Games with friends with food

Chapter One: The Gathering (October)

Armies come from far and wide, setting camps and scouting the land. Skirmishes break out between factions, and rivalries, enmities and war-stories start to emerge…

For the first month of the campaign, there are no special rules; however, the usual limit of “one game per enemy” is upped to two games per enemy, as we all want to play a load of games and have some fun.

Dark Storm Rising…
The first few games have taken place, and we’ve got our first report from the front lines…

A report of the encounter from the Vanguard made by acting commander, Gun captain Matthias Apweiler to the Army Commander, General Schlimt.  Written on the morning of the 6th day.
We set out two days march ahead of the main body towards the eastern passage with the following Order of Battle:
C-in-C Brother Rekhardt of Sigmars Church
Metzgers Company, Altdorf Blades, 28 men
Altdorf Jungenpistolkorps, 5 mounted pistoliers
1 16-pound gun.
On the evening of the 5th, three days after separating from the main body we made camp for the night.  A low mist hung around the trees and the chill of night could be felt approaching as dusk fell.  The wind whipped the flames of our camp fires and there were reports of the flames turning green.  The piquet cried to arms and the enemy was upon us.  The Blades, led by brother Rekhardt valiantly cut down a horde of shambling dead and the battle brother did smite them with Sigmars holy wrath.  My men on the gun were sore afraid as the blades although fighting well were outnumbered as some she-witch burst from the trees leading a horde of skeletal warriors more undead clawed themselves from the ground.  The Jungen, having been foraging crested the hill behind us in the nick of time and charged in with guns blazing to protect our right flank.  My men fired as best they could but we had to take care in the gloom to prevent hitting our own men.  Just when the battle seemed to be swung in our favour a horde of undead arose in front of my gun and worse still, to the rear of the Blades who were engaged at the front.  We thought all was lost when a howling gale began to swirl around the she-witch and a tremendous roaring erupted from the bowels of the earth, it rose and rose until it became an infernal scream.  Suddenly it stopped and the men of the Blades tell me that the vampiress was sucked into the ground, taking her warriors with her.  The shambling monsters began to crumble and fall away to dust and we were finally able to unload some grape at some ghouls which had been stalking our gun all the while.  The pistolkorp shot down the rest as they fled.  It was only after we could regroup that we discovered Brother Rekhardt, broken in body and mind and hanging by a thread.  It seems he had been engaged with the vampire when she was taken below and suffered a greivous wound.  He recovers now and we bear him on a litter back to you my lord.  I hope this meets with your approval my lord but we fear we cannot stay out here without reinforcement.  If this message reaches you in two days we should be able to rendezvous with you on the 9th for resupply and report.
Our losses:
Brother Rekhardt, Wounded
8 killed, 7 wounded, Altdorf Blades.
Your Servant
Gun Captain Apweiler

As you may have gathered from that, magic was misbehaving all over the place during the first two games, with miscasts and insanely high power rolls happening left, right and centre. Maybe the following excerpt will cast some light on what’s happening:

