampire Counts nonetheless…

The Learnings

I realised as soon as I set this one up that the Vampire Counts would have to go hard to win this one: play cagey, noncommittal keepie-uppie-hammer and hope they could run out the clock. This is how I used to play 40K a lot of the time, since it was sufficiently blighted with Random Game Length that it was a commonplace special rule, and I’ve won games on this kind of technicality enough times – but I’m unnerved at how naturally this playstyle came back to me.

On the same “play the rules not the game” level, I can spot an actual mistake I made as the Wood Elf player, something that could have kept me in the game, and ironically it’s what I did with poor Thaniel (who otherwise redeemed himself so well!). Going after the Ghouls was a greedy move that didn’t pay off, I didn’t even have line of sight with the whole unit. If I’d played smart I’d have zigged instead of zagged, had the Scouts in position to move off table, and been able to stay in the game for another turn.

I have learned a few things about Wood Elves, too. Granted, this table with its immobile scenery was not the best suited to how Tree Singing works, but they really do need to spam out the Tree Singing and draw dice in order to get any of their buffs out. On the turns where I could do that, things worked; on the turns when I couldn’t, they didn’t. I also appreciate the role of the aggressive Spites – the Lamentation of Despairs and Pageant of Shrikes – in landing hits on hard to reach models, like the Witch in this battle.

The Solo Wargame Experience

This was definitely the right way to end. I think about the complexity of my original 1500 point army list for the Vampire Counts, and about the 2000 points I was originally aiming for, and heavens to Betsy do I not want to wrangle all that by myself. However, the games have ticked along nicely at around the 1000 point mark as long as one army’s been easier to play – the Undead have more or less played themselves as they’ve had clear objectives related to the taking or holding of ground.

Such win conditions allow the solo gameplay to be targeted, and simplify the decision process away from the more emergent and abstract tactics often required in a points match. Warhammer Warbands was particularly good for this, as it’s a single scenario with a lot of possible variation in the random objectives and deployment areas.

On the whole I think the experience has been a good enough one. By committing to “what the characters would do” and playing some slightly eccentric lists, I’ve avoided the games feeling like a total stitch-up. I’ve had the opportunity to play my Wood Elves and try to get some stats down in my head before inflicting myself on other human opponents, and I’ve been able to play some scenarios that I haven’t before and figure out a bit about how they work so I can shill them to other players and get away from the Borehammer. Of course I’d rather play with other people, but I would do something like this again, in similar circumstances.

The Narrative

“Leave them!” the Maven shrieked. “Leave the carrion! Make for the Heart! Kill the witch!”

Thaniel sprang, swung from branch to branch, racing past the battle-lines. He would not fail. Not this time. He could see the hovering, spectral figure, a gleam of purple light in the twilight, and he had the eye. He nocked an arrow. He took aim. He fired – and the arrow passed through her like she wasn’t even there.

The Witch took a deep breath. A breath. Air. Lungs. Unapologetic life! And not a moment to spare, as the sun dipped and the light died around her. The woods were alive; they were well and truly alive, furious dryads clambering over the walls, leaping and bounding across the wintry ground. Too late. Much too late. She was alone, but she was undefeated. Her work here was done. Even as their leader caught her gaze, swung back her crook, the Witch touched two fingers to her lips and let the shadows rise around her, bearing her into Shyish.

Thaniel cast down his bow; the circle of dryads wailed and moaned, raking the air with their claws. It was dark; pitch dark. The light of the Heart had gone out; shattered, snuffed. The Maven knelt, shuddered, and as Thaniel approached, he heard and saw and knew that she was weeping. They had slaughtered. They had triumphed. They had failed. And spring would never come to Deadwood.

[Been Painting] The Court of the Crag (2/2)

Told you there’d be more down the line.

First up, baby’s first Special choice: some Tree-Kin, formerly known as Spite-Revenants.

I’m not entirely sure about these. They’re a little bit too blue, I think, and I don’t particularly trust the only white paint I have to hand as a highlight or next layer. But anything else I do with them has come out looking a bit naff, so I’m going to call them done until an idea presents itself.

Their completion gives me the full 1000 points I need to finish The Maven & The Witch, so all being well expect a wrap up on that this time next week.

I am pretty sure of Prince Hywel of the Crag. Even if each successive photo highlighted another thing that needed tweaking, after the fourth I am very satisfied indeed. Made a bit more of an effort on him, introducing a little bone and a platinum highlight here and there. Nothing that breaks the palette, just… nudging it a little.

In game terms, he’s an Alter Noble or Highborn; great weapon, “light armour and shield” (half-oaken body and a parrying stance), Glamourweave and the Helm of the Hunt.

