After a quick dip into the battles within the Realm of Metal, we return to a massive fight in the Realm of Life. The Stormcasts have captured the Gates of Dawn but Nurgle has a nasty trick up his sleeve…
The Story So Far
The last battle in the Realm of Life saw the Stormcasts sweep through a weak Rotbringers line to seize control of the Gates of Dawn, an important Realmgate in Sigmar’s war against Chaos as it provided a direct link between the Realm of Life and the Realm of Fire. However, what the Stormcasts did not know was that the Gates of Dawn had been corrupted long ago and now only led to one place – Nurgle’s own garden within the Realm of Chaos. Just as the Stormcasts started to create a perimeter around the Gates of Dawn, lest the Rotbringers rally and try to retake it, the Realmgate shuddered and out strode Bolathrax, a massive Great Unclean One, at the head of a horde of Nurgle daemons.
To make things worse, Vermalanx, a Verminlord Corruptor, had been watching events unfold within the Realm of Life and he too was seeking the Lady of Life, Alarielle. He took advantage of Nurgle’s horde to launch his own attack against the Stormcast, leading a chittering mass of Pestilens Skaven.
Clearly, the Stormcasts now have a serious battle on their hands. Perhaps a last ditch reinforcement from the Sylvaneth will save them?
This is quite a sizeable battle, with four armies (though they are effectively allied into two forces). It may be worth mentioning that, in the fiction, Bolathrax called upon the Rotguard, a unit of seven more Great Unclean Ones! However, I am not going to buy that many Great Unclean Ones let alone paint them!
Bolathrax – Great Unclean One (double wounds)
Plaguebearers x 16 (two units of 8, with Icon Bearer and Sonorous Tocsin)
Nurglings x 9
Plague Drones x 6
Vermalanx – Verminlord Corruptor
Plague Monks x 40 (two units of 20)
Plague Censer Bearers x 5
So, the forces of Nurgle and the Horned Rat combined have both the numbers (with the Plaguebearers and Plague Monks) and the hard-hitting power units (greater daemons and artillery). This is a very powerful force. I should point out that we were using the Forge World model for the Great Unclean One because, alongside the likes of the new Bloodthirster, the ‘proper’ Finecast model looks a bit… weedy. To give the model its proper weight, we have doubled both its Wounds characteristic and the number of Wounds it needs to suffer before its abilities start degrading.
The Gates of Dawn, being a Realmgate, should have random effects every turn. However, as they are well and truly under Nurgle’s control, we decided the Rotbringers player would get the choice of whether to activate those random effects at the start of every turn. Predictably, he kept hitting the ‘activate’ button…
Liberators x 20 (four units of 5)
Decimators x 5
Protectors x 5
Judicators x 10
Prosecutors x 6 (armed with Javelins and a Trident)
Tree Lord Ancient
The Lady of Vines – Branchwraith
Tree Lords x 2
Dryads x 32 (two units of 16)
Even with the Dryads (who won’t turn up until later in the battle), the Stormcasts are heavily outnumbered. However, they have a few things in their favour. First, the Paladins have arrived in force for this battle, and ten Paladins are always going to command respect. The Tree Lords lend more heavyweight fighting power to the force, and while the Dryads will likely fall like wheat, the Branchwraith will be able to keep a steady flow of them returning to the battle – she won’t be able to keep pace with the summoning of Bolathrax (who not only gets spells but can bring more daemonic forces through the Gates of Dawn as his Command Ability for this Battleplan), but it might just be enough to take the strain off the Stormcasts.
The aim of the Stormcasts is to destroy the Gates of Dawn – with Nurgle’s corruption, the Realmgate is irrevocably lost. However, not all the Stormcasts’ forces start on the battlefield and they are going to have a tough time trying to plough through Skaven and Nurgle daemons to reach their goal.
The Gates of Dawn can only be affected by close combat (so no shooting or magic!), have 8 Wounds and a Save of 3+.
The forces of Nurgle set up first, with both daemon and Skaven pulled in tight against the Gates of Dawn to stop any sudden attacks.
The Stormcasts could only start with a maximum of three units on the table (the first responders to something obviously going very wrong with the Realmgate), and these were the Decimators, crossbow-armed Judicators and the Lord-Castellant. The plan was for the Decimators to rush forwards and carve up the nearest Plague Monks, in an effort to balance the numbers between the two armies.
Battle Round One
As it turned out, the Stormcasts were on the ball, and the Sylvaneth had been alerted quickly to the power residing within the Gates of Dawn – a large portion of their entire army turned up in the first round!
Even two Treelords had mustered, appearing at opposite sides of the battlefield. The forces of Nurgle were well and truly hemmed in now, and the Stormcasts could begin probing for a weak point that would get them to the Realmgate. A few pot shots were thrown, but their effect was mild. However, the Decimators had the predicted effect upon the nearest unit of Plague Monks and all twenty lay dead at their feet when the axes finally stopped swinging, with not a single Paladin so much as scratched.
However, the power of Nurgle is in corruption and both the Decimators and Judicators were weakened by the pestilence of the area (being in the Realm of Life, anyone near terrain can suffer a mortal wound, though Nurgle units get healed instead…). However, Bolathrax was clearly drunk on the power he was wielding, as he began gibbering to his god (the Realmgate’s effects stopped both the Great Unclean One and the Plague Drones from doing anything this turn).
Vermalanx instead took temporary command and hurled an arcane bolt at a Decimator, killing him outright. The Verminlord directed the Plagueclaw Catapult to attack as well, but the filth flying through the air went wide. Deciding to take matters into his own hands, Vermalanx led a group of Plaguebearers into combat with the Decimators, and though he took a slight scratch, the Verminlord killed most of the Paladins and forced the last one to run.
On the far side of the battlefield, the other Plague Monks had tracked down some Dryads emerging from the woods and initiated a fight that would end up grinding both units down, while another unit of Plaguebearers crashed into a line of Liberators – this is a fight that would go on for the rest of the battle, with neither unit able to significantly affect the other!
Battle Round Two
Regaining his senses, Bolathrax tried to open the Realmgate to bring more daemons onto the battlefield, but the great stone arch remained silent for now. Choosing to instead use his own powers, Bolathrax called a Herald of Nurgle into being.
Keeping up his own momentum, Vermalanx hurled a nasty arcane bolt into a Treelord, then advanced, determined to drive all Sylvaneth and Stormcasts back from the area he had commandeered. He charged the Judicatorts while the Plagueclaw Catapult proved more accurate this time, catching the Treelord right in the chest, but the pus and bile just bounced off the Treelord’s armoured trunk.
The Treelords were not having a good time overall, and while they wondered just where the Treelord Ancient had got to, the Plague Drones surged forward, catching one of them. Two Plague Drones fell to the Treelord, one impaled with a nasty spike, but the Treelord was badly wounded in return.
The Plague Monks finished off the Dryads they had charged and started hunting around for another target. They did not fancy going back to the Gates of Dawn, as things looked decidedly dangerous there!
By now, the entire Stormcast and Sylvaneth army had appeared, ready to destroy the Gates of Dawn – all except the Treelord Ancient, who had apparently overslept…
The Prosecutors and bow-armed Judicators had moved into range of Bolathrax and started pelting the Great Unclean One. Unfortunately, their missiles had little effect and what damage that was done was rapidly being healed as Bolathrax started to regenerate. The Heraldor trumpeted the Gates of Dawn, injuring Bolathrax, the Plagueclaw Catapult and the Plague Priest – and thus marked himself down as a target. A group of Nurglings, giggling as they went, bounced over to head him off.
Meanwhile, a unit of Protectors had marched onto the battlefield, and were now making their run to the Realmgate – so far, the only unit of Stormcasts able to do so. They were intercepted by a unit of Plague Censer Bearers, whose life-span could have been measured in seconds, and then they charged the Plague Priest, who did not last all that much longer. Because of their extremely long glaives, one of the Protectors had even managed to (slightly) damage the gate!
While the Stormcasts were cheering, the Sylvaneth were cursing their decision to help. One unit of Dryads had already been eradicated, and now the Plague Drones had almost brought a Treelord to its knees.
Battle Round Three
Seeing the threat posed by the Protectors, Bolathrax lumbered his great bulk around to face them, then opened the Gates of Dawn to bring forth a new unit of Plaguebearers. He failed to throw an arcane bolt at them, but Vermalanx was around to help, unleashing a Plague that killed one Protector and greatly weakened the nearby Treelord.
Bolathrax and the Plaguebearers charge the Protectors but the Paladins stay on target, knocking another two wounds off the Realmgate (got to love those really long glaives…). They also managed to kill a Plaguebearer and gave Bolathrax a nasty wound to think about.
Away from the Gates of Dawn, a fairly nasty skirmish was starting to erupt around the Ophidian Archway. Two units of Liberators had been held up by Nurglings and Plaguebearers (the Plaguebearers’ icon bringing five back into the fray, so their unit was now actually larger than when it had started…), and the Prosecutors (along with the Knight-Azyros) had effectively been nullified by another unit of Nurglings – they did not have the movement to get past the daemons to reach the gate, their missile weapons were not powerful enough to kill the Nurglings, and if they rushed into close combat, the Nurglings would likely trap them for most of the battle, exactly as they had been doing to the Liberators.
An entire flank stalled because of some Nurglings!
The deadlock was broken when the Nurglings had decided to have a pop at the Heraldor. Now the way to the Gates of Dawn was open!
The Treelord Ancient finally decided to turn up, but even the Plague Monks had grown tired of waiting for him and were now arrowing their way back to the Realmgate.
The Prosecutors and Knight-Azyros swept forward to the Gates of Dawn, leaving the Liberators and Heraldor to be trapped by Nurglings and Plaguebearers – the Stormcasts were running out of time and if the Realmgate was to be destroyed, it had to be done by those Eternals who could reach it in the next turn or two.
By now, Bolathtrax was beginning to suffer. The Judicators had maintained their fire upon him, as had the Prosecutors and though each sting was minor, they were beginning to rack up. Lord-Celestant Gardus had now arrived on the scene as well and as he raced to the Gates of Dawn, he twirled his cloak to fling a handful of magical hammers at the Great Unclean One, reducing it to just three wounds! His attacks on the Realmgate were less successful but he still managed to take another wound off it (halfway there!). Calling upon Sigmar for aid, Gardus was gratified to see lightning strike a nearby forest, before Decimators and Judicators strode out from the smoking trees. But Gardus also knew they were probably too little, too late.
However, Nurgle’s forces were still fighting hard, and another Protector went down under Bolathrax’s bulk, just as the Plague Drones destroyed a Treelord.
Battle Round Four
Bolathrax, despite being weakened, unleashed a plague that struck Lord-Celestant Gardus and killed a Prosecutor before it dispersed. The Plague Monks by now were racing another unit of Dryads, this time to see who would be first to return to the Gates of Dawn and flip the balance of the vicious fight that had erupted around it. The Skaven drew ahead but failed their charge at the last moment. However, the Plague Drones proved far more mobile, and they zipped back quickly, hitting the Prosecutors and Gardus in the back. Not seeing the danger until it was too late, Gardus was knocked to the ground and taken out of the fight.
At the same time, Vermalanx sent the Lord-Castellant back to Sigmar, after what had been a lengthy duel between them, and Bolathtrax killed another two Protectors, leaving just one left – however, the Protector-Prime was not about to let his comrades die in vain, and a thrust of his glaive ended Bolathrax’s time in this realm. The Great Unclean One called upon Grandfather Nurgle to aid him, but was ignored – as it happened, Nurgle had a very specific purpose in mind for Bolathrax…
. All the Stormcasts had left at the Gates of Dawn were a couple of Prosecutors and their weak javelins had not made much of an impression on the Realmgate yet, just taking one wound off of it. And there the quest seemed to stand, the Realmgate on three wounds but with no one able to deliver the final blow. Even a last minute charge by the Dryads had little effect.
However, the Knight-Azyros had been waiting for his moment and, seeing an opening, swept in to shatter the supports holding the Gates of Dawn aloft – major victory to the Stormcasts!
Despite being just four turns in length, an awful lot happened in that battle and if the Knight-Azyros had not delivered that final blow, I am not sure the Stormcasts had anything left to throw at the Realmgate!
The Nurgle daemons were, as always, nasty. They are just very, very hard to actually kill! This was the first time we had used the Pestilens in force and, in general, they got the thumbs up. Sure, the Plague Monks die very quickly, but they can hit like an absolute hammer. And Vermalanx is basically a rat-faced greater daemons – what is not to like?
For the Stormcasts, this battle was all about not getting bogged down, something Nurgle forces excel at, and the Eternals did not achieve this very well! There was one unit of Liberators who were unable to move for the entire battle, due to getting Plaguebearers in the face, and just a handful of Nurglings almost stalled an entire flank because the Stormcasts could just not risk getting bogged down in close combat with them (Nurglings are particularly annoying, as they automatically regenerate all wounds at the end of every turn, meaning if you cannot kill them outright, you may as well not bother!).
The Stormcasts actually managed to muster two separate waves of attack on the Gates of Dawn, first with the Protectors and Gardus, then with the Prosecutors and the Knight-Azyros. It is good that they succeeded because, as I say, I do not think they could have launched a third!
The Story Continues…
As Gardus looked up from the dirt and grime, he could hear Bolathrax’s voice getting ever closer, and the Gates of Dawn shook and shuddered with inner power. Though the Knight-Azyros was attacking the supports of the Realmgate, Gardus could see he would not be quick enough, and that whatever Bolathrax was planning, wherever he was planning it from, was approaching with terrible inevitability.
Ignoring his wounds, Lord-Celestant Gardus climbed the steps leading up to the Gates of Dawn and threw himself in, determined to finish off Bolathrax on his home turf.
The Stormcasts had won, and the Gates of Dawn were now destroyed. But their leader was now in Nurgle’s own garden…
With that fight done, we have finished the Realm of Life battles that appear in the first Age of Sigmar hardback! Things look bleak for the forces of Sigmar, as Nurgle’s followers are rallying well against the invasion and the Stormcasts have lost a great hero now Lord-Celestant has disappeared into the corrupted Gates of Dawn. However, the search for Alarielle, Lady of Life, continues and we will be returning to this Realm after Christmas!