Okay, this is technically for the campaign blog, but I wanted to post it up here because… I like posting things on the blog. Guilty! I’ve caught the blogging bug, and I’m loving it.
Last weekend, Andy came over for a campaign game or two. We thought about it, and decided it’d be a laugh to try out the Battle Royale scenario from the “Narrative Battles” section of the Warhammer rulebook. It’s got a set of rules for multi-player games, most striking of which is a new turn sequence! You start off by working out the “first” player, who deploys in the middle of the board; everyone else then deploy within 6″ of a board edge in turn. Then, each turn, all players move (in the same order that they deployed), there’s a combined magic phase, all players shoot in order, and there’s a big combined combat phase. It sounds tricky, but it was actually really intuitive, and made for a great game!
Battle Royale is an objective-based scenario, and with this being a narrative campaign, we wanted to have a good think about what the objectives could be – what would have brought a Vampire, a sorceror of Tzeentch and a captain of the Empire to the same place? It didn’t take us long to come up with a great bit of colourful backstory that featured all the forces involved, and brought in that favourite MacGuffin of Warhammer players everywhere – Wyrdstone! Also known as Warpstone to the Skaven, it’s the stuff of magic itself; glowing green rock that has countless nefarious uses, and which fetches a pretty schilling on the black market. As the campaign setting speaks of a ritual tied in to the waxing of Morrslieb (the chaos moon, which is made entirely out of the glowy stuff), we came to the conclusion that a chunk of evil green celestial body had fallen to the ground, splintering as it tore through the atmosphere, and we were fighting over the impact site. Andy’s Sorceror had followed prophecies speaking of “Morrslieb’s Tears”, Sophie’s vampire could sense the stuff and wanted it because it could fuel her dark rituals and raise an unstoppable host of the undead, and as for my guy? Well, he’s no hero; he just wanted it because it could make him rich! (Richer, at any rate. He’s not exactly poverty-stricken, having his own town, and all.)
With the setting decided, we made a cuppa, shook hands, and got on with it! If you’re after seeing the forces involved in detail, check out the campaign section of the website, in particular the “Dramatis Personae”. Oh, and as a final aside, my note-taking skills were a bit lacking, so I’m going by memory on events that happened over a week ago. Things might not have happened exactly in the order you see them, but it’s not like that really matters!
Andy got lucky and rolled to be the first player, which plonked him slap-bang in the middle of the board. As we only had small armies, we elected to use a 4’x4′ area rather than the full 6′, so his deployment area really wasn’t that big. Thankfully, his army only contained two units, who set up back-to-back, with the warriors facing the nearest objective. Sophie went next, coming on from the eastern board edge (directly behind Andy’s warriors). I deployed last, and took the cover of a crumbling wall at the edge of a road; that stood between me and the Chaos force, with a forest concealing me from the undead.
Clockwise, from the top-right, the units on the board are:
- The Gisoreux Ghouls
- The Peasants of Mousillon
- The de Mur Personal Guard (including Ophilia de Mur)
- The Volkenburg Town Guard, a.k.a. Müller’s Madmen
- The Nordweg Border Patrol
- The Nordweg Roadwardens (including Captain Wilhelm Müller)
- The Kal Za’Gul Tribe
- The Knights of the Question (including The Scholar)
You should also be able to see the three Objective markers (coins from the Warhammer counter set – they’ll do until we make some for our armies). Furthermore, you’ll notice that a load of the terrain isn’t painted. Conveniently, that’s no longer the case, and by the time you read this Soph will have posted up her Guide To Painting Trees And Fences Without Going Insane (For The Most Part)!
Let’s Get It On!
The game started with Andy’s marauder horsemen, the Kal Za’Gul Tribe, swinging off to the north-west and heading southwards towards my halberdiers, the Nordweg Roadwardens. The Knights of the Question took the opportunity to march directly away from the undead nasties, claiming an objective in the process and ending up in a Mysterious Forest! Much as I was willing it to be a Blood Forest (there’s something hilarious about a Tzeentch sorceror in a wood that’s going to thwack him about if he casts even the slightest cantrip), it turned out to be a normal, boring copse made up of normal, boring trees. Ho, hum. Meanwhile, the Vampire Counts did what they do best, and trundled slowly forwards. The de Mur Personal Guard, a rather scary unit of Grave Guard, ended up in a Mysterious Forest of their own, which turned out to be an Abyssal Wood. Thankfully for everyone involved (except Sophie), the unit already caused fear, so the fact that they’d got clumps of bone-chilling bracken stuck in their armour made very little difference to the game. Either way, they were claiming an objective, so it wasn’t all bad. As for the Empire, the Volkenburg Town Guard (my greatswords) advanced towards the aforementioned Abyssal Wood, and the Roadwardens made a dash for the chunk of Wyrdstone that had impacted in the shadow of a low wall.