I hadn’t planned on a Lord choice, but  I want to give myself the option. Having signed up for Warhammer: Resurrection (two day event to be held in the summer, lockdowns permitting), and pledged the Wood Elves to the cause, I shall have to get some test games in and see how the No Lords policy holds up.

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

Woodland Ambush scenario (Warhammer Armies: Wood Elves): 600 points Wood Elves vs. 1200 points 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.

The Forces

Wood Elves

The Maven of Deadwood: Branchwraith, magic level 1, an Annoyance of Netlings, a Cluster of Radiants

Cildraeth Celyn: 8 Dryads
Cildraeth Eiddew: 8 Dryads

Black-Briar Kinbands
10 Glade Guard
10 Glade Guard

Tomb Kings

As discussed previously, the role of the Tomb Kings will here be played by my Vampire Counts army. I don’t actually intend to flog my existing collection any more, as I have fallen for them again in the act of putting the TTCombat ones together, but I said I’d do the thing this way and this way is how I shall do it.

Prince Drognar Nar Janath: Tomb Prince: light armour, shield, Blade of Mourning (Banshee with sword)
Prince Jadan Nar Garoth: Liche Priest and Hierophant: Neferra’s Plaque of Mighty Incantations, Cloak of the Dunes (Banshee without sword)

24 Skeletons: spears and shields (themselves)
24 Skeletons: swords and shields (likewise)
20 Skeletons: swords and bows (crossbowmen)

20 Tomb Guard: Champion, musician and standard bearer (Icon of Rakaph) (Drakenhof Guard)

The Field

I had been intending to play this one down the length of the dining table and save the full scenery reveal for Chapter IV, but the way I’d put the paper ‘scenery’ together meant it would be a right old bugger to keep together. In the end, ease of operation won out over contrivance for contents’ sake. So: here’s Ravenswild Forest, in all its extremely budget glory.

Darkness, and voices. Prince Drognar knew not who, nor why, but where; where was clear. He was being called south. South, to harry the Bretonni, to ravage the soft lowlands, to serve… to serve…

He trudged on. Whatever will was left to him knew this was the way to go. Four score of his houseguard walked at his back. Jadan was with them, wailing and canting, drawing the eye of the Ancients to the clan.

I would have to be a bit generous with regards to the scenery here, as what’s printed on the board isn’t entirely right for the scenario or optimised for wargaming (which is fair enough, it was designed for RPG use and it’s done very well for skirmish games). Tree Singing wouldn’t be moving any trees about, but could lash out at Undead units touching trees as they moved. The Tomb Kings would be able to move at normal rate even if they clipped the odd tree along the way, but would move at half rate through any decent sized copses.

In terms of deployment I erred on the side of narrative, with the Kings marching in column along the forest road.

The Fight

The Wood Elves, as ambushers, automatically get the first turn here.

Wood Elves Turn 1

A cautious 5″ advance from everyone except the Glade Guard on the right flank; if they closed in some of them would lose line of sight on the Tomb Guard. The Maven failed to cast Tree Singing (3 on two dice, you do hate to see it), but the Elves felled three with bowfire.

Tomb Kings Turn 1

A 4″ trundle down the line, and the Incantation of Urgency easily dispelled. Boring non-turn.

Wood Elves Turn 2

The Maven and her coven advanced another 5″, attempting to stay outside the Tomb Guards’ charge range and get the drop on them next turn; the flanking Eiddew Dryads, seeing how much ground they had to cover, ran 10″ forward in an effort to close the distance. This time the Maven did manage to force Tree Singing through (nothing to do with Prince Jadan dropping a double one on the Dispel roll), but it killed one lousy Tomb Guard. Single die “magic missiles” strike again! Lacking a clear line of sight to the Tomb Guard, the Glade Guard switched targets and shot a couple of Skeletons out of Prince Drognar’s unit.

Tomb Kings Turn 2

Another 4″ trundle for most of the team, although the Archers opted to turn sideways to face the oncoming Dryads (one of whom they managed to drop in the Shooting phase). A lot was banking on the Incantation of Urgency going through on the Tomb Guard, and it did, propelling the Tomb Guard into combat with the Maven and the Celyn Dryads!

Their Champion issued a challenge – striking first, Killing Blow, Grimgroth managed it, you never know! Sadly, her newfound Annoyance of Netlings put a stop to any optimism on that front, and the Maven proceeded to pulverise the poor skellie (but no overkill in sight). The Tomb Guard managed to strike down one Dryad, losing three of their number in return, but all those ranks and flags meant the undead still (barely) won. The Maven held, and the Tomb Guard extended their frontage (since any dead Dryad would mean two fewer attacks coming in).