…As for the strange behaviour of the skies to the north-east, I have spent several days researching possible causes, as well as collecting reports from the Ostermark citizenry. Superstitious folk, one and all; I was forced to mask my identity in order to move among them with any success. Despite this, I have seen with my own eyes the evidence that all is not well in the heavens, and heard tales that send chills down even my spine. In Frugheim, three lay-priests in the service of a Sigmarite temple went mad, seeing daemons in everything and everyone; they were eventually restrained, but not before they had managed to slaughter several families in their entirety. I understand that the priests came to their senses in the morning, and were solemnly repentant as the head of their chapter put each of them to the sword. In Haagen, an ox (which, several villagers swore to me, was hale, hearty and normal two days ago) split in twain from head to tail, and rampaged in two separate directions across the village square. Despite the viscera flooding from it, it took the men of the village nearly an hour to trap and kill it. Sadly, I was unable to examine it, as (upon the advice of their local priest, a Morrite known as Shemm) they burned both halves of the carcass so as not to spread its contagion. In Dachen, a farmer told me in hushed tones that whispering voices had called to the townsfolk as they lay sleeping, and every single one of them – men, women, children all – picked up and left without a trace. The roadwardens claim that the village was ransacked by beastmen, but the man I spoke to simply pointed out that tracks only led out of the village, not in.
All of these events took place three nights ago – the same night my thaumometers and wind-catchers ran wild, when Morrslieb hung low in the air. Several witnesses spoke of a comet trailing green fire as it split apart in the north-east. Could it be that the Chaos Moon has spat its fury at the Empire once more? I will investigate further, my Lord, and report back to you as I discover more details.
Jastromo Weissbard
Magister , Order Celestial
After a couple of skirmishes, things got a bit messy in the doomed hamlet, Badenhof. The two Empire forces had met there, only to be besieged by a horde of undead creatures, intent on tearing screaming villagers from the safety of their homes. The defenders fought bravely (especially the Averland sharpshooter, Gerhard König, who’s had more sixes to hit in his past two games than seem statistically possible), but it was all for nought; the men from rival states failed to put aside their differences and pull together, and too many villagers were lost to call the battle anything but a loss. Of course, opinions differ on where the blame truly lies…
Dispatch from Sergeant Metzger of the Altdorf Blades to company Captain Schreiber
Sir, I write to you out of grave concern for our vanguard and the health of Brother Rekhardt.  I would wish to give our account of our last engagement, lest you hear ill of us from another source. Our expedition has cut its way through horrors of the undead and chaos.  We are currently on our way back to the main force as we cannot hope to hold out in this forsaken land with our current number.  We met with a body of Volkenburgers who had seen us on the road.  They were led by a knave called Müller who seemed more interested in our business than giving us any form of aid.  We encamped at the village of Badenhof and I billeted the men in the houses.  Being wary of attack I posted sentries and gun-captain Apweiler devised some ingenious traps with his blackpowder, which he set in the woods.  Our fears proved justified as in the dead of night the shuffling hordes of dead fell upon the village.  The traps worked admirably as we saw flashes and heard bangs from the woods.  The scattered limbs of the corpses flew through the air and the men took great heart from this.  We secured the right flank of the village and we spied the undead as they moved by us and concentrated their forces on the left, held by the Volkenburgers.  It was then I thought it best that we should fall on them and catch them in the flank.  Brother Rekhardt though would not give us the order.  He stared through his spyglass and kept talking about how he must wait for the Lady.  The battle was going ill and the Volkenburgers being of weak stock could needed our aid but still Brother Rekhardt would not give the order for us to attack.  In desperation we pleaded with him as the screams of the dying villagers rang through the air and his assistant Brother Jan shook him.  As if a fog lifted from his eyes, his fire returned to him and with a cheer we sallied forth from our garrision.  Enraged at the site of our own soldiers been raised from death we smote all those in sight but it was too late for Badenhof.  It lay burning with most of the Volkenburgers slain and fled.  The fury of Sigmar quickly departed Rekhardt again and it was left to Captain Apweiler and myself to organise a fighting retreat.  Brother Rekhardt again has descended into a sullen mood and does not speak or give us order.  We beg sir that you may forgive our fighting record in this shameful encounter and place us under the command of yourself again.
I do not wish to speak ill of Brother Rekhardt for he has acheived considerable feats, besting a Vampire, a Champion and Wizard of Chaos in mortal combat but the strain of these encounters have left their mark and he does not seem to be his true self at this time.
