tiistai 19. syyskuuta 2017

Path to Glory: Sundamar Sallies Forth

Greetings!

Now with the Beardlings -tutorial series wrapped up I plunged straight into a local Path to Glory league. Last time I participated in a local league I played my new Aelves and ended up on top! You can read more on my previous foray into the world of friendly semi-competitiveness under Campaigns --> Aelves in the Local League on the sidebar menu to the right.

I was balancing in between my Stormcast Eternals and my Aelves to be taken as the army I would play, since the rules and regulations for the league demand fully painted armies on round bases (thus dropping my option of playing my favourite faction: the Duardin). Since I haven't played my Stormcasts that much and I have an urge to get some more stuff painted for my Aelves, I opted to go for the latter. It seems like Aelves have become my go-to choice for anything even remotely competitive!

I don't mind, though. Many of my other armies feature quite often in my battles, whether or not I write a report about them, and since I mostly play Narrative I don't care that much about base shapes or points or such. My Aelves, however, were acquired and built specifically for the previous league and I think of them as a "league army" in general. They tick all the boxes for the rules and regulations without being the most obvious or over-used faction choice people might face in settings like this. I also like the little bit of extra challenge this army poses to its player: nothing quite packs enough punch, nothing can take a punch and the only way to victory is superior tactics, luck and going determinedly for the objective.

In other words, it doesn't surprise me when I lose with this faction (I even kind of expect it by default) but by Asuryan does it feel good to score a victory with these feeble pointy-ears! They give you that "hard-fought, well earned" feeling when you manage to pull your weedy warriors through the hell of the battlefields.


Here is my glorious warband, House Blazeborn!

Lord Sundamar Blazeborn and his loyal companion A'undtur act as the champion for my warband. He is a Dragonlord choice which gives him 2 units of Followers. He is quite capable in combat and with A'undtur also (of course) breathing fire, he seemed like a good hybrid Champion choice that handles himself in melee, moves fast and can spit out mortal wounds at range. He is equipped with Quicksilver Potion for throwing my opponent's combat phase off balance and he is known to be a Master of Defence which makes him even more durable than he already is!

Blazeborn Household Knights form the rest of the mobility in my force, being able to cover vast distances on the field in a single turn. Let us hope that these 5 Dragon Blades live up to their reputation and save a day or three with their objective-grabbing capabilities.

The Rangers of the Jagged Coast are a unit of 10 White Lions who flesh out my force by boosting the total number of warriors. They hit hard and have special Abilities against the effects of battleshock so I expect them to be able to strike out on their own and hold a location if I tell them to do so. In a warband as mobile as mine, I needed a reliable infantry unit for anchoring down locations.

After taking the pic you see above, the Dragonlord's wings have been folded back, his horn in the left hand has been replaced with a shield and his base has been redone. You'll see the final result in the pics of the battle to follow.

This league advances in two-week cycles, giving each player two chances to show up at the club and play the game to be recorded in the league scoreboards. The very first scenario we played was Cornered!, in which a smaller warband tries to get its Champion out of an ambush alive. Should the escaping Champion be slain or reduced below half of his Wounds the victory would go to the ambusher, while escaping with his/her life would score a victory for the escapee. We added a single house rule to this scenario: the escape could not happen before the start of the 3rd battleround, so that flying models couldn't end the game too soon.

Lord Sundamar Blazeborn could hear the ranger approaching long before he came into view. Leaning against the slowly heaving side A'undtur, the aelf noble couldn't help but feel omnipotent. Dragons were ancient and intelligent beings with capabilities far beyond even the race of aelves. To be connected to such a creature through mind was to share a portion of their power, knowledge and characteristics. Sundamar's lips rose into a suppressed smile as he saw his knights only now turn their heads towards the sounds of the approaching scout. Aelves might posses exceptionally keen senses and acute hearing, but they were still nothing compared to those of a dragon's.

The fur-clad ranger came straight to his liege, offering a hurried and awkwardly shallow bow as a way of greeting. This was the closest thing these forest-dwellers could manage to courtly manners, Sundamar thought, before permitting the scout to report his findings.
"Speak."
"My lord, there is a ruined temple ahead with strange inscriptions carved onto its pillars. It might be the closest thing we have to a lead if we're ever to find Lord Aerelian in time," the Lion Ranger reported in an awfully practical and typically gruff manner.

Sundamar nodded and took a moment to arrange his thoughts. He had set out from his family estate some weeks ago with only a handful of loyal household knights for protection and a group of rangers from the Jagged Coast to lead the way. They were to locate the Loremaster of the nearby Dawnspire who had went missing on a quest to investigate troubling news of a new growing cult in the region. Some human locals along the way had been able to point them the general direction in which the Loremaster had traveled, and one village elder even told them of a vision he'd had the other night in which a lonely aelf was involved in a sacrificial ritual under a full moon.

"We should go to this temple your underling speaks of, the inscriptions might have some clues as to where we should look for the site of this ritual," A'undtur mind-sang inside Sundamar's head, audible only to the aelf lord.
"Can you translate them?" he sang silently in reply, immediately sensing amusement in the mind of the dragon and realizing the foolishness of his query. Of course the dragon could.
"Let us go, then," Sundamar continued out loud, turning his gaze to the knights.
"The rangers and I shall investigate a nearby location and return by nightfall. Wait here."
"M-my lord, we..." one of the knights started mumbling.
"You shall do as I say. Wait for my return, we will then resume our journey at first light," Sundamar commanded and reached for A'undtur. He climbed to the saddle and the dragon took to the air with a couple of powerful beats of its massive wings, gliding off into the horizon with a group of rangers following closely behind by land. The household knights were left watching worriedly at their lord's receding back as he flew off into unknown.