It had seemed so simple, so natural, as winter following autumn. The Maven had keened, drowning out the dirge; the arrows had flown; they would fall on the walking dead as the rage of the wild wood, and their bones would lie here on the old road to the Vale. And then she had faltered. The chant had broken through. The relentless, mindless will of the risen had driven them into the trees, and her spites had swarmed about her as she stepped up to meet them.

Wood Elves Turn 3

The Glade Guard on the right flank reformed into a conveniently trayable formation and advanced a little, aiming to get into short range and deliver some higher Strength hits, while the Eiddew Dryads moved up to hedge their charge range in the same way the Maven and the Celyn hadn’t quite managed. Tree Singing was easily dispelled again, Prince Drognar’s Skeletons saved all the hits they took, and in combat the Tomb Guard managed to win by one again; the Maven, bless her, still held.

Tomb Kings Turn 3

Both Skeleton units advanced, Prince Drognar leading his to follow up the Tomb Guard and Prince Jadan wheeling to gain line of sight on the Glade Guard. The Skeleton Archers, meanwhile, expanded their frontage and prepared to open fire, with every intent of a double-tap from the Incantation of Righteous Smiting!

Sadly, even with the Plaque of Mighty Incantations going into it, the Maven dropped a double six on her Dispel roll and that was the end of that. The Archers didn’t even kill any Eiddew Dryads in their shooting phase, and if they were capable of regretting their choices, I imagine they would be.

In close combat the Dryads only managed two kills, for another loss of their own, and this time the Maven’s nerve broke! They just outpaced the Tomb Guard, by an inch, and what had been looking like a cakewalk for the Wood Elves suddenly felt a bit sticky.

Despair. Despair! The spites hissed and spat and slithered. Bronze axes rose and fell. Though her sisters were valiant, the dead pressed and pressed, and no root nor branch could shatter all their bones. Step by step, they were being pushed back; the Maven’s scythe swung but the dead kept coming. Nimbly they stepped and slid between the sleeping trees; they could not hold, they could not hold, yet hold they must. The Maven spun her scythe, turned on her heel. This would not be how it ended.

Wood Elves Turn 4

Fortunately, the Maven’s minor attack of the jitters was soon settled, and she rallied the Celyn Dryads, turning to face the impenetrable Tomb Guard once again. The Eiddew Dryads charged the Skeleton Archers, and both Black-Briar kinbands moved into short range of the Tomb Guard. Tree-Singing was of course dispelled, and the combined fire of the Black-Briars only dropped one Tomb Guard, but at least the Eiddew Dryads performed to expectations; seven casualties for no losses in return.

Tomb Kings Turn 4

Once again, the Tomb Guard charged the Maven and the Celyn Dryads. Prince Drognar’s Skeletons detoured around the woods rather than trudge through them, and Prince Jadan advanced the Spearmen to take a potshot at the nearest Glade Guard with the ol’ Incantation of Vengeance… which was dispelled.

In melee, the Tomb Guard lost two of their number for one Dryad, losing a round of combat for the first time; the Eiddew Dryads ripped all but one Skeleton apart, and the lone remainder couldn’t even land a blow before crumbling.

Wood Elves Turn 5

The Eiddew Dryads would dearly have loved to charge Prince Jadan’s unit in the rear, but alas, they fell firmly in the flank arc, and only four of them could make it into contact. Still, a flank is a flank! Meanwhile, the Black-Briars closed in on Prince Drognar’s unit since every other threat was now tied up, and between them felled an entire rank of Skeletons.

The Maven and the Celyn Dryads killed one Tomb Guard. One. They took no losses in return, but thanks to the Tomb Guards’ standard and musician, still lost the combat and (barely) held. The other combat went much more favourably, with five Skeletons dismantled and the victorious Eiddew Dryads able to lap round.

And, by the way, Tree-Singing was dispelled, with a gratuitous and unnecessary double six.

Jadan raged. All around him, these woodland sprites shrieked and rent and tore. Arrows flew and flickered. Some radiance shone in the darkness of his mind’s eye, words of vengeance and urgency stilled in his throat. His brother raged against the dying light, but the snow was falling hard and fast, and the men could not march another step.

Tomb Kings Turn 5

Increasingly bereft of options, Prince Drognar’s unit wheeled toward the nearest Glade Guard, with their rear protected in the other direction. Best efforts at the Incantation of Urgency were triumphantly dispelled (a fifteen on three dice will do that), and the only good news was the Tomb Guard trading kills with the Dryads and managing to win by virtue of having a musician again. Not enough to break the Maven, but still.

Alone, then. Alone, his huscarls finally broken on the woodlands’ wrath; alone, as the arrows flew and his brother’s voice grew fainter. Drognar screamed a silent scream, defiant and proud and hateful. “Face me! Face me, you feckless things!”