What happened next – the Magic phase – was just a little bit nasty, to say the least. Andy’s sorceror had access to two spells this game, and he ended up with Flickering Fires of Tzeentch and Treason of Tzeentch – the latter of which can’t affect undead units, as they’re Immune to Psychology. I knew I was going to be in for a tough ride, but nothing like what happened! The Scholar cast Treason at the Roadwardens, presumably conjuring dark thoughts into their minds, convincing them that the others in their unit were out to kill them and take their share of the precious wyrdstone. It worked astoundingly well – I failed to stop it, and the unit attacked itself, causing enough casualties to cause a real fuss. When the shaken Averlanders came to, their weapons bloodied without an enemy in reach, their erstwhile comrades dying at their feet, it was enough to rout them entirely – they fled the battlefield, the Captain leading the way! Having thrown all my dispel dice at that spell in a futile attempt to stop it, I was powerless to stop Sophie casting Raise Undead Horde; as it turned out, she cast with Irresistable Force, so in a way I was glad I hadn’t kept any dispel dice back! I was helpless as twenty corpses clawed their way up through the loose dirt behind the unwitting Town Guard, their eyes glowing green with balefire. Unfortunately, the magical backlash seared Lady de Mur’s mind, and she lost the ability to cast any spells for the rest of the battle! Quite a handicap for a Vampire, but at least she raised a decent unit of twenty before it happened! The Scholar, not content to rest on his laurels after taking a third of my army and my general out of the game on turn one, targeted the Gisoreux Ghouls with Flickering Fires and roasted two of them. What a phase! Out-and-out carnage! My army was in tatters and surrounded. On the plus side, at least Andy hadn’t ended up with Baleful Transmogrification this game; when we last clashed, I got sick and tired of my soldiers turning into animals and being a bit useless at the drop of a hat.
At least nothing could go wrong in the Shooting phase – I was the only one shooting! My marksman, Gerhard König, tried lining up a shot on the Scholar with his Hochland Long Rifle, but his aim was off; his men fared little better firing into the ranks of the Warriors, felling one of them. Oh well! At least nothing else in my army died or ran away.
As there was no combat phase, we went straight into turn two. The Kal Za’Gul tribe continued their headlong charge towards my (missing) left flank, and the Knights of the Question stayed exactly where they were, forming a neat cordon around the block of wyrdstone that had embedded itself in a knot of tree roots. It was a bad day for the Volkenburg Town Guard; not only were they charged by the Grave Guard from the front, they were also jumped from behind by the freshly-raised horde of zombies. The Peasants of Mousillon shambled into the woods to claim the objective there, and the Ghouls advanced menacingly towards the Chaos Warriors.
The Magic phase was a a one-man show, with Lady de Mur suffering a particuarly unpleasant migraine, and the Scholar sent an obscenely powerful bolt of flickering fire at the Ghouls. Five of them were blasted apart, leaving just two standing! Andy then tried repeating the Treason gambit on my handgunners, but I threw a handful of dispel dice at it while thinking of Sigmar, and somehow I held it back for a turn. Phew!
In the shooting phase, something even more magical happened. Gerhard König adjusted the sights on his long rifle, sighted carefully, muttered a prayer to Sigmar, and let fly. The lead shot soared through the air, punched straight through the sorceror’s magical shielding, and tore straight through his armour! For the first time in the campaign (to my knowledge), the Scholar was wounded by something other than magical feedback!
The combat between the Town Guard and the massed undead went about as well as could be expected. They killed a few from each unit, but were overwhelmed – especially by the zombies, who rolled an insane number of successful dice! We decided that these weren’t run-of-the-mill undead, but (Marks and Spencer’s Finest) wyrdstone-enhanced zombies, whose time beneath the earth amidst the shards of magical comet had boosted their prowess considerably! My poor greatswords fled, pursued by the de Mur Personal Guard, who ran them down easily.
In the next turn, the marauder horsemen continued their headlong gallop, bringing them within charge range (but out of firing arc) of my handgunners. The mega-zombies turned their attention towards the other flank of the same unit. Personally, I think my men should get medals for not scattering to the four winds at this point!
The remaining couple of ghouls charged into the Knights of the Question, while the Grave Guard aligned themselves for a similar charge next turn. The magic phase followed, and Andy realised that as he couldn’t cast magic missiles while in combat, there was only one thing he could do – cast Treason on my one remaining unit! I failed to dispel, and the up-to-this-point staunch Border Patrol were overcome with feelings of greed, deceit and violence, clubbing each other to death with the butts of their heavy rifles. Half the unit succumbed before Sergeant König could restore order, and the remainder fell back to behind the second wall. The Scholar had wreaked a small portion of his revenge upon the marksman, but I couldn’t help thinking there was more to come. Of course, there was no shooting phase, and in the combat phase the loincloth-wearing ghouls ran full-tilt into the spiky-armoured Chaos Warriors, with all the effect you’d probably imagine that having.
Turn four started with a bit of a surprise – the Kal Za’Gul tribe attempted to charge the lambent zombies ahead of them, and failed! This prompted a countercharge from the undead, who leapt into the fray with far too much enthusiasm. Lady de Mur led her minions in a charge against the solid wall of metal in the woods, hoping to fare better than the ghouls had before them. Finally, my handgunners rallied – I imagine it was less a tactical move, more curiosity to see who’d win the fight that had just broken out behind them.
The magic phase was a complete dud, with Andy failing to get another Treachery past the bulwark of my dispel dice, and the last unit in my army spent the shooting phase staring slack-jawed as musclebound Norsemen fought from the saddle against frenzied, green-eyed walking corpses. The ensuing combat was an even-handed affair, with casualties on both sides – a horseman was pulled from his saddle and messily eviscerated, and several zombies died, but not enough for there to be a decisive winner. Elsewhere on the battlefield, Lady de Mur issued a challenge, expecting to get her hands on the Scholar and take out her bad mood on a worthy foe, but his champion, The First, stepped forward instead. Hissing her disapproval, she punched clean through his armour and glared at the sorceror, daring him to face her himself. Her minions managed to slay a single one of the sorceror’s entourage, and in return suffered four losses; normally this would not have been a setback, but with de Mur’s inability to replenish their numbers, it was bad news for the undead. Still, they held their ground, giving their leader another chance to get to grips with the enemy general.
There was no movement in the penultimate turn; my handgunners held their ground, the Peasants of Mousillon were following orders and guarding wyrdstone, and everything else was locked in combat. The magic phase failed again to produce any action, as Andy’s only viable spell got stopped by faith in Sigmar. We decided my men were able to fire into the combat directly ahead of them, and they did so; the hits were randomised, and several zombies were killed. This turned the tide of the upcoming battle, and the Tribe managed to finish off their undead foe. In the main fight, the vampire issued another challenge and the Scholar stepped forward, but proved to be no slouch in combat, standing up much better to the Lady than his champion had. Another indecisive round of combat left both units bruised but not beaten.
In the final turn of the game, the marauders resisted the urge to charge the Border Patrol, choosing instead to claim the objective I’d made for at the start of the battle. The Scholar finally got his revenge on Sergeant König, casting Treason with all his might and causing them to beat one another senseless – I survived until the last turn, but I was well and truly out of the game at this point. The final combat phase saw another stalemate, with a couple of wounds exchanged, but not enough to cause either unit to flee or be wiped out.
Without a shadow of a doubt, the Scholar’s forces won the day – again! Andy’s army has gone from strength to strength in the first month of the campaign, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a few fragile alliances are made to try to bring him low. We decided that the southern objective was held by Chaos, the eastern by the undead, and the northern one was contested; as a result, the two evil armies got a Wyrdstone shard each (which we decided they could use in the same way as a Skaven Warpstone token in a future game). What a game, though! Andy decided that his Outstanding Unit was the Scholar himself, considering the amount of killy death he was dishing out all over the place every Magic phase.
All told, though, it was a great game. I’m absolutely loving this campaign lark. It’s an impetus to write things on the blog, which is nothing to be scoffed at, but it’s also such a thrill getting things painted and getting excited about the hobby! It also hits one of my favourite parts of wargaming – the socialising. We’ve laughed together, we’ve shared war stories, we’ve even had late-night phone calls and texts to swap ideas and storylines. It’s a wonderful experience, and it’s really cementing our gaming group. Who knows what the future holds? More campaigns? Our own game systems?
Thanks for reading!