Sergeant of the Altdorf Blades.
That’s one account of the tale. Here’s another…
The camp was in utter chaos. Corporals tallied the dead and counted in stragglers. Sentries waited atop the part-finished stockade, bows trained on the treeline, even as bruised and bloodied men hurried to build makeshift barricades around the incomplete sections. Wounded men screamed as barber-surgeons tended to cruel wounds that were already, impossibly, showing signs of infection. In the midst of it, Wilhelm Müller stood as a lone stationary figure, seemingly confused by the mess that, when his men had marched out not five hours ago, had been a disciplined military encampment. For the third time in as many minutes, he raised his head and shouted for order, but to no avail.
Müller grabbed the shoulder of a lad that made to push past him, arresting his passage. The boy was no older than fourteen, a camp follower, the lackey to some tradesman or other. His face was ashen, his eyes wide with shock and panic, and he carried a roll of canvas in his arms.
“Where do you think you’re taking that?” snapped the Captain, eyeing the black-and-yellow fabric. He wasn’t sure, but he thought he recognised it as one of the auxiliary mess-tents. The boy stammered a reply.
“It’s… it’s for Doctor Vesper. He said to…”
“To fetch a mess tent?” interrupted Müller, his eyes blazing. “What the blazes did he ask you to do that for?”
“He said we’re running out of bandages, and that this will have to do. I’m sorry, sir. I really must get past.”
Müller didn’t stop the boy as he pushed past. He was too shocked. They’d brought plenty of supplies for this sortie. Overprepared, if anything. If they were running low on simple supplies like bandages…
His thoughts were interrupted by the approaching form of Sergeant Halbpfennig, a worried frown writ large across the old fighter’s scarred features. Bruno Halbpfennig was a bull of a man, a hulking giant whom the men adored for his prowess on the battlefield as much as his bravado off it. In his younger years, he’d had the nickname “Bomber”; the origins of the name had been lost as years went by, but the most popular rumour was he’d been given it after a particularly bloody battle against a greenskin horde. He’d been fighting alongside a contingent from Nuln, and when one of their mortars had its crew slain by devilishly accurate goblin bowfire, he rushed to take over. Of course, not knowing how to fire a mortar, he took to lighting the fuses on the charges and lobbing them by hand. The stories – especially the ones told in the presence of soldiers from Nuln – said that his massive strength meant he could easily match the range of the surviving war machines. That was the kind of man he was; larger than life, almost a living legend. It was troubling to see him looking so worried.
“We’ve lot a lot of men, sir.” He didn’t mince his words with Müller; something that made him stand out in the taskforce. The two had known each other for years, and despite their massive differences in demeanour and popularity, their bond had the strength of one forged in the heat of battle. Müller looked as though he was about to react with anger, but stopped himself.
“I know we have. If those preposterous Altdorf swine had joined the battle, rather than sitting it out with the civilians, we wouldn’t have lost half as many!”
The sergeant paused for a moment, considering his response.
“With all respect, sir, I don’t know what difference they could have made. More importantly, their presence may have been the only thing keeping those monsters from attacking the villagers they were guarding. Surely that was our priority?”
“It was a bloody shambles!”
The captain went quiet, staring into the anarchy around them. Halbpfennig broke the silence, speaking softly.
“We’re lucky to have got back here at all, Captain. It’s not an easy road through the forest, and who knows what else was lurking near that damned village?”
Müller’s reply was cut short by a cry from one of the sentries. The camp hushed for a moment before erupting into a frenzy of activity. Weapons were raised and barricades manned. The captain could barely contain his relief when the sentry sounded the all-clear, and a knot of battered, battle-weary men made their way in through the main gate. König’s rifles. He shook his head in desbelief.
“I thought they’d have been slaughtered, for sure. That undead bitch cornered them in the watchtower. How in Sigmar’s name did that slippery peasant get his men out of there?”
Halbpfennig raised a bushy eyebrow and said nothing, catching König’s eye across the camp. The marksman dismissed his men and made his way over to the officers, his elaborate longrifle slung across his shoulder. Gerhard König was only a corporal, but he had the respect of his men, and had trained them with a skill rarely seen in men of his rank. He was a slight man, grim in aspect, quiet except when talking was unavoidable. Müller hated him for the ease with which he inspired his men, for his sharp eye for things that the captain would rather had gone unnoticed, and for his incredible knack for avoiding Morr’s kiss.
König saluted, unslinging his weapon and leaning it against a wagon. He rolled his shoulders, clearly relieved to be rid of its weight.