Wood Elves Turn 6

The Black-Briars on the left flank turned, moved and turned to edge out of charge range, and then… something odd happened. With the exception of the Eiddew Dryads, who continued to motor through seven Skeletons at a time like they were being paid for it, and the Maven who finally killed that troublesome Tomb Guard musician, every single shot or blow the Wood Elves attempted whiffed by a country mile.

Tomb Kings Turn 6

It was, nonetheless, all over bar the shouting. The Incantation of Urgency was dispelled, the last Tomb Guard caught the wrong end of the Maven’s scythe, all of Prince Jadan’s Skeletons perished and the Hierophant was dragged down by combat resolution.

The Result

An absolute trouncing: Wood Elves 854, Tomb Kings 48.

And then, as I was packing up, I remembered two things. Firstly, the Maven had a Cluster of Radiants that she’d never used; secondly, Prince Drognar had My Will Be Done that had similarly gathered dust.

Whoops.

The Learnings

I’m choosing to believe that a single die Invocation and a single Dispel die cancelled each other out for the duration, but it really does show how badly I served the Tomb Kings here. The list was something I’d knocked together to test, suspecting it wouldn’t be up to snuff, and it really wasn’t; I dramatically misplayed Prince Drognar, who should have been in with the Tomb Guard from the start, and I could have gotten away with moving Prince Jadan out of the bunker and behind the Archers instead of trying for that pointless Incantation of Vengeance.

That said, I was impressed with the Tomb Guard. Bearing in mind they were undersupported in the magic department, they ate a surprising amount of attacks; that extra point of Strength and Toughness really makes a difference, keeping them on their feet against the fearsome Dryads for a lot longer than any of the regular Skeletons managed. If they’d had Prince Drognar with them I think they’d have gone through the Maven quick sharp and I might have been able to do some work with their Icon of Rakaph and clear up some Glade Guard.

From a learning-to-play-Wood-Elves perspective, which is allegedly the point of the whole affair, the Maven and co. did their best but struggled against a fully ranked up unit of even middling troops. I think they were fortunate to hang on for as long as they did, and it might have been a better idea to concentrate both Dryad units at the front of the army and rip through the Tomb Guard a little faster. I really like the Maven’s kit; four Dispel dice in a 600 point army is pretty effective and she didn’t take a scratch in the challenge this time. As a sole spellcaster she’s obviously going to struggle with only two casting dice to her name, but with a proper Spellsinger to back her up and double-cast that ceases to be an issue.

If I was playing this matchup against another person, and if I was using my actual Tomb Kings collection and not proxying a set of figures I’m now unlikely to buy, I would take a very different Tomb Kings army. Chariots wouldn’t be any good with all these woods around, but I think a nice big unit of Carrion could interfere with the Glade Guard, and a few hundred points of Wood Elves may struggle to stop Ushabti unless they got very lucky with the old bowfire.

As far as the campaign goes, the outcome is is probably for the best. If the Undead won this one I’d have to solo play a finale involving 2000 points of Vampire Counts, and this battlefield is much too fussy to wrangle that many blocks and blobs.

The End Is In Sight…

Silence was falling, by the time Bloddeuwydd arrived. The mageling of the Court of the Crag; half-flesh still, a pact-wracked thing like all the others. Yet the way she met the Maven’s eye said something. “I know,” it said. “I choose,” it said. And the Maven was by no means fond of being seen, being known, being chosen.

A handful of her sisters were fallen. Three score of the walking dead were slain. And yet the mageling presumed to finish the work; to reach out her hand and sing the forest into fury, and not even to smile as the roots tore the ground and the branches rent the air and the last of the droning, shuffling things were cast down to the frost beneath.

“Hail, to the Maven, in the name of the Covenant,” the mageling said; the proper words, the proper rites, but where was the faith? the trust?

“Hail, the Court, in the name of the Covenant,” the Maven said, and she added; “You fell behind.”

“I roamed ahead,” said Bloddeuwydd. “These were answering a call, and I have found the voice that issued it. Would you have me lead you there?”

The Maven stared, unblinking. Now the dirge was silent, she could hear something else; the groan and creak of the heartwood, the bite of the frost, the shudder as what beat and beat and forced the Deadwood into what life it had… skipped, and struggled, and strained.

The dead had been making for the Heart, and the Heart was in peril. The Maven shrieked its pain to the uncaring sky, and there was no other sound, and the Deadwood heard her now. Creak and groan and thunder, step by step, bones crunched and metal mangled underfoot. Her brothers stepped forth, at last.

You may guide, with your spell-song joined in mine; but I will lead us, always.

[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. Given that Undead don’t panic, this is likely to be a difficult one for the Wood Elves to win on points…

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 Witch: 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 with all the trimmings! 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. It’ll also serve to introduce the key players in my Wood Elf army’s background, get some characters named and some emergent story rolling for when I start playing them against other people.

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.