Sun was beginning to descend behind the hills as Lord Blazeborn studied the inscriptions on the temple's pillars. A'undtur was with him, silently mind-singing translations to the aelf.
"Seems clear enough," Sundamar finally broke the ostensible silence, drawing gazes from the Lion Rangers waiting outside.
"We're four nights from the full moon, and the perfect location for any lunar rituals lies only a dozen leagues north from where we stand now, in the Zendorn Foothills. Let us return to the others and..."

Just then one of the rangers ran inside, gesturing Sundamar to follow. He stepped outside into the warm light of the descending sun, only to lay his eyes upon a cloud of dust approaching them from the horizon. A'undtur sensed the lord's discomfort and climbed down from the roof of the temple ruins, mind-singing the words Blazeborn couldn't say himself.
"It seems we've walked into a trap, little one."


My warband started off in the middle, with the Dragonlord surrounded by the White Lions. Unfortunately I didn't take a pic before he started flying around in the first turn.
I got paired against Slaves to Darkness and my warband was the one to be surrounded. As I only got to bring half of my units to the field to protect my Champion, my opponent nominated my White Lions to accompany Lord Sundamar in the middle of the field to deny me the benefit of my Dragon Blades sharing a keyword with my Champion.

My warband got the first turn and so the game begun. My opponent had a mounted Chaos Lord, 5 Chaos Knights with Glaives and 10 Chaos Warriors with Halberds. Judging the Warriors to be the weakest link in his army and trying to get away from his faster units, I moved my units closer to the right flank. When it came to charging my Dragonlord made it easily, but the White Lions were left an inch short, leaving my Champion all alone in a bunch of angry enemies!

I had planned that the combined might of a dragon and some elite infantry would carve through the flank in no-time, letting me escape as soon as possible. Alas, as my White Lions failed miserably in their duties I had no choice but to try and finish what I had started with my Champion. To my surprise he did pretty well, taking the unit of Warriors from 10 to 5 models in a single round of combat without suffering a scratch himself!


Stranded in the middle of the no-man's-land, my White Lions got charged by the Chaos Lord and the Knights. The Chaos Knights alone inflicted around 16 Wounds to the unit of 10 aelves, trampling my poor infantry to the ground without mercy. On the right flank Lord Sundamar took 2 Wounds from the Warriors' Halberds before tearing the barbarians apart, inflicting exactly enough Wounds to wipe out the rest of the unit.

On the 2nd battleround I moved my Dragonlord as far away from the enemy as possible, and on my opponent's turn his units ran towards me as far as they could. Then we proceeded to roll to see who would get to pick the first turn of the 3rd battleround. The excitement in the room was palpable, for if the Aelves rolled higher the Dragonlord would escape and win the scenario, and if the Slaves to Darkness managed to score higher they would charge in easily and possibly take my Champion below half of his Wounds.

The dice were rolled and astonished gasps were heard.

A 5 for the Aelves...
....and a 2 for Chaos.

The Aelves had just scored their very first Minor Victory in this league!

A'undtur glided effortlessly amidst the clouds, rising above them every now and then with a few powerful wingbeats before diving down again. As they passed over a patch of forest merely inches above the treetops, the dragon sang to its rider.
"What a pleasant little exercise. I dislike the taste of the followers of the Dark Gods, but I can't help but enjoy their terrified screams as they realize they have no chance against me."
"This was too dangerous... We lost a whole troop of rangers to my recklessness!" Sundamar replied, still pale from the realization and the weight of lost lives upon him.
"We all make mistakes, little one. And we all learn from them."
Lord Blazeborn drew in a lungful of fresh air, gathering himself and his thoughts once more.
"I believe I have learned my lesson. Now let us make haste to reach the others, there's a Loremaster to be found!"

My choice of Champion really helped me out in this one. I usually roll more poorly the more dependent my victory is of the dice roll, but this time fortune smiled upon me and my warband. The next scenario is Sacrifice, in which one model from either warband will have to be rescued while the opposition seeks to murder him/her.

I rolled myself 3 Glory Points from this victory, bringing me 30% closer to the 10 Points required to attempt the final scenario through which the league can be won. I also got to either pick a Veteran Ability for one of my current units or to add a new Follower to my warband. I went for the additional unit to build up my force a bit. In any other situation I would've added 5 Reavers to my list for some ranged attacks, but now I'm forced to take a Loremaster in order to survive the next scenario. Each round the model being sacrificed loses a Wound, and the game ends once that model's Wounds reach 0. If I end up being the rescuer, I want my warband to have 5 turns (rather than 1 or 2) to save the poor fellow from that cruel fate!







keskiviikko 13. syyskuuta 2017

Battles For Beardlings

Oooops!

We're nearly in the middle of September and I have yet to post anything this month! My usual about-10-days-in-between-posts rule has been bent yet again as two weeks have passed since the last one. How to make up for all that lost time? Well, I might as well finish my For Beardlings tutorial series with the 4th and (thus far) the final part!

In my previous tutorials I've discussed the basics of the game, delved into Warscrolls and units and taken a better look at heroes and their capabilities on the field. What next? The bigger picture, so to speak.

Rather than going over all the stuff from the other parts again in a "summary" of some kind, I decided to take a different approach for this final tutorial. I recently played a 1000p Matched Play game at my local club that in my opinion has much more to teach us than any artificially set up tutorial battle I could ever make. So in this tutorial I'll walk you through this real pick-up battle and the tactics involved, from the army lists to Battle Traits and artefacts, all the while reflecting upon the choices made and the strategies used.

There will be no storylines or narration this time, only tactics and gameplay. Shouldn't matter, though, as most of all the other content here in my blog includes storytelling in one way or another!

To kick things off let's have a look at the army lists. The game was 1000p Matched Play, using Open War cards to set up the scenario.