“We made sure we weren’t followed. I thought it best to circle back across our line of retreat and deal with anything that was following us, but we waited half an hour with no sign of trouble, so we came back.”
The captain snorted in irritation. The man spoke in such an undignified, casual manner.
“You didn’t think to send a runner back to camp? To inform us of your… plan?”
“Truth be told, I needed every rifle I had. If those creatures had followed us… well, I’ve already lost nearly half my boys. It was all or nothing.”
Halbpfennig stepped in before Müller could get any more irate.
“How did you escape the tower? We thought you were done for.”
The small man gave a weak smile, and absently brushed at a blackened patch in the sleeve of his tunic.
“Reiklanders aren’t the only ones who can set charges. I made sure the entrances were rigged with enough powder to significantly upset anything that came knocking, living or dead. It worked, up to a point; they still got in, but we’d hit them fairly hard. Unfortunately, it still came down to bayonets and elbows, and that’s where my men don’t stack up to your front-line soldiery. We did our best, but…” He gave a thoughtful pause. “…well, it wasn’t enough, was it? We’d told the townsfolk to hide in the cellar, but the undead sniffed them out like pigs looking for truffles. They dragged them out before we could do anything. I lost four men to their rearguard. We retrieved their rifles, but I’m afraid we couldn’t manage the bodies. I only hope our Altdorf counterparts will do the honourable thing.”
Müller had remained quiet throughout König’s report, but mention of the Reiklanders roused him to anger once more.
“Honour? You’d do better trying to find civility amongst the greenskins. Those Altdorf layabouts were cowards and incompetents, one and all!”
The other two men shared a quick glance, but it was the sharpshooter that spoke.
“One and all? Even the ones that rigged those explosives in the woods? Or the cavalry that gave their lives trying to protect your flank?”
“Those bloody upstarts on their daddies’ horses, you mean? Those weren’t cavalry! They were spoiled children, and they fared as well as would be expected. It was an insult sending them to cover our flank. Where was that pompous priest, eh? When the undead were crawling through the village square, where was he? I’ll tell you; he was in that tavern, with the doors locked, probably “praying” to Sigmar to rid him of his sobriety! Mark my words, I’m not done with him. There’s going to be hell to pay!”
Müller’s voice had risen in a furious crescendo, and the whole camp had turned to watch him.
Sergeant Halbpfennig put a hand on his shoulder, and leaned in towards him.
“Sir, speaking with respect, I don’t think you should go on too much about revenge and more killing. A lot of these men have lost old friends tonight, and I heard a lot of them muttering on the way back that we wouldn’t have even been out there if you hadn’t demanded that we march on their camp before nightfall. I respect you as an officer, and as a friend, but I think you need to worry a little more about your…” he glanced at the captain and the rifleman. “…your popularity. Amongst the men.”
Müller’s eyes widened, and he glared at the sergeant. His mouth opened and closed incredulously. Halbpfennig continued.
“If you’re not careful, you could be facing a full-on mutiny in the morning. The lads are spooked, and they’re looking for an excuse to break ranks and flee back home. I don’t want that any more than you, but I can’t see them sticking around while you stay in charge. They’re calling you a bad omen.”
Müller finally found the ability to speak. His tone was low and dangerous.
“You talk to me like an old friend, but talk about mutiny in the same breath? You cur. I suppose you’d take command for yourself? Show me how it’s supposed to be done? You disgusting…”
“Not me. König.”
The rifleman’s eyes widened in shock. Müller almost choked. Before he could respond, the sergeant continued. 
“He’s popular. His men are known to be the best, and everyone else respects what he says. More to the point, they respect what he does; you know as well as I do his combat record. If he tells them to stay, they’ll stay. They believe in him. Sir, your men – your old men, the ones from before – they’re your safest place. I’d recommend sticking close with them and just pretending it’s the old days. Cosy up with your old drinking buddies. I really would recommend it.”
The sergeant’s tone had a subtle edge to it, a hint of darkness that could have easily been mistaken for cameraderie. Müller recognised it, but realised his predicament. He would have to play this game, demeaning as it would be. What choice did he have? However, before he could say anything in response, he was interrupted by a new voice.
“I think I might be of service, gentlemen?”
The three turned were surprised to see an elderly man had joined them, swathed in a dark cloak, clutching a brass-tipped staff. A white beard concealed the lower half of his face, and he looked as though he’d been travelling for weeks. He gave a mysterious smile and nodded his head in greeting.
“Jasstromo Weissbard. Magister of the Order Celestial. I won’t mince my words; you’re in need of a leader, and I’m in need of an army. There are far darker things at work here than vampires and necromancers. Let me explain…”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: