We are continuing the campaign within the Realm of Metal and, in this battle, we have a chance to pull out the Dreadhold again for a proper castle assault!
The Story So Far
The forces of Sigmar have had an easy time in the Realm of Metal thus far, with just a minor skirmish outside the Silverway (the main Realmgate to their home in Azyr). They have an interest in finding the Duardin, whose ruins they have been scouting through but, as yet, there is no sign of the dwarf-folk. Lord-Celestant Eldroc continued this search, while Lord-Celestant Bladestorm led his warriors further afield, and they soon came across a mighty fortress, clearly a focal point for Chaos in the area – take the fortress, and future victories would be easy.
However, Tzeentch does not have stupid followers and the Chaos Lord of this territory, the sorcerer Ephryx, Ninth Disciple of Tzeentch himself, had been watching the Stormcasts since they first set foot in the Realm of Metal. And he had a plan…
If the Stormcasts could be tempted closer to the Eldritch Fortress that Ephyrx called home, he could use his powerful magicks to harness their power, trapping their souls within the walls of his castle (actually, the copper skulls that bedecked it). As beings of light and magic, the Stormcasts could be used as arcane fuel to make him the pre-eminent sorcerer of the age, allowing him to corrupt every Realmgate in the entire Realm so they all pointed to Tzeentch’s own kingdom in the Realm of Chaos – thus denying the Realm of Metal to mortals.
This is why the Stormcasts had not met a great deal of opposition so far, and as they marched towards the Eldritch Fortress, Ephryx prepared to spring his trap…
We are keeping Tzeentch daemons out of this battle, partly because they will give us more variety later on in this campaign but mostly because we have not got the models ready yet!
Chaos Sorcerer of Tzeentch (Ephryx)
Chaos Lord on Manticore (Lord Maerac)
Chaos Knights x 10 (two units of 5)
Chaos Warriors x 36 (three units of 12)
Skull Keep and 6 Wall Sections
This is a similar force the Bleak Horde used in Sudden Assault, but the Chaos Sorcerer is Ephryx himself, he is joined by an ally (or as close as it gets among Tzeentch-worshippers)known as Lord Maerac, mounted on a Manticore and, of course, they effectively have a castle protecting them!
Liberators x 20 (four units of 5)
Retributors x 10
Judicators x 10
The Stormcasts also have a similar force to that used in Sudden Assault, with a solid block of Liberators and Judicators making up their core. However, appropriate to their target, the Stormcasts have brought along two units of Retributors, whose hammers will cause a problem for Chaos Warrior and fortress wall alike…
The aim of the battle is fairly simple – three objective markers are placed within the fortress, and whoever holds the most after six turns will gain victory. The Stormcasts have the right force to achieve this, but the clock will be as big an enemy to them as the Bleak Horde itself.
While there is nothing in the rules to stop them, we had a chat a while ago about not wanting to put units like horses on walls (though we are allowing dogs, as they can be quite good wall-climbers). This is more of an aesthetic thing than anything else – cavalry on the battlements just looks odd. So, the Chaos Knights were deployed just outside the Eldritch Fortress, Chaos Warriors lined the battlements, Ephryx took his place within the Skull Keep and Lord Maerac was in the courtyard, ready to hop over the walls to assault the Stormcasts.
The Stormcasts had a very straightforward deployment themselves. The Liberators took the flanks, where they expected to run into Chaos Knights, while the Retributors (supported by missile fire from the Judicators) would run straight down the centre and take the Skull Keep.
We had already worked out that if the Chaos Warriors completely lined the battlements of the walls, assaulting them with anything less than a monster (which the Stormcasts had not brought with them) would be impossible, because of the range of most melee weapons. To take a wall, sufficient Chaos Warriors would need to be cleared from the battlements for attackers to actually clamber up and join them, a tough proposition. Entry into the Eldritch Fortress would probably be easiest via the Skull Keep.
Battle Round One
As this battle was taking place in the Realm of Metal, we had to see what the Alchemist’s Moon was up to, and it started half full – granting a +1 bonus to spellcasting, another boon to the Bleak Horde.
Ephryx promptly took advantage of this, casting Mystic Shield upon Lord Maerac as he spurred his Manticore forward, flying over the walls and positioning himself behind the Chaos Knights on the left flank.
The Tzeentch sorcerer lord also invoked the power of the Skull Keep to create a Vorpal Barrier that stopped any attacks going in or out. While this would have little effect this early in the battle, the Stormcasts immediately saw that if this happened during the assault, it could very effectively block their attack, perhaps delaying them fatally.
The Chaos Knights on both sides of the battlefield advanced, then accelerated into a charge to crash into Liberator units. The knights armed with glaives hit the hammer-armed Liberators hard, immediately trampling two into the hard metal ground, but on the other flank, the sword-armed Liberators absorbed the charge and then almost wiped their Chaos Knights out completely!
The Judicators sighted Ephyrx in his tower, but the Vorpal Barrier kept him safe from their skybolts, Instead, they advanced behind the Retributors who had started to make their run to the Eldritch Fortress.
Battle Round Two
The moon turned gibbous, doubling the range of Ephyrx’s spells. He took advantage of this to hurl a Bolt of Change at the Judicators but managed to only singe one of them. Invoking the power of the Skull Keep once more, Ephyrx this time managed to cause its gargoyles to spew boiling blood – again, this was a little early in the battle to have an effect, but it caused nearby Chaos Warriors to start shuffling away from it.
Spitefully, Ephyrx threw another bolt of magic, this time from his Runestaff at the Retributors, but their heavy armour absorbed the hit and it did nothing to slow down their advance.
Lord Maerac surged forward on his Manticore but the Chaos Knights got in the way of his charge and he had little effect on the battle between them and the Liberators. The Liberators did their best to ignore the huge beast that was very close now, and concentrated on the Chaos Knights, felling all but one.
The last Chaos Knight on the opposite flank was riddled with bolts from the crossbow-armed Judicators, freeing up every Stormcast nearby to close in on the fortress walls ahead, allowing them to keep pace with the Retributors who were now closing the distance to the Skull Keep rapidly.
Battle Round Three
The moon continued to wax and now started to grant double mortal wounds from spells. Ephryx saw his chance and hurled a Bolt of Change at the Judicators but rushed his casting and tripped over the words – the spell failed. He had more luck with the Skull Keep itself, activating the Ruby Rays of Death, which promptly immolated an oncoming Retributor.
Lord Maerac saw the threat to the fortress and pulled back from the Liberators he had been hunting for sport to try to intercept the Retributors (a brave move, considering how large their hammers were!). Charging in, he sent one Retributor back to Sigmar but sustained four wounds in the process. His Manticore was starting to limp…
Behind him, the last surviving Chaos Knight was finally overwhelmed by Liberators and now they too could continue their advance on the Eldritch Fortress.
Diverting from their advance ever so slightly, one unit of Retributors repositioned themselves to attack Lord Maerac and the raw power of their hammers smashed his Manticore apart and flung the Tzeentch worshipper across the battlefield (out of the fight, but don’t worry, he will recover in time for a future battle!).
The Judicators finally managed to get a bead on Ephyrx and wounded him, forcing the sorcerer to retreat further into the Skull Keep, but it was too late – the other unit of Retributors finally charged the Skull Keep and battered down its doors. Ephyrx fell quickly to a hammer, joined by a handful of his Chaos Warriors. The Retributors looked for the sorcerer’s body to make sure he was dead, but it had already disappeared (Ephyrx has a plan, remember!).
Battle Round Four
The moon started to wane, granting a +1 bonus to all saving rolls – again, this would greatly benefit the Bleak Horde who were already taking advantage of their fortress.
The Judicators trained their arrow fire on the Chaos Warriors holding the left wall – they started to fall, but it was clear this was going to be a slow process and time was pressing. However, by now, both units of Retributors had charged the Skull Keep and, joined by the Lord-Castellant, they were starting to really hit their stride. The Chaos Warriors inside managed to kill two of the Retributors but suffered far, far worse. The Bleak Horde was now holding onto the Skull Keep by its finger tips.
To buy more time, the Chaos Warriors on the right wall leapt down to sally forth, charging the Retributors in the side to try to relieve the pressure on the Skull Keep. It was a brave effort by no Retributors fell to their attacks.
Battle Round Five
The moon started to wax again, granting a +1 bonus to all hit rolls – finally, this was something the Stormcasts could possibly take advantage of.
Desperate now, the Chaos Warriors of the Bleak Horde repositioned themselves into a defensive posture to delay the Stormcasts as much as they could. The Chaos Warriors who had sallied out retreated back onto their wall while those on the Skull Keep evacuated the building to fill in the gaps in the opposite wall.
This opened up the way for the Retributors and Lord-Castellant who, with a ragged cheer, claimed the Skull Keep in the name of Sigmar! They now had one of the fortress objectives in their hands and it looked like they would not be able to grab them all – but could they get just one more and claim a minor victory?
They launched a new assault on the left wall, but the Chaos Warriors there proved extremely resilient.
Battle Round Six
As the Alchemist’s Moon drifted across the sky, it became quarter full, granting a +1 bonus to all wound rolls. Again, it seemed as though it now favoured Sigmar’s warriors.
The Lord-Celestant moved into the Skull Keep to hold it, but the battle now was all about the left wall and the objective there that was so tantalisingly close – and still in the hands of the Bleak Horde.
The Lord-Castellant led the Retributors onto the ramparts to do battle with the remaining Chaos Warriors while Liberators at the foot of the wall finally started their assault, now able to get a foot hold due to Chaos Warrior casualties caused by the Judicators.
Once again, the hammers of the Retributors made their mark and the Chaos Warriors reeled from the attack, those not instantly killed driven away from the objective.
Right at the end, the Chaos Warriors on the right wall made a half-hearted attempt to drive the Lord-Celestant out of the Skull Keep but did not manage to give him so much as a scratch.
While fighting would continue, the Stormcasts had captured this part of the Eldritch Fortress in the name of Sigmar! Surely, the Bleak Horde would now be on the run?
This was, as they say, a good ‘un. A desperate race across open ground while skirmishing with knights and Manticores, a vicious assault on a castle, and then we finished with a big fight atop the walls – it does not really get any better than that!
Taking an entire castle (all three objectives) in six turns is clearly a tall order, and the Stormcasts only managed to grab a second right at the end. When playing this Battleplan (or any involving a ‘proper’ castle, it is worth remembering that because of the height of the walls, defenders can very effectively stop anyone assaulting them simply by lining up at their edge. The only way through them is from an adjacent section you have already captured, creating hole with missile and spell fire, or by using big models that can physically reach them.
Which is as it should be – taking a castle should never be easy!
It is also worth pointing out that no special rules are needed to fortify walls in this way, this is simply an incidental thing from the core Age of Sigmar rules. And it works!
Retributors obviously make prime assault troops and while the Bleak Horde was able to fell a couple coming in (and, with 4″ moves, the enemies of the Retributors have all the time in the world to do this), as soon as the Stormcasts got in, the result became a foregone conclusion – there were just too many surviving Retributors to hold back. The question instead became one of whether the Retributors could do their job in time, and the Bleak Horde certainly made that very hard for them.
I would give this Battleplan a full A+, and it certainly justified the cost and effort of putting together a Chaos Dreadhold. Nothing beats a good castle assault scenario and would recommend this to anyone!
The Story Continues…
So, is it all going the way of the Stormcasts now? Of course not – Ephyrx is a follower of Tzeentch and he always has multiple plans in action (at least nine of them).
Though badly injured in his clash with the Retributors in the Skull Keep, he was quick enough to use the secret and arcane passageways throughout the Eldritch Fortress to retreat and, seeing his home teetering on the edge of being taken, enacted his next plan.
As Lord-Celestant Bladestorm directed his forces further into the fortress, his eye was caught by a powerful beacon of shining divine light. Deep within the stronghold, there lay an artefact of immeasurable power, one that clearly should not be in the hands of the Bleak Horde.
Just as he signalled another advance, Ephyrx unleashed another powerful spell, one that blasted a wave of magical energy outwards, hurling Stormcasts from the battlements. Realising that he needed more Eternals to match this power, Lord-Celestant Bladestorm returned to Azyr to tell the God-King his news.
Sigmar’s own hammer, Ghal-Maraz, had been seen.
The warrior chambers of the Stormcasts were mobilised and a massive force was deployed to take the Eldritch Fortress once and for all and return Ghal-Maraz to its rightful owner.
However, when they returned to Chamon, the Eldritch Fortress was… gone.
Some powerful magic of Ephyrx had moved the entire fortress, and Ghal-Maraz with it, elsewhere. The Stormcasts now were charged with relocating the fortress and finally returning Ghal-Maraz back to Sigmar.
And for that, we will need to start the second Age of Sigmar hardback…