My opponent's Dispossessed force was made up of the following:
- Warden King (Battle Fury, Teardrop of Grungni)
- Runelord
- Unforged
- 10 Warriors (handaxes & shields)
- 5 Slayers
- 10 Irondrakes
- 10 Hammerers
- Cannon (Ironweld Ally)
[Grudge: Shoddy Craftsmanship]

Quite an interesting list, a very efficient one! There are very few "loose parts" in this force and this is very much thanks to the new General's Handbook and the updates it brought. The Battleline requirements here are filled with Warriors and Hammerers which make for a very muscled core for the army, while still leaving plenty of points to be used elsewhere. The Warden King and Runelord are both solid (and almost obligatory) choices for the faction's heroes, whereas the Cannon alongside with the Irondrakes provides deadly long-range support for the infantry's advance. The Slayers and the Unforged are perhaps the closest things this list has for filler, and even then the Unforged is still a nice melee hero and the Slayers do well against monsters... which my general unfortunately classifies as. The army's Grudge allowed all Dispossessed units to re-roll failet Hit rolls of 1 against units with Save characteristic of 4+ or better, meaning that only my Spearmen and Bolt Thrower crew were safe from this bonus.

My own Aelves marched to war with:
- Dragonlord (Master of Defence, Phoenix Stone)
- Loremaster
- 5 Dragon Blades
- 10 White Lions
- 10 Highborn Spearmen
- 10 Highborn Spearmen
- Highborn Bolt Thrower

The idea behind my army was to practice for the upcoming local Path to Glory league that is about to start, so I picked units that will probably see use in the games to come. I equipped my Dragonlord to soak up hits so he doesn't die immediately after the first enemy volley, he is the main punch of my force after all. The Loremaster was there to buff the Bolt Thrower and the Dragonlord, while the Dragon Blades provided some mobility in case of an objective-based scenario. The Highborn Spearmen were in the list purely for Battleline/meatwall purposes, and the White Lions were the infantry unit I placed the most faith in. As a mixed up Order allegiance my sole army-wide benefit was the ability to re-roll Battleshock tests.

Here are the cards we picked up from the Open War deck. The Deployment was a spearhead-style one that favoured placing one's units towards the centre. The Objective was killing as many enemies as possible, with the added bonus of doubling your points if the enemy General was slain in the battle. The game's twist enabled both players to heal wounded units at the start of their turn.

A very interesting scenario in which my Aelves had a clear advantage over the opposition. My general had 14 Wounds while his had only 5, and I had geared my Dragonlord towards survival anyway. Yet a clear advantage does not necessarily mean a clear victory. On to the deployment!

As I do not have a pic of the beginning of the game, I had to doodle up the battlefield in Battle Chronicler to show you how the deployment took place. I won the roll-off to see who gets to pick the table side and put down the first unit, so I begun by placing my Highborn Spearmen on the right. My opponent then went on to deploy his Warriors, Slayers, Hammerers and heroes, while I placed my second Spearmen unit, White Lions and Loremaster, Bolt Thrower.

Importantly, my opponent held onto his Irondrakes until I had placed my Dragon Blades. He deployed them right across the open space my cavalry would have to cross, high up on a hill where they had a perfect view of the field. I deployed my Dragonlord last, behind a ruin in the right-hand corner to hide him away from cannonfire should the first turn go to the duardin.

I managed to get my Dragonlord where I wanted him, but the deployment of the Irondrakes right across my cavalry was very unfortunate for me. I had planned on flanking these small and slow halldwellers with my Dragon Blades but my opponent picked a good unit to try and stop my little plot.

The first battleround begun with the Duardin turn. His forces in the centre shuffled around for better positions while his Irondrakes advanced, loosing a volley at my Dragon Blades. He had boosted the unit with Forgefire from the Runelord, resulting in a number of -2 Rend shots coming my way. One aelf was wounded, causing me to withdraw the unit towards the centre on my own turn, thanking the entirety of the aelven pantheon for sparing my cavalry any further damage from the monstrous shooting of the Irondrakes. I sent all my infantry up front to gain some ground and to tie down his units, bringing my Dragonlord a bit closer from the rear. I wanted to save him for the killing blow, to go for the enemy general as soon as an opportunity presented itself. My Bolt Thrower gained re-rolls to Hit and to Wound from the Loremaster's Hand of Glory spell, taking down 1-2 of the Irondrakes on top of the hill. I was using the Repeating Bolts that gave me 12 Attacks, but the Rend of -1 was totally negated by the Irondrake's Forge-proven Gromril Armour.


What we saw here was either a misjudgment from me or masterfully tactical gameplay from my opponent, or both. My flanking plans collapsed as soon as the Irondrakes opened fire with their Forgefire-buffed guns, reminding me what a meatgrinder awaited my cavalry should I dare cross the clearing ahead. Perhaps I should've just charged in and hoped for the best, or perhaps that would have been like giving away free kills for the enemy and it was a good call to retreat. Be that as it may, my opponent had just denied me the advantage of my army's mobility by a simple placement of a single unit and a buff, forcing me to focus more on the mid-field conflict in which he had the majority of his forces.

I charged into his Warriors with my Spearmen, hoping to thin them down or at least hold them in place. Alas, the duardin suffered not even a scratch while I lost 3 aelves as casualties and 2 to the ensuing battleshock. Ouch!

I managed to roll the first turn of the second battleround for the Aelves, giving me an opportunity to react to the sudden change of plans. My remaining 5 Highborn Spearmen from the right flank retreated into the forest behind them, while the White Lions charged into the Duardin Warriors to fill the gap. My other Spearmen unit climbed into the cover of the middle altar, making them a bit tougher nut to crack if the enemy charged in. My Bolt Thrower, once again buffed by the Loremaster, shot into the Irondrakes but didn't cause any damage at all. Meanwhile the Dragonlord and the Dragon Blades just ate grass as I was waiting for the battle to develop further before committing them.

My opponent's answer was a robust one. His Hammerers charged into my Spearmen on the left and his Slayers along with the Unforged charged into my White Lions on the right. His Irondrakes came down from the hill and together with the Cannon rained death upon my cavalry and Spearmen, taking down 2 Dragon Blades and 1 Spearman. The combat round of my own turn saw the White Lions thinning the enemy Warrior unit with no casualties of their own, but in my opponent's combat phase aelves started to drop as well.

I had now tied down the vast majority of his troops but I knew my lines couldn't hold out for much longer against the tougher duardin. It was time to go for the general.

I got the initiative again at the start of the 3rd battleround and went in for the kill. My Bolt Thrower fired Ithilmar Bolts (Rend -2) and managed to take down two Irondrakes, after which my Dragon Blades charged into the unit. My White Lions were down to the champion, so I brought my previously retreating 5 Spearmen out of the forest and into the cover of the middle altar. My Loremaster cast Hand of Glory on my Dragonlord (allowing the whole model to re-roll Hit and Wound rolls) who then swooped in to charge the lonely champion of the enemy Warrior unit.

In the combat phase the Dragonlord piled in so that he could reach the enemy general, pouring all attacks on the Warden King. I began rolling with the Dragonlord's sword which slew the duardin noble in one swing, wasting all the dragon's attacks that would have come afterwards. Oh well, at least the enemy general was slain!

Both sides were roughly equal in scored kill-points up until I took down the Warden King. Now the Aelves had the tide of battle turn greatly in their favour, for their own general was still at full 14 Wounds.

My opponent charged my Dragonlord with everything he had, even using all his shooting to take down the monster. My general took quite the beating and didn't even manage to kill any foes despite my efforts to direct attacks against his Runelord and Unforged before they could strike, leaving my dragon at alarmingly low 4 Wounds!

Next up was the 4th battleround and the Aelves would enter it closer to victory than their adversaries. My forces were shattered, however, with only 5 Spearmen and 2 Dragon Blades, the Loremaster and the Bolt Thrower remaining. My opponent still had a couple of Irondrakes, 6 Hammerers, the Runelord, the Unforged and a single Slayer, as well as the Cannon. I had to get my general out of there quickly.

I won the initiative on the 4th battleround and my Dragon Blades (only the champion remaining, out of the pic to the left) slew the remaining Irondrakes and charged into the Cannon but didn't kill more than 1 crew member despite charge bonuses.

As soon as I could I retreated my Dragonlord out of the fight (5 Wounds remaining as the Phoenix Stone healed him) and moved my remaining 5 infantry to block the duardin from giving chase. I was in the lead in points now, all I had to do was to keep my general safe and the day would go to the Aelves!

Alas, it was not to be. My opponent charged the Spearmen with the lone Warrior and the Unforged before circling around with the rest as best as he could. Even the Hammerers waddled closer on top of the mid-field altar, and when it came to charges they amazed everyone.

The Hammerers rolled a 10" charge that took them into combat with my Dragonlord. On top of that his lone Slayer and the Runelord both managed their charges too, surrounding my general in a ring of potential death. The Hammerers swung their heavy weapons and took 5 Wounds off my dragon, exactly the amount he had left.

The Duardin scored all those 14 Wounds as kill-points and doubled their total score by having slain my general, taking them way ahead of the Aelves. As the dust settled and the battered form of my dragon begun growing cold on the ground, we called it a day and shook hands.

What is there to be learned from this (partially very poorly) documented battle?

1. Never Give Up: My opponent acted true to his faction's racial characteristics by not throwing in the towel when all seemed lost. He played it bravely to the supposedly bitter end, which then turned out to be a glorious victory! In a game of skill and chance like this, everything's possible.

2. The Game Starts Before the Game Starts: When the very first dice are rolled to determine who gets to pick a table edge, the game of Age of Sigmar is already on. Scan the battlefield and evaluate the advantages terrain could offer you and how you could use it to support your playstyle. When deploying units one by one, taking turns, start with the most obvious and common choices. Battleline units and harassers usually take their place as close to the enemy as possible, usually on the centre section of the field. There are very few surprises to be had when deploying them, so putting them down early on will give you time to counterplay your opponent's toughest units with your own elites when you see where they deploy theirs. Remember that you use a turn of deployment even when setting up units in ambush/reserve/other off-table methods, so play them after your obvious choices to gain even more time to observe your opponent's army formations.

3. Balance Is Everything: Each faction has its strengths and weaknesses, and the same applies to different army lists. By thwarting your opponent's attempts to play their strengths (like deploying a hard-Rending missile unit across flanking cavalry, as seen above) and pushing your own (like forcing the action of the battle to dissolve into a mid-field melee clusterf*ck where your troops revel, as seen above) you can influence the flow of battle and turn it in your favour... if the dice gods allow it. Throw your opponent off-balance by efficiently, confidently and calmly countering his/her most obvious favourite strategies. This should push him/her out of his/her comfort zone and into the wide wild world of improvisation where careless mistakes are often made and only those who adapt may survive. Just make sure you're the one who adapts and survives. This is psychological warfare, baby!

4. Play the Objective: Always, always play towards the objective of the scenario. It might get tempting to start chasing down shattered enemy forces and toying around with them, but as we saw in this battle nothing's ever to be taken for granted. Even if you're clearly coming out on top, do yourself the favour of still sticking to the goal you army is after, no matter how clear everything might seem. Even when you're up against a foe that you are sure to lose against, just play the objective as best as you can and you have the best chance of winning. The enemy may get all absorbed into the limitless power at their disposal to wreak havoc among your lines, but in the end they might end up standing on a mound of corpses only to find out that you hold the artefact/objective/capture zone or whatever it is the game has as its aim. Butchers rack up the kills, but tacticians win the battles!

My Duardin opponent also wanted to give you some friendly advice from the lips of a fresh victor:
"Your warriors should exercise daily, three rounds of jogging around the clan's Hold each day really keeps their physical condition top-notch and helps them achieve those sweet 10" charges when needed."

That's all for this tutorial series for now, the journey from basics to battles has finally drawn into a conclusion. All four parts will always be easily available on the sidebar menu, under Tutorials. Perhaps some day in the future there will be additional parts to this series, but for now I'm starting a Path to Glory league which I'll record in its entirety here in the blog as battle reports and stories.

Until next time!









torstai 31. elokuuta 2017

The Iron Grudge Campaign



Welcome to the Iron Grudge -landing page!

This post is here to pull together the many strings I've woven into this long narrative campaign I've been fighting with my regular Greenskinz opponent. There is no real structure to it in the sense of maps, scores or anything like that, we just sit down each time to talk about what would be a cool and logical setting for the next battle. This string of narrative games has progressed over a very long time now, as it all began even before the arrival of Age of Sigmar, and there are still some characters involved who have been there since the ancient times!

We're not actually trying to "win" the campaign in any sense, it's just an over-arching storyline that we use to create settings for our battles and to link all our games together. Each battle and each character becomes that much more dear to you when they stick around from battle to battle until they bite the dust.

So far we've had a great many games with a plethora of Battleplans and homebrew rules-twists to keep the fun at maximum, with the size of the battles ranging from small skirmishes to 400+ model megabattles.

This post is up here to place all these battles and accompanying short stories into a chronological order, with the over-arching storyline explained. Links to all the narrative battles and short stories can also be found right here.
The campaign is still ongoing and this landing page will always be up-to-date and available in the sidebar under Campaigns --> The Iron Grudge.

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It all began when an orruk warlord called Urgokh da Choppa led his fledgling Waaagh! across the violent seas of the Realm of Beasts to land on the shores of the Diamond Bay. The coastline was guarded by the Wayfarer Hold, a strong duardin fort with a full garrison of Iron Company warriors. More of a military outpost than a civilian dwelling, the troops housed in the Waufarer Hold were grizzled veteran mercenaries that had traveled across countless untamed regions under the firm command of Ungrim Ironhelm, the Lord Commander of the Iron Company and the king of Kazad-Zul. Now these trusted clansmen had been assigned to keep the coastline secured while Ungrim was strengthening his grip on the lands his legions had acquired, intent on rebuilding a grand duardin empire from the ashes of the Chaos invasion that was now being pushed back by the Stormcast Eternals.

Alas, despite all their skill and experience the garrison was caught flat-footed when the ramshackle rafts of the greenskins stormed the shores. The warriors of the Wayfarer Hold marched out to meet the foe on the waterline, striving to contain the invasion until their families could be evacuated along with the merchants, shipwrights, runesmiths and other important personnel of the hold. The garrison was slain to the last duardin but the evacuation succeeded, leaving the unfortunate fort itself under the cruel attentions of its new greenskin masters. (The battle for this hold was actually played, in 8th edition WHFB, but sadly no pics or written records remain up to this day.)

Not long after the Wayfarer Hold had been lost, Commander Ironhelm began to muster an army to reclaim it. While his main army made camp deep in the heartlands of this new duardin kingdom, smaller patrols were sent out keep an eye on the foe to make sure nothing disturbed the war preparations. In the Battle of the Hollow Hill Thane Gorek Stonehammer's patrol came across a greenskin warband led by an orruk warboss Gorlag Stuntiedoom, resulting in a defeat that saw only a handful of duardin survivors escape with their lives under the leadership of Runepriest Largs Brokksson.

The survivors sought shelter in the nearby Splitstone Mines, joining their forces with those of the outpost to repel their pursuers. Led by grot wolfboss by the name of Azgar Swiftgit, the grot warband pulled off the Ambush at Splitstone Mines that saw no duardin escape alive to bring news of these defeats to Commander Ungrim. Runepriest Largs Brokksson was slain and his runic heirloom weapons were stolen.

Several days passed before the Splitstone Mines were discovered to have been raided and the Runepriest's valuable weapons to be missing. Letters were sent to warn each and every Iron Company detachment in the region, one of the messages reaching Thane Brom Alaricsson and his supply caravan whose next checkpoint would've been that ill-fated mine. Following the tracks of the grot raiders, Alaricsson's forces soon stumbled upon a freshly abandoned overnight camp. As they were about to search the site for clues wolfboss Azgar charged in with his warband, apparently having accidentally left the Brokksson heirlooms somewhere in this camp during his last night's stay. The Hunt for Brokksson Heirlooms could begin!

Thane Alaricsson routed the forces of Azgar and found the prized artefacts, partially settling this fresh grudge by returning the heirlooms to Brokksson's clan.

Still amassing forces and supplies for a large coordinated attack against the Waaagh!, the Iron Company had detachments and supplies flowing in from all four winds. One of these supply caravans was waylaid by grot warchief Urzy da Sneaky 'Un, whose warband managed to destroy the majority of the transported goods despite Urzy alone escaped this Caravan Calamity alive. Thane Snaddri Roreksson delivered his greatly diminished convoy to the army's main encampment along with news of this particularly cunning and elusive grot leader.

Finally, after weeks of careful planning and preparation, the Iron Company launched its counter invasion towards the coastline of Diamond Bay. A vanguard led by Thane Thorlek Durragsson had been tasked with finding a safe crossing across a ferociously flowing river for the army to pass. Yet upon finding the perfect crossing the vanguard also came across a mob of grots guarding it, and the Battle for Grot's Crossing commenced. Under the leadership of the infamous orruk warboss Stuntiedoom, the duardin vanguard was routed and Thane Thorek slain. It took Iron Company several days to find a safer crossing, each day giving Waaagh! Urgokh more time to prepare for a decisive engagement.

During the duardin assault by land, a flotilla led by Captain Garin Baragorsson ambushed a greenskin cargo vessel on its way to the captured Wayfarer Hold. In an attempt to hinder the Waaagh!'s war efforts, the Sea Battle of Diamond Bay saw Captain Baragorsson boldly board the enemy ship only to be defeated in one-on-one combat by Captin Croll Rustaxe. The orruk captain was the only living creature to survive the fight and it took him a couple of extra days to navigate three tied-together ships to the shore all by himself. This was yet another setback for the Iron Company's counter-invasion that left the enemy as strong as ever for the final conflict.

Eventually it all came down to the Battle of Bronze Plateau where Waaagh! Urgokh faced the Iron Company of Ungrim Ironhelm on an open battlefield, both armies led by their respective leaders. The fighting was fierce and bloody, but as the dust settled by dusk it was the duardin who came out on top. Wolfboss Azgar Swiftgit and Warboss Gorlag Stuntiedoom were both slain in the carnage and the Waaagh! was driven back onto the shores of the Diamond Bay.

After days of repose, tending to the wounded and collecting battlefield loot, the Iron Company set out to build holdfasts and outposts onto the lands they had just reclaimed. They left behind a hastily constructed graveyard for their fallen, and just as the last of the duardin were about to leave, some wandering greenskin survivors of the recent battle mounted a daring attack into the duardin burial site. Sending their warriors away to continue the march, Ungrim Ironhelm held the rear with a handful of his most trusted friends in order to protect the piece of those now put to rest. This occasion passed these five duardin companions into legends as the Heroes of Chiselwind Cemetery, for they decimated and routed the imprudent assailants!

Even after their defeat at the Battle of Bronze Plateau the battered Waaagh! did not give up. Urgokh ordered his trusted (well, by greenskin measures anyway) chieftain Urzy da Sneaky 'Un to get his remaining army at the gates of the relatively nearby Free People city of Bochenfels without "da 'umies noticin' anyfink."

Unfortunately Urgokh's "remaining army" still meant orruks, grots, troggoths and other monstrosities beyond count, enough to engulf a fortified city. The reasons why an orruk warlord would direct his forces against a new target while there were victorious duardin currently reclaiming their lands from under his control is beyond many historians and scrollkeepers, but they all agree on one thing; Warlord Urgokh da Choppa is by no measure the average dumb brute that can normally be found leading upstart Waaagh!s on destructive rampages.

Whatever the case, Urzy orchestrated a cunning ruse against a freeguild Toll House on the Bridge Road and managed to take it over without any word of warning reaching the city that lay only a few leagues beyond this important river crossing. Urgokh approached the oblivious city with all the might of his forces at his back.

The Siege of Bochenfels is one of the bloodiest battles in this campaign up to this day. A massive horde of greenskins and other monstrosities crashed against the walls of the beleaguered city, defended by Governor Warwick Lemming's freeguild garrison and Thane Morek Furrowbrow's detachment of Iron Company mercenaries. After a day of chaotic fighting the walls were breached and the Waaagh! poured into the city, destroying everything they could lay their hands on. Governor Lemming was slain during the storming of the front gate, but Thane Furrowbrow led the remaining defenders in a heroic rearguard action as the civilians fled the carnage through the back gates.

Urgokh had acquired himself a city and all the greenskins tribes from the surrounding regions rushed to stand under his tattered banner, swelling the ranks of his Waaagh! to gigantic proportions.

After being wildly successful in reclaiming the lost lands all across the Diamond Bay, the Iron Company had drawn its forces back to the heartland to rebuild and fortify their kingdom. As the word of Bochenfels' destruction reached Kazad-Zul, the royal seat of King Ungrim Ironhelm, a war council was called together to decide on how to react to this threat. Some lords and thanes argued against taking to the field when the threat was not directed against their own race, while others relished any chance to split orruk heads. A decision was made after news arrived of the hold's runelords having rediscovered the art of creating Gronti-Duraz, the huge ancestor statues roused to fight alongside their descendants. The clans of Kazad-Zul would march to war once more, and the preparations were begun.

And so they marched, legions upon legions of warriors travelling through the Grudgeforge Realmgate to seek the ultimate defeat of Waaagh! Urgokh and eliminate the threat forever. Each fort, mine and outpost in the kingdom was left with a minimal garrison to fuel this all-out push to seek vengeance once and for all.

The first challenge they faced was Shaman Trazleh trying to complete a Ritual in the Damned Forest to summon a terrible beast to rampage in the region. Slayer King Malakai Smensson and Brewmaster Dorinsson led contingent of Iron Company duardin in a daring assault to stop the ritual. The Shaman was indeed slain but the ritual was still completed at the very last possible moment, summoning a terrible beast that followed the retreating duardin and decimated a legion of young beardlings that were guarding supply routes in the rearguard of the advancing Kazad-Zul legions.

On their advance through the wilderness towards the supposed location of Urgokh and the main bulk of his Waaagh!, Runelord Ranuld Silvethumb and Runepriest Durin Chiselmane discovered the hidden hideout of Urzy da Sneaky 'Un and his grot tribe. The Scrimmage at Sneakpass was a bloody affair where the elusive grot tribe was shattered and its devious leader slain, ridding Urgokh of yet another of his most capable chieftains.

Currently Commander Ironhelm and his duardin legions are making their way through the forested lowlands after descending from the mountains through the now-cleared Sneakpass. Everything is going as expected and the prospects for the campaign seem favorable, yet rangers have begun to trickle in reports of sightings on wolfboss Elgar and his nomadic tribe of grot wolfriders...









tiistai 29. elokuuta 2017

Skyraid on Mattock Mines

Greetings!

Once again the time has come for another Narrative Battle Report. Ever since I started keeping book of my matches in my hold's Book of Grudges, I've received quite a few challenges from the local club. It seems like there are many factions and heroes that want to have their own entries in this tome, depicting all the gruesome ways they have wronged the duardin of Kazad-Zul by.

Well, this battle is the first of those challenges. Some Kharadron Overlords have decided that one of the mines under my clans' control would be better off under their's. We shall see about that.

The Battleplan was Staking a Claim from the Kharadron Overlords Battletome. My duardin expedition is garrisoning a mine that the Overlords want to acquire for themselves by having more models (and no enemy models) within the walled area around the mine at the end of the game. Both sides were also allowed to re-roll any Run rolls in their haste to get to the mines, and any unit standing wholly within the walls becomes immune to Battleshock. We played at 1000 points, still using the older points at the time (not the GHB 2017 ones yet).

Note: My opponent's army was indeed the Kharadron Overlords, but due to the state of his army project and the speed at which this game was agreed upon and set up, his forces will contain a lot of proxies. He has two genuine skyvessels on the board, but his heroes and infantry will be represented by various Dispossessed models. I'll do my best to use the correct unit names during this report in order to make the flow of battle easier to follow.

On with the story!

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Thane Karzug Goldfinder emerged from a sparse treeline with cohorts of warriors marching at his side in no particular rhythm. They had been patrolling the surrounding wilderness for the better part of the morning, searching for any signs of greenskin or brayherd tribes trying to establish hideouts nearby. Karzug did not fancy the task he had been given. He was an impetuous and relatively young lord, and although he knew this duty was every bit as important as the rest it still bugged him that he had not been able to join the great campaign against Waaagh! Urgokh. He had watched the legions march gloriously into the Grudgeforge Realmgate under the direct command of  Commander Ungrim Ironhelm himself, only to return to his outpost the next day.

Each mine, outpost and holdfast of the clans of Kazad-Zul retained a minimal garrison now, the majority of their able-bodied warriors chasing greenskins on the grand campaign. In addition to keeping the mines themselves running, each garrison had been tasked with guarding the lands against any rampaging warbands that might disrupt trade or supply routes. Even at more peaceful times it was difficult to cover leagues over leagues of forests and mountains with limited manpower, let alone now.

Karzug waved to the cannon crew curiously peering down over the edge of the rock they had entrenched their warmachine on. They waved back casually, everything was fine.

Admiral Rangil Isakson stood on the deck of his Frigate as it ploughed through the grey mass of clouds. This raid was not the easiest one to pull through. It made Rangil somewhat uneasy to know that he would be striking against members of his own race, albeit these distant cousins preferred to live under the mountains rather than skyports. A floor hatch opened before him and one of his Arkanauts poked up a goggled head from the heat of the ship's interior.
"We're gettin' close, m'lord. Requestin' a permission to drop altitude an' engage."
"Granted," the Admiral replied before turning to nod to the Skywardens hanging from the railings of the Frigate. The airborne warriors forwarded a series of sharp hand gestures to the Gunhauler vessel flying nearby, and the crew gestured back. The raid was ready to commence.

As one, the skyvessels of the Drakebeards clan dived into the belly of the clouds to re-emerge below them.

"Oh by Grungni's hairy arse, not these wazzocks..." Karzug cursed as two heavily armed and armoured skyships dropped down from the grey skies.
"Alright lads, let's show 'em who owns this mine!"
He drew his hammer and started forward, followed closely by his Thunderers, Longbeards and Warriors while the cannon prepared to fire its first shot.

The skyvessels swooped down onto a rocky hill just across the plain, ropes falling from the sides of the Frigate to land a company of Arkanauts on high ground. Soon after the landing there was a loud boom that echoed across the landscape as the mine's cannon hurtled a shell across the field, scoring a glancing hit on the side of the smaller Gunhauler. The impact and the resulting explosion tore a hole into the ship's hull while the crew hung onto the railings for their lives.

The battle for Mattock Mines had begun.

The Gunhauler fired its own skycannon in return but the shot went wide as the ship slowly began to tip to one side. The hit it had taken had seriously damaged its aiming optics and stabilizers. The larger Frigate was yet unharmed as it floated ominously towards the mines, its heavy gun spitting out a shot that struck the edge of the rock upon which the cannon stood, the shrapnel tearing apart one of the crew members and sending another running for his life.

Almost as an afterthought the Arkanauts still aboard the Frigate opened fire with their carbines, the powerful aethershots tearing into the ranks of the Thunderers to punch straight through mail and flesh.

Yet more ropes fell from the Frigate, landing another company of Arkanauts to assault the Mattock Mines. Under the covering fire of the two skyvessels, both companies ran forward as shells and shots whistled above their heads to strike even more Thunderers from their stunted feet. One aethershot found its mark on Karzug's shoulder, blasting apart his runic pauldron and drawing blood.
"You're lucky I'm not wearin' me favourite suit of armour t'day!" he bellowed amidst the downpour of bullets, cinder and shrapnel.

Every single duardin in Goldfinder's garrison knew the importance of this mine, the wealth it produced and the help it lent to the war effort against the hated greenskins. None would turn their backs and run, the mine had to be held at all costs!

Thane Karzug Goldfinder charged in towards the approaching Frigate, followed by his Longbeards. The Thunderers found cover behind the walls and popped a few shots at the enemy infantry to keep them at bay, causing two Arkanauts to stop dead in their tracks with smoking holes in their skysuits.

The Warriors saw the Gunhauler was in trouble, losing altitude and tipping to one side more and more. They let out a resounding warcry and charged, surrounding the low-hanging skyvessel from all sides. Grabbing the railings, pipes and gun barrels, some of the Warriors hauled themselves up onto the ship's deck and started laying about them with their axes, cutting down the Arkanaut crew and hacking viciously at any important-looking valves and  engines until the whole thing belched out a cloud of black smoke and dived prow-first into the ground.

The Warriors picked themselves up from the ground, dusted off their gear and turned around to lend a hand elsewhere on the field.

Karzug and the Longbeards ran under the Frigate, seeking to stay out of its cannon's sights. They grabbed the landing ropes that still hung from the vessel's railings and dug their heels into the ground. With all their strength and the weight of their armoured bodies they tried to drag the ship down, or at least hold it in place. The Frigate's engines roared as the crew tried to steer it away, the entire form of the ship groaning under the strain.

Having dealt with the Gunhauler in such a short order the Warriors now charged into the Arkanaut infantry, engaging in a bloody duardin-on-duardin melee where axes, gun butts and cutlasses traded blows.

With the Longbeards holding the Frigate in place, Karzug climbed up the ropes to emerge on the deck of the ship. His eyes locked with those of Admiral Rangil Isakson and he began to make his way to the stern, swatting aside resisting Arkanaut crew members and smashing his runic hammer into the ship's structure every now and then. Each blow from his heirloom weapon struck with the might of a lightning storm, sending cracks spiderwebbing across the surface of the hull from each point of impact.

Just like its smaller counterpart, the Frigate groaned, let out a gout of flame and smoke from its engines and collapsed straight down onto the ground. As Karzug and Rangil both struggled to pull themselves out of the smoking wreckage, the Skywardens who had been floating around the vessel up until now surged down into the Longbeards. They ran their cousins through with long skypikes on the descend, driving their polearms through plate and mail with sheer momentum. WIthout even bothering to recover their pikes from the fresh corpses, the Skywardens drew their vulcaniser pistols and began firing summarily into the mass of steel and duardin.

The Warriors wasted no time in disposing of their opposition. Despite a couple of clansmen falling to cutlasses and pistols, the wall of shields tightened around the Arkanauts and axes swung out in gleaming arcs, wetting the ground with thick duardin blood as the invaders were driven down.

The remaining Arkanaut company saw their Admiral's peril, and as soon as Rangil managed to pull himself out of the Frigate's carcass his subordinates charged into the fray, pistols blazing. The sudden assault of the Arkanauts caught the Longbeards off-guard, their exposed backs getting riddled with holes and vicious cuts.

With a final push the Warriors lobbed off the heads of their last opposition, finding themselves standing upon a mound of bleeding duardin corpses. They had triumphed, yet no victory, big or small, could be celebrated when fought against one's own kind.

Thane Karzug flew into rage at the death of his Longbeards. He shouldered into the enemy formation, swinging his hammer to shatter skulls and cave in armoured chests. A shield to the face, a hammerblow to the head. A knee to the belly, followed by a headbutt. A sideways strike to the neck with the hammer, a shieldbash to push the blood-gurgling foe away.

There was a terrible mechanical efficiency to the way Goldfinder moved as he left a long gory trail behind him.

Karzug stood atop the prone form of an Arkanaut he had just slain, his runic hammer slowly dripping blood onto the ground. The remaining Arkanauts turned and ran in terror, leaving Admiral Rangil and two Skywardens alone onto the corpse-strewn battlefield still bristling with angry warriors from the garrison.

"T'was a grave mistake comin' here to steal our mine. A mistake ye won't be makin' again," Karzug panted from beneath his horned helmet.
"The only mistake I made was not bombin' this place to the ground before launchin' the assault. A mistake I won't be makin' again," Rangil replied. With that, the Admiral took a few backward steps and turned away, his Skywardens jogging away after their lord.

The Skywardens grabbed the Admiral's arms and lifted him off  the ground, flying away and leaving the garrison gazing after them. There was no sense in giving chase, the day was already won.

A group of miners emerged from the mine entrance, the expression on their faces astounded as they beheld the scene before them. Two smoking skyvessel wreckages dotted the landscape, the ground between them littered with slain. One of the miners whistled in awe.
"What is this, Goldfinder, unwanted visitors?"
"Merely a delivery of  metal and weapons, albeit in a less-than-optimal condition," the Thane replied, turning to grin at the miners.
"What are ye waitin' for? Get yer arses over here and start pullin' these things apart. The Ironhold will drink a toast in our name when we send all this in the next supply caravan!"

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A victory to the Dispossessed!

Interestingly enough, I had a unit of 20 Miners in reserve for the duration of the entire game, ready to pop up when needed. Well, as it turned out they weren't needed at all! My army pulled the whole thing off with around twenty or so casualties, as opposed to the opposing army that had nothing but their general and a single depleted unit left at the end of the game. This was the first time I was playing against Kharadron Overlords, so I cannot say what could've been done differently as I am not familiar with the faction's playstyle. More hanging back and just shooting, I guess? It really is hard to say, the scenario required both armies to rush to the target area in order not to lose instantly so perhaps that kind of negated the strongest attribute of the Overlords.

What I did find out was that the Kharadron Overlords are an extremely difficult faction to write a narrative battle report about. Flying skyvessels and floating infantry, how is one supposed to just mow them down with axes in close combat? It took me a good moment of silent thinking but I can say it was pretty entertaining to try and find a way of describing the melees against flying gunships. Not the most flexible subject of action-packed storytelling but what can one expect from a universe of high fantasy!

Next up? The (so far) final part of the Beardling Tutorials, followed by a Path to Glory campaign. Yup, I'm dusting off my Aelves once more, the same army that did relatively well in the local league several months ago. They have been reinforced with some new units and are soon ready to go to the club for some good-natured competition!