Battle Report – On Thin Ice

After a brief excursion around the Mortal Realms, it is back to the Realm of Life to pick up the story of Alarielle and her retreat from the Rotbringers. Yes, at last, we have started the campaign battles featured in Balance of Power!

 

The Story So Far

Accompanied by the Hallowed Knights and the Sylvaneth, Allarielle had been ousted from her Hidden Glade and was fleeing as fast as she could from a massive force of Nurgle Rotbringers. Alarielle’s power had been drained by the Battle of the Athelwyrd, and the Lady of Vines rallied her bodyguard to form a tight defence as Allarielle led them all down the Cascading Path, a magical slipstream that allowed the small army to traverse thousands of miles in mere days.

With the Rotbringers, Torglug the Despised had been turned into Chaos Spawn some time ago, due to his temerity for calling upon Grandfather Nurgle a little too often. However, Nurgle could not stay mad at his favoured son for long, and Torglug was duly returned to his old form, though a little tubbier and more diseased than before, to lead the attack that would destroy the last Sylvaneth resistance and capture Alarielle. And Torglug knew all about the Cascading Path…

Upon leaving the Cascading Path, the Hallowed Knights saw that Rotbringer forces were already close by, having used Skaven Gnawholes to keep pace with the refugees. Worse, using the Cascading Path had drained the last of Alarielle’s power and she reduced herself to a glowing seed pod, kept safe by the Lady of Vines, ready to be planted and reborn into a more war-like aspect.

The Lady of Vines, knowing exactly where Alarielle needed to be taken, led the way to the Sea of Serpents with the Rotbringers close at their backs. The Hallowed Knights thought they had been led to a dead-end where the forces of Nurgle would simply over run them, but the Lady of Vines called upon a Jotunberg, a massive giant as large as a mountain. It crashed into the sea, instantly freezing it and forming a bridge to the Kingdom of Blackstone beyond.

Torglug, seeing his prey being given an avenue of escape, urged his forces on to trap the Hallowed Knights and Alarielle upon the thin ice.

 

The Forces

This is the first clash in Balance of Power, and with two strong forces battling one another, it looks to be a good one. However, they will find the battlefield itself can be as much an enemy (and weapon!) as their units…

Rotbringers
Lord of Plagues (Torglug the Despised)
Blightmage
Gors x 40 (divided into three units)
Ungors x 18
Chaos Warriors x 24 (two units of 12)
Blightkings x 5
Warhounds x 10
Dragon Ogors x 3
Slaughterbrute

These represent Torglug’s vanguard, the units that could get to the refugees the quickest – so, he has proportionally fewer Blightkings than he might otherwise, but the likes of Warhounds are present. We are also going to be using Dragon Ogres and the Slaughterbrute for the first time! In addition, we are giving Torglug himself the Filled to Bursting rule from the Foulblessed battalion (even though this force does not have the units to actually create the battalion) which will make him suitably hard.

Stormcast Eternals
Lord-Castellant (Lorrus Grymn)
Lord-Relictor
Gryph-hound
Liberators x 10 (two units of 5)
Retributors x 10 (two units of 5)
Judicators x 5
Prosecutors x 3

Sylvaneth
Branchwraith (Lady of Vines)
Tree Lord Ancient
Tree Lords x 2
Treekin x 4
Dryads x 30 (three units of 10)

Once again, the Hallowed Knights and Sylvaneth are fighting side-by-side, and this time they are being bolstered by forming two battalions. Alarielle’s Heartwood Guard boosts the Bravery of all Sylvaneth, heals models (which can be Stormcast too!), and re-rolls hit rolls of 1 for any Sylvaneth that remain close to the Lady of Vines. The healing, in particular, will be very useful on the Tree Lords once they engage the Rotbringers.

For their part, the Stormcasts will be forming Grymn’s Brotherhood, and this will make them incredibly tough to kill – as well as re-rolling Battleshock tests, everyone who sticks close to Grymn gains a +1 bonus to their save rolls. When combined with his lantern, this will make the Stormcasts all but immovable against any unit that lacks Rend.

The battlefield is divided into sections that can crack and disappear, sending any units on top tumbling into the freezing waters below! The Jotunberg is also stirring, causing more disruptions, as well as granting wizards various ice-related spells. This battle is a straight up fight, though if the Stormcasts/Sylvaneth manage to crack the ice sufficiently, they will be able to retreat in temporary safety as the Rotbringers are forced to find a way round the chasm.

 

Deployment

Grymn’s Brotherhood deployed on one flank while the Heartwood Guard covered the other. Across the ice field, Torglug’s forces arrayed themselves, the Chaos Warriors keen to let the Beastmen take the brunt of the initial clashes.

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Both forces were acutely aware that constant tremors were running through the ice as the Jotunberg stirred uneasily…

 

Battle Round One

Eager to get to grips with the Lady of Vines and the valuable cargo she carried, Torglug signalled his forces to advance. However, the Jotunberg mists descended and when they parted, his Blightking bodyguard had vanished…

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Even as Gors led the rush forward, the ice started to splinter and crack beneath their pounding feet. Wary of early attempts to destroy his beloved beast, the Blightmage spun a Mystic Shield around the Slaughterbute.

The Jotunberg mists descended, briefly, once more and when they evaporated, the Blightkings had reappeared behind the Sylvaneth, perilously close to the Lady of Vines.

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As Lord-Castellant Grymn shone his lantern upon the Retributors in front of him, the Lord-Relictor called upon Sigmar’s aid and a bolt of lightning snaked down from the sky to blast into the ice field, substantially weakening it.

As one, the Stormcasts and Sylvaneth advanced slowly onto the shaky ice, as the Tree Lords and Retributor brought their roots and hammers to bear in an attempt to sink the Chaos force as it approached.

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A group of Dryads smashed into a unit of Gors, causing any who survived to run, while the Lady of Vines slipped out of the reach of the Blightkings, covered by a cordon of more Dryads and the Judicators.

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Battle Round Two

The two forces were very close to one another now and, all along the Chaos line, the charge was sounded.

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Even as the Jotunberg mists spirited away the Dragon Ogors, the Slaughterbrute sensed prey and rushed forward, Chaos Warhounds snapping at its heels.

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Seeing the ice was fast becoming treacherous, the Blightmage directed an ice bridge to form under the Slaughterbrute, even as the Blightkings tried to bypass the defensive line the Dryads had created so they could attack the Lady of Vines directly.

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The Dryads proved too fast though, and the Blightklings resigned themselves to dealing with the Branchwraith’s bodyguards before they could reach her.

Other Dryads found they had extended themselves too far, and were caught by Chaos Warriors and Warhounds, the Lady of Vines too distant for her song to bolster their efforts. Nevertheless, while they caused few casualties, the Dryads managed to soak up the charge and remain relatively intact.

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The Slaughterbrute unleashed an immense roar as it smashed into retinues of Retributors and Liberators, but the combination of Grymn’s training and his celestial lantern kept the Retributors safe, with the Slaughterbrute causing no more than a few light injuries.

All across the centre of the battlefield, Stormcast and Dryad held the line against waves of Beastmen and though the fighting was vicious, there were few casualties on either side.

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However, it was clear the battle had truly begun in earnest.

Just as Lord-Castellant Grymn was about to order his Judicators to unleash a volley at the Blightkings, a blizzard descended across the entire battlefield, cutting visibility down to almost nothing.

As the Lord-Relictor called upon Sigmar once more, this time to heal the Retributor who had been hurt by the Slaughterbrute, the Tree Lord Ancient took advantage of the distraction caused by the blizzard to turn himself into a frost spirit and travel swiftly across the battlefield. His target was clear – the enemy Blightmage.

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However, despite throwing the Blightmage to the ground with a massive stomp, the Tree Lord Ancient did little more than scratch the wizard, who had already been greatly enhanced by the magicks he had cast earlier.

One of the other Tree Lords charged into a unit of Gors, easily wiping them out, though the Treekin, moving to help the Dryads fighting the Blightkings, did little against the diseased armour.

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As Liberators finished off the nearby Chaos Warhounds, the Retributors behind them continued to pound at the ice with their hammers. A massive crack resounded across the battlefield as something gave way…

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Battle Round Three

Cries echoed across the ice as a massive section of the battlefield upended, and then slid into the churning sea below. Casualties on both sides were huge as Chaos Warriors, Liberators and Retributors all sank beneath the waves.

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Only the Slaughterbrute, suspended by the ice bridge created by the Blightmage, survived but the wizard was now distracted by the Tree Lord Ancient and too far away to help the monster.

The Dragon Ogors descended from the mists swirling around the battlefield, appearing right next to the Lady of Vines and a Tree Lord. The Lady of Vines knew the seed pod of Alarielle she carried was too important to risk, and she fled quickly to leave the Tree Lord to deal with the new arrivals. Though it managed to fell one Dragon Ogor, the others savaged the Tree Lord brutally.

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The Tree Lord Ancient was all too aware that Torglug was close and getting ready to charge, so it cast a spell of freezing which locked the Lord of Plagues in place, allowing it to pull the Blightmage apart at its leisure.

Elsewhere, the Treekin steadily wore down the Blightkings while a group of Dryads finally drove off the Ungors.

Just as the last Blightking was looking set to be slaughtered by the Treekin, an icy layer completely encased its body, holding the Blightking in hibernation while protecting it from harm – another unintended gift of the Jotunberg.

As the ice bridge beneath the Slaughterbrute evaporated into mist, sending the beast screaming into the deep sea, Torglug shook off the spell that had frozen him in place – far too quickly for the liking of the Tree Lord Ancient. The Lord of Plagues shouted with joy as he charged the Tree Lord, his axe cutting huge gouges into its bark.

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Meanwhile, one of the Tree Lords had charged across a very shaky area of the ice field to engage a unit of Chaos Warriors, causing massive damage with its sweeping blows.

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Its brother, still fighting the Dragon Ogors, managed to impale another.

 

Battle Round Four

Another section of the battlefield sank into the sea, though it took no one from either army with it. As the Blightking blinked sleepily as the Jotunberg’s hibernation dissipated, a blizzard descended once more.

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The Tree Lord Ancient prepared to stomp down upon Torglug, but it looked down at the wounds his opponent had caused earlier – Torglug’s axe was loaded with virulent diseases, and they raced through the Ancient’s trunk, rotting it from within. With barely a whimper, the Tree Lord Ancient collapsed at the feet of the triumphant Torglug.

As the blizzard continued to rage, the Treeking finally finished off the last of the Blightkings.

 

Battle Round Five

With another gigantic crack, another section of the ice field broke up, sending a Tree Lord tumbling into the sea.

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Despite that tragic loss, a huge rent had now appeared in the ice field, blocking off any direct approach to the Lady of Vines and what remained of her bodyguard. The Sylvaneth and Stormcasts were now able to retreat across the ice, leaving Torglug fuming impotently while the bulk of his forces were still far away.

 

Conclusion

Now, this Battleplan is a fun one! The ice field is divided into sections and you just know that they will be disappearing during the battle – but while you can aid them (with high damage attacks only), you can never be sure exactly which section is going to go next! You might think you are safe in one part of the battlefield, where the section has only taken a couple of points of damage, only to find it on the verge of sinking with a few bad dice rolls!

It should also be mentioned that, theoretically, it is possible for the entire battlefield to sink in a single turn, though that would take some interesting dice rolls!

The two forces tore each other apart, and the shaky ice field claimed a large number on both sides too. So, casualty rates were about normal for most of our battles…

The two battalions used by the forces of Order (Grymn’s Brotherhood and the Heartwood Guard) are very, very good – not so much for slaughtering the enemy, but they keep their own people alive for longer than might otherwise be expected. I have a feeling that will become increasingly important as the campaign progresses.

For his part, Torglug becomes extremely nasty with his new Foulblessed rules. It is going to be interesting to see what he achieves in future battles too!

 

The Story Continues…

During this battle, the trailing forces of the Rotbringers were moving across the ice fields of the Sea of Serpents, in an effort to cut off the Lady of Vines and the valuable seed pod she carried. Another battle on the ice is in the offing, and the Lady of Vines will have to flee from the Rotbringers with all speed if she is to get to a suitable place where she can plant Alarielle.

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Brothers to the Bone

Story time!

This is a little fiction piece I penned for 40k a few years ago, but never got round to properly developing. It features a proud and noble chapter… and one whose marines are barely literate…

 

 

Wolf Priest Vogel cried in triumph as he swung his Crozius down hard onto the sloping skull of the ork, crushing it utterly as the ancient weapon released its full power in a brilliance of blue sparks.  Another frothing and bellowing ork rushed the Wolf Priest, swinging a wicked rusting axe at his head.  Vogel ducked under the blow, allowing the blade to skid harmlessly off his gilded shoulder pad.  Though it was a glancing blow, the great force of the ork’s bulging muscles nearly knocked him off balance.  Steadying his feet, he reversed the direction of his Crozius and smashed his weapon into the foul ork’s plate armoured chest, dropping the monster instantly.  Looking up from his dead enemies, he saw the ork mob he had rushed was beginning to pull back, hurling insults in their guttural language at both himself and the Blood Claws who had followed his attack.  Several shells fired from the crude pistols the orks carried sang as they flew past him with a high pitched whine.  Bringing up his own ornate plasma pistol, Vogel let loose two bright energy bolts, dropping a third ork as the Blood Claws swept past him to pursue the mob as it retreated.  The Wolf Priest checked himself from following and looked back to witness how the rest of the battle was progressing.

By Russ, they had done well!  Through the rolling black smoke of the battlefield and amid the deafening explosions of heavy weapons, he saw the orks were beginning to falter all along the line as his Space Wolves smashed into their mobs.  Their whole assault stood on the edge of failure.  Everywhere, Vogel watched Grey Hunters and Blood Claws engage in fierce hand to hand struggles but it was clear the Space Wolves had the upper hand as mob after mob turned and ran.  Looking further back along the Marines’ defences, he smiled as his eyes travelled to the long ridge that the orks had intended to breach.  Across the entire rise, the squads, tanks and guns of the Dark Angels stood, raining a constant hail of fire down onto the retreating orks.  Wolf Priest Vogel gave a short bark of a laugh – even the Dark Angels had done well today!  They had started this battle by hurling long ranged shells and missiles into the approaching ork horde as the Wolves lay in wait within the gully beneath the ridge, ready to deliver their devastating counterattack.  Now the Dark Angels ended the conflict by making sure the orks did not have a chance to regroup after their flight from the battle hungry Space Wolves.  But Vogel knew where the glory lay in today’s action. . .

 

* * *

 

‘Fire!’ roared the black-armoured figure as he pointed his Crozius Arcanum at the lone ork mob scrambling to climb the ridge.  The combined missile launchers and heavy bolters of the Dark Angels’ Devastator squad roared in a hail of fury and the orks immediately checked their advance as half their number fell dead on the rocky ground.  Behind his glaring skull-masked helmet, Interrogator Chaplain Saphael allowed himself a tight grin.  Now they had the orks on the run.  ‘Again!’ he cried and another salvo blasted from the Devastators’ heavy weapons, literally throwing the orks back down the rise and making up the minds of those who were still wondering whether to run or continue their assault.  Those orks who could still move began to retreat with great haste back to their own lines.

‘Fire at will!’ Saphael ordered and the Devastator squad dutifully started to pick their own targets, whispering their thanks to Jonson as one by one, their weapons found marks amongst the fleeing orks.  He raised his fist to the squad’s sergeant in congratulations, as land speeders of the Ravenwing tore across the sky overhead to harry the retreating aliens.  Turning back to the marines’ field base, he sought to locate Grand Master Belial who had planned and orchestrated the overall defence against the orks’ wild attack.  It was surely time for the next phase in drawing the orks out into open battle.

 

* * *

 

Snarling as he sealed the wolf-masked helmet on to his ancient power armour, Vogel raced to the sounds of heavy combat.  The com channels were alive with battle reports, directives and orders these being fed directly into the auto-senses of his armour.  Icons in his helmet display streamlined the wealth of information down into what he needed to know at the present.  No one had been surprised at the timing of the orks’ next assault, coming as it had in the dead of night.  But this time their feral wildness, ferocity and sheer brute strength had swept through the marines’ reinforced picket line with literally inhuman speed.  The alarm had been raised as the first scout had fallen beneath the orks’ axes and now marines of both chapters raced from the centre of their temporary field base to confront their foe.

The Wolf Priest found himself confronted with a remarkable sight as he neared the main line of battle.  All along the heavy steel barricades planted around the perimeter of the field base, Dark Angels and Space Wolves stood shoulder to shoulder as they battled wave after wave of the barbaric orks.  Beyond the space marines, Vogel saw a veritable tide of green skinned warriors, all intent on breaking through the thin cordon of marines who fought with a righteous determination.  Several mobs of orks had already reached the perimeter and the sound of massed co-ordinated bolter fire gave way to cries and curses as the alien horde crashed into the Imperial line with a sickening crunch.  At first, Angel and Wolf held under the strain as more orks poured into the attack but the power armoured line began to buckle before Vogel’s eyes as primitive weapons wielded with incredible strength began to batter their way through the marines.  Vogel thumbed his plasma pistol to power extremis as he watched a huge ork, a leader amongst its kind, flatten a Dark Angel with its charge before clambering over the barricade, sending marines to either side flying with powerful swings of its curved blade.  Within an instant, more orks had joined this creature, instinctively sensing the weakness in their enemy’s position.  The marine line began to roll back from this breakthrough.

Running at full tilt now, Wolf Priest Vogel barrelled into the huge ork, causing it to stumble and falter.  In seconds, he was surrounded by the ork’s followers, all screaming and spitting their war cries as they tried to grab hold of his limbs, eager to pull him to the ground.  Vogel’s Rosarius field flashed brightly in rapid succession as the millennia old device sought to divert ork blades away from the most vital areas of his armour.

‘To me, Wolves, to me!’ cried Vogel as he struck out at his assailants.  He discharged his pistol into one ork, burning a hole straight through the alien’s chest as he smashed his Crozius into the shoulder of another.  He felt an ork behind him, clinging on to his closed core backpack and the servos in his power armour whined in protest as he strained to keep balance.  The large ork was rising to its feet, hefting its huge blade as its eyes viewed Vogel with sheer malevolence, the muscles in its arms rippling with inhuman strength.  Vogel looked around quickly to see if any of his fellow Wolves were near enough to give aid, but all about him the marine line was disintegrating as orks flooded through the perimeter.

The Wolf Priest swore that the large ork leered at him as it raised its blade above its head, ready to smash through his chest armour when its face exploded in a shower of blood.  A black-armoured figure pulled the ork away from Vogel and delivered a hail of bolter shells into the enemy around him.  Spinning round, Vogel shook off the ork clinging to his back, throwing it to the hard ground.  With a quick kick he left it senseless.  He turned to face his rescuer.  The glaring skull face of the newcomer was fixed upon an ork as it lunged with a splintered sword.  Vogel saw the blue lightning trail of another Crozius smash into the ork and he grinned at his own disbelief as he spied the figure’s winged dagger shoulder pad.  The irony!  Saved by a Dark Angel!

The Interrogator Chaplain reached forward and grabbed Vogel’s arm.

‘Do not just stand there, Wolf!  The enemy have broken our line.  Fight, fight as you have never fought before, our Brothers need time to regroup.’  The Chaplain’s stern voice cut through Vogel’s thoughts and he lifted his own Crozius.

‘Fang!  I’ll lead you to battle, little Angel!’

Back to back they fought, Wolf Priest and Interrogator Chaplain. Though many orks streamed past them to be cut down by the retreating marine rearguard, together they formed a bulwark against the flow, diverting many of the enemy warriors upon them, rather than on more tactical targets.  Striking at green skins all around, the two fought on against many.

‘Get ready to run, Wolf,’ barked the Chaplain as Vogel took advantage of a brief respite in the ork’s assault to reload his pistol with another charge.

‘Run?  Dark Angel, I could fight all night!’  The Wolf Priest was beginning to enjoy his battle.

‘Foolish Wolf!’ the Chaplain hissed.  ‘The main body of the ork force has yet to hit us, this is just an advance warband.  Our brothers have contained the ork push yonder.  We must leave now.’

Vogel snarled, though he knew there was some sense in the Dark Angel’s words.

‘Then let us fight our way back to our brothers,’ he declared, starting towards the retreating Marine line.  He was stopped in his tracks by an armoured gauntlet grasping his shoulder pad.

‘We will never fight our way through and time is short.  Our army is organised for solid defence but we will not beat the orks back to our front line.  Follow me.’

The Interrogator Chaplain moved quickly westwards, away from the main force of marines.  Delayed by a split second of indecision, Wolf Priest Vogel sprinted to catch him.

 

* * *

 

Dawn.  The lone sun the backward world of Palmyra orbited pierced the dispersing grey clouds, casting its dirty red light upon the desolate and rocky landscape.  Interrogator Chaplain Saphael quietly sighed as he willed the communications with Grand Master Belial closed.  He had his orders and after twenty six years since his initiation into the secrets of the Deathwing, he knew his duty to the chapter.  Turning to his companion, he frowned.

Vogel sat on a large wind-smoothed stone, his wolf-styled helmet now attached to his utility belt, running a hand through his thick beard, grey from over two hundred years in the Emperor’s service.  His eyes locked with Saphael’s faintly glowing visor.

‘Let me guess, little Angel.  We are cut off behind enemy lines as our brothers prepare to launch their counter attack.’  He paused, trying to imagine the Dark Angel’s glare behind the skull mask.  ‘A good choice, you made – running from battle, allowing us to be separated from our entire army.’

The Interrogator Chaplain stood still for a moment, before unlatching his own helmet and pulling it from his head, revealing short cropped dark hair, his expression darker still.

‘And what would you have done, oh wise Wolf?  Fought on?  Allowed the orks to overwhelm us?  Faced the entire might of their army, just the two of us?’

‘If it had been another Wolf Priest at my side, maybe!’

Saphael stared at Vogel in utter disbelief.  The Wolf Priest smirked.

‘Wolves do not run from battle like newly-recruited Guardsmen.  We will face the daemon itself and not flinch!’ he boasted.

‘It is truly a wonder that your chapter still exists.  The Dark Angels do not produce foolish marines.’

‘Just cowardly ones,’ Vogel jibed, a slight smile creeping across his face.

‘You dare!’  Saphael darted two steps towards the Wolf Priest, his hand outstretched, reaching for the Wolf’s throat.  Vogel reacted with superhuman speed, springing to his feet and grabbing Saphael’s wrist.  Something in both marines’ power armour groaned as they pushed against each other’s strength.  Vogel’s expression was a grimace as he focussed his will into moving Saphael’s hand.  The Chaplain’s face was a blank mask, the effort he was exerting betrayed only by an intermittent twitch above his left eye.  Neither hand moved in the contest.

Slowly, gradually, Wolf Priest Vogel relaxed his grip, feeling the Dark Angel begin to do the same.

‘We are both Adeptus Astartes, brother Dark Angel,’ Vogel said as he stepped away. Saphael simply glared at him with hate-filled eyes.

‘I will not fight you,’ the Wolf Priest declared.  ‘The matter is forgotten.’

‘A Dark Angel never forgets.’

Vogel opened his mouth to voice a sharp retort at the officious Saphael, but thought the better of it.  ‘So what does your Lord say?’

‘My Grand Master orders us to skirt the ork forces, bypass their perimeter and to reconnoitre the enemy camp.  Our counterattack takes place tomorrow and he is keen to take this opportunity to gain intelligence first-hand.’

‘Of course.  Why lead our Brothers where Angels fear to tread?’  Vogel hid his smile as Saphael’s icy glare bore into him.

 

* * *

 

Vogel flattened himself against an eroded rock that barely hid his enormous frame as the cacophony of the ork patrol roared past him leaving a storm of dust, exhaust fumes and bouncing stones.  Glancing around his meagre cover as the crude alien vehicles receded, he saw three tracked bikes with improbably large cannon leading a decidedly fragile looking open-topped truck crammed with bellowing orks, the driver firing its large-bore pistol into the red sky.  A dozen yards away, he could see the Dark Angel peering at the orks from behind another large stone that he had sprinted behind when the marines had first heard the orks’ loud approach.  For three hours, they had moved ever closer to the orks’ camp which they had easily located by the many towering columns of smoke common to the aliens’ settlements, however temporary.  Orkish patrols had been light and easy to avoid, due mostly to the incredible noise their vehicles generated, but also because the creatures seemed more intent on covering ground than in locating stragglers isolated from the combined force of marines.  It was apparent the collective eyes of the ork horde were firmly fixed on the Astartes army many miles away and were eagerly awaiting the impending battle.

For his part, Saphael had been trying to calculate the ork patrol patterns, but the inherent randomness of the aliens eluded his training.  Looking back to the Wolf Priest who was gesturing in a manner the Interrogator-Chaplain took for ‘all clear,’ he could not help thinking the impetuous Wolf might not inadvertently sabotage their entire mission.  More than once Vogel had unnerved him by suggesting they face down one of the patrols in preference to hiding.  Never a successful judge of humour, Saphael guessed this had been some kind of joke on the part of the Wolf Priest, perhaps even a jibe aimed at himself or the Dark Angels as a whole that only another degenerate Wolf would comprehend.  It was, however, clear Vogel was unstable at best and a liability at worst and this insight gave Saphael some pause.  The nature of the mission was critical to the coming battle and both the honour and necessity the Grand Master had bestowed upon him weighed heavily.  The Wolf Priest simply had none of the inner discipline that every Dark Angel knew instinctively from the point of their initiation.  Should he attempt to continue alone?  Could he even evade a Space Wolf’s legendary senses?  A dark shadow fell across him, breaking the train of thought.  Glancing up, Saphael saw the Wolf Priest smirking down upon him.

‘They have gone, little Angel.  Should we proceed or simply sit here and wait for the battle to start?’

 

* * *

 

It was dusk before the two marines were able to make their way past careless ork sentries.  Vogel had disturbed two sleeping ork warriors, but had dispatched both in near silence before Saphael had been able to react.  Saphael peered over the small rise he and Vogel had taken cover behind, the auto senses of his power armour easily penetrating the swift fall of dusk, allowing him to see the multitude of orks milling about their camp as they continued their preparations for battle.

‘How many?’ queried Vogel as he adjusted the internal environment of his armour.

‘Five and a half, maybe six thousand,’ said Saphael.  ‘Light vehicles numbering in the hundreds and. . .’ he paused as his helmet adjusted magnification.  ‘By The Lion!  Battle Fortresses!  Perhaps a dozen.’

Vogel stopped fiddling with his armour controls as he turned to look at Saphael who had retreated from the top of the rise to sit next to the Wolf Priest.

‘Battle Fortresses?’ Vogel asked rhetorically.  ‘That is not so good, little Angel.  Our army may not have the strength to counter both those and the horde in a combined assault.  How did our Thunderhawks miss those?’

‘I was informed by the Grand Master they did not have much time over the target.  The orks’ fighter screen was intense.’

‘Did you see any of their aircraft?’

‘No.  They could be on the far side of the camp but, Emperor willing, our Thunderhawks destroyed them all.’  Saphael moved to take another look over the rise, but was restrained by Vogel’s touch on his arm.

‘That just leaves the Battle Fortresses, then,’ said Vogel.  ‘Can we get to them?’

Saphael did not move, but his mind ran fast.  ‘We cannot infiltrate the ork camp!’

‘Where are the Battle Fortresses, Angel?’

Saphael moved back to the top of the rise, this time joined by Wolf Priest Vogel.

‘Ahh, I see them,’ Vogel smiled as he looked across the camp.

‘Do you see the eight hundred-odd orks between the Fortresses and us?’

‘I see everything, Angel.  Wolves are not blind.’

The Interrogator-Chaplain’s whispered retort was inaudible even to Vogel’s keen ears, but it caused the Wolf Priest to smile anyway.  Vogel stared intently at the ork camp.

The perimeter was less than a mile away from their position and thousands upon thousands of orks filled the shallow depression he looked down upon.  Far off in the centre of the camp, a huge fortified hut bedecked with unsightly banners dominated everything around it, obviously the temporary home of the warlord leading the horde.  Arrayed concentrically around this large structure were lesser huts, tents and orks sleeping in the open, the camp becoming steadily more disorganised and make-shift the further it extended from the warlord’s headquarters.  Vehicles of all descriptions were strewn everywhere, obviously in the keeping of their respective owners, but the huge black hulls of the twelve Battle Fortresses were to be found on the far eastern edge of the camp, presumably because there was nowhere else to keep the massive killing machines.

‘We cannot get to them, Wolf Priest,’ Saphael emphasised.  ‘They will be heavily guarded, orks are probably sleeping on board and we would have to bypass too many sentries.’

‘All true, my good Angel,’ Vogel smiled.  ‘But do you see those fuel dumps a little further past them?  Those Battle Fortresses would not get very far towards our force if they lost their fuel.’

Saphael was incredulous.  He had suspected Vogel’s nature would be detrimental to their task, but this idea beggared belief.

‘Infiltrate the enemy?’ he asked.

‘Yes.’

‘The two of us?’

‘Yes.’

‘Because you are insane?’

Vogel smirked.  ‘Yes.’

Saphael stared into the massed orks below, desperately trying to find a flaw in the Wolf Priest’s idea.  This was far beyond the parameters of the Grand Master’s instructions, but he knew he did not need to verify orders if this idea, mad as it was, had the possibility of success.  He was an Interrogator-Chaplain of the Dark Angels, inducted into the time-honoured secrets of the Deathwing and bound to set examples to his brother marines whenever the opportunity presented itself.

‘Do you believe frag grenades will be enough to destroy the dump?’ he asked.

‘Without a doubt,’ replied Vogel.  ‘If we are wise in their placing, we need detonate only a few drums to set the others off.  But in the interests of making sure. . .’  He produced two fist-sized krak charges from his utility belt.

‘It could just work,’ Saphael mused.

‘Glad you think so, Angel,’ Vogel said as he stood and started to skirt the rise.

‘Wolf!  Where are you going?’ Saphael asked with a degree of trepidation.  ‘Our plan. . .’

The Wolf Priest turned back, a look of exasperation on his face.  ‘We infiltrate the camp, destroy the dump, retreat – keep up, little Angel, we must complete the mission before our army is ready to strike.’

Saphael spoke a quiet prayer to his Primarch as he adjusted his helmet seals, the soft words lost in the hiss of pressurised atmosphere as the helmet reset its connections with his powered armour.  Wondering if his actions were truly the Will of the immortal Emperor, he followed Wolf Priest Vogel.

 

* * *

 

Moving eastwards around the noisy ork camp, the two marines travelled as stealthily as their bulky power armour permitted, never closing to less than a half mile from the camp’s perimeter and taking cover whenever ork vehicles were heard nearby.  The progress was slow, but both realised that two lone marines could not risk discovery if they were to succeed in their mission.  The fall of night at least worked in their favour, for the darkness barely impeded the auto senses of their armour.  Orkish eyes, though more sensitive than unaugmented human vision, would be somewhat hindered.

It took them nearly an hour to move into a position that would allow a direct advance to the fuel dump and Saphael could not shake his feeling of ill-boding for this mission.  There were simply too many things that could go wrong, as Grand Master Belial had pointed out during Saphael’s communication with him that outlined the marines’ objective.  The super heavy vehicles had the potential to smash straight through the marine line in open battle, which made the mission a risk worth taking.  The combined marine army could concentrate fire on these war engines, but that would leave the entire line open to direct assault by the bulk of the ork horde, with corresponding heavy losses.  Belial had suggested detailing one of the squads of Scouts already in position around the orks’ flanks to destroy the fuel dump, but Saphael had refused, declaring it his duty as he was already in position with the Wolf Priest.  This was undeniably true, but Saphael was all too aware that, in part, he had also volunteered to avoid Vogel’s inevitable jibes had he simply let the Scouts attack.

The Interrogator Chaplain had noted that Vogel was much quieter now they had embarked upon the mission, with only the occasional weak insult passing between them and he had to give the Wolf Priest credit for this.  Despite Vogel’s boorish behaviour earlier, it was obvious the Space Wolf was an accomplished warrior.  Reflecting on this, it occurred to Saphael that this should not have been a surprise, considering Vogel’s position within his chapter.

‘Are you ready, Angel?’ Vogel asked as they prepared to start the next phase of their raid.

‘Certainly.’

The two marines began to move forward, moving into the depression the ork camp sat in.  They took advantage of what little terrain there was, large wind-blasted rocks, wretched planet life and abandoned ork vehicles, but too many times they had to rely purely on the cover of darkness to shield them from the prying eyes of ork sentries.

Both marines saw the sentry simultaneously and they dove to the ground, flattening themselves on the rough and dusty surface.  Wandering with seemingly no care in the world, the single ork did not appear to be following any set patrol pattern.  In Vogel’s eyes, the alien appeared to be doing little more than killing time before battle the next day.  Kicking a rock back into the direction of the camp, perhaps showing irritation at some ork leader for forcing it into sentry duty, the ork took a meandering path that drew it inexorably to where the marines lay perfectly still.

‘Be still, Angel,’ Vogel’s voice whispered in Saphael’s helmet, inaudible to the outside world.  ‘It will pass.’

‘If we must act, do it quietly,’ Saphael replied.  ‘We could bring the entire camp down upon us.’

The ork took three more steps forward, then turned back to the camp, standing still for a brief moment.  The marines could only guess what was going through the alien’s small mind.  It turned once more to continue its distracted patrol.  Taking another step, it stopped again, its head appearing to turn in slow motion as it looked straight at the marines.  Saphael saw its brow furrow as it squinted into the night.  Alarm filled him as he saw a look of shock pass over the alien’s face and it dropped its fanged mouth open, inhaling audibly as it prepared to shout a warning.

Saphael saw the Wolf Priest rise to action, his plasma pistol being brought up to blast the ork into its component atoms.

‘No!’  The Interrogator Chaplain reacted without thought, grabbing a weapon from his belt and hurling it at the sentry with the full force of his superhuman strength.  The blade buried itself deep into the ork’s throat, cutting off the cry that was rising from its lungs.  A long stream of foul ork blood arced into the night as the ork collapsed, throwing up a cloud of dust.

‘I said quietly!  Imbecile Wolf!’ Saphael cursed. For once, the Wolf Priest was silent as the two marines padded forward to inspect the corpse.

Vogel bent down on one knee, reaching for the weapon Saphael had thrown, his interest piqued by the intricate device.  The Interrogator Chaplain moved quickly before he could grasp the weapon, pulling it from the ork’s throat before wiping it clean on the alien’s mangy clothing and returning it to his belt.  Vogel saw it had many differing and finely crafted blades, all embossed with the broken dagger symbol he knew belonged to the Dark Angels’ highest ranks, the Deathwing.  A half remembered rumour he had overheard from his Grey Hunters discussing their alliance with the Dark Angels on this world sprang to his mind.

‘What was that, little Angel?’

‘None of your concern, Wolf!’ Saphael spat, almost sounding as if he were angry at himself.

Vogel smiled.  That had drawn a reaction from the austere Interrogator Chaplain.  ‘You Dark Angels like your secrets, do you not?’

Saphael paused before answering.  ‘This is not the time, Wolf.’  He sounded calm to Vogel, but the Wolf Priest could scent something from the Dark Angel that betrayed an edge to what he said.  ‘Just remember there are threats throughout this galaxy that your chapter knows nothing about.  It is both the duty and the honour of the Dark Angels to guard our Imperium against the most heinous of enemies.’

The Wolf Priest raised his eyes.  Pure indoctrination, he thought.

‘As one of the lesser chapters, you are not privy to either our mission or our methods,’ Saphael continued.  ‘Now, let us finish this.’

Wolf Priest Vogel could barely believe what he was hearing.  In another time and place, he knew he would have laughed out loud in the face of the Dark Angel’s diatribe.

‘Have it your way, little Angel,’ he replied.  ‘We can continue this later.’

Saphael held his gaze a brief moment before turning back to their shared goal.

 

* * *

 

‘I cannot believe they have left this place so open.’  Saphael’s voice carried his sheer disbelief.

‘They are too confident,’ said Vogel.  ‘Quickly, set your grenades.  It takes but a single sentry to sound the alarm.’

‘Three minute fuses,’ instructed the Dark Angel.  Vogel set his two krak charges accordingly, without comment.

The two marines worked quickly and efficiently, the Wolf Priest magnetically attaching his charges on to the greatest concentrations of rusting fuel drums, as Saphael crammed grenades between others.  Icons displayed in their helmets’ visors began the countdown for the detonation of the charges, allowing them to set successive explosives to coincide with the initial blasts.  Using the fuel dump itself as cover, they were all too aware of orkish activity mere metres from their position.  Shouts, challenges, even weapons fire were filtered out by their auto senses, a discord that would have been deafening to the unprotected ears of a normal human.

‘Hurry, Angel,’ Vogel warned.

‘Just a few more.’

‘We have done enough.’

‘I know what I am doing!’ Saphael hissed back.

Vogel hesitated, unsure of whether to leave immediately and desert the foolish Interrogator Chaplain to his fate or stay a moment longer.  He risked a glance above the fuel drums.  At this range, the ork camp extended further into the night than even his crafted helmet could see.  The huge hulking masses of the Battle Fortresses dominated the immediate area and he could make out the multitude of heavy guns that almost covered every available surface, as well as various spikes, rollers and other devices, all designed to allow the vehicles to literally smash through an enemy army.  Mobs of orks gathered around worryingly large fires, seemingly impervious to the close heat.  They ate, drank and fought, with brawls taking place almost everywhere he looked.  It did not seem uncommon for the aliens to draw their weapons in these fights, often to the loud applause of assembled onlookers.  The lack of honour these creatures mystified Vogel.

‘Russ-damn you. Now, Dark Angel!’

‘It is done,’ Saphael said simply.

The two marines began their retreat, ever conscious of the dwindling icon readouts in their helmets that marked the countdown of the fuses on the explosives they had laid.  Saphael’s hearts maintained their steady artificial rhythm, but he felt decidedly edgy being this close to such huge numbers of the enemy and he knew he would be much relieved once they were safely back in the cover of darkness.  He looked over his shoulder to make sure of the Wolf Priest’s progress and saw a mob of orks approach the fuel dump behind them.

‘Wolf!’ he warned, just as a guttural cry from the mob rent the night.

Vogel spun on his heels, drawing his plasma pistol and blasted the lead ork in the mob.  The alien dropped instantly and he shouted at the Dark Angel.  ‘Move!’

Saphael needed no convincing as he saw nearby mobs stir from their fires and reach for their weapons.  Sporadic fire was already being aimed in their general direction and the marines moved quickly, seeking cover and darkness away from the camp.

The icons on their helmet displays reached conclusion and both marines braced themselves for the explosion, knowing that to falter in their retreat could prove fatal.  The orks closest to the dump were less fortunate as the combined frag and krak charges blew the fuel drums apart in a titanic explosion that shook the ground.  Several burning drums were hurled high into the sky on columns of fire, before crashing down amongst the camp, spewing fuel and destruction all around.  Nearby mobs were incinerated in the blast, whilst others seemed only incited by the devastation, their feral minds driven to battle rage by the explosion.  The incoming fire directed at the marines soon intensified and another, smaller, explosion threw dirt into the air as a poorly aimed rocket streaked past them, its smoke trail quickly dissipating as they ran through it.

A line of shells dug into the ground behind, following their retreat.  The wild fire moved ever closer to the Wolf Priest and his Rosarius’ field flashed bright in the night as his shield deflected shots into the darkness.  Saphael heard a grunt as more penetrated Vogel’s shield and impacted into his backpack.  The Wolf Priest staggered under the hit and, acting on a pure instinct he might later have regretted, Saphael stopped his sprint to assist the Wolf back on to his feet.  Vogel’s backpack sputtered sparks from shorted wiring within the small craters the shells had created, but Saphael could only guess whether any vital subsystems had been damaged.  Looking back, the Interrogator Chaplain saw dozens of orks charging towards them and he emptied his bolt pistol’s magazine into their front rank.

He cried out more in shock than pain as a shell embedded itself in the arm joint of his armour, causing him to drop his pistol.  His blood spattered Vogel’s armour and he knew the wound was serious.  The Wolf Priest grabbed his other arm and pushed him forward.

‘In the name of the Throne, run, Angel!’

The Marines fled into the night, pursued by vengeful orks enraged at the success of their destructive raid.

 

* * *

 

Pulling pressure seals together with a sharp click, Saphael replaced the armour on his forearm.  Thankful for his augmented biology, he felt no pain from the wound he had taken in their flight, but the limb would be all but useless for a day or two.  Saphael was all too aware that without his armour, he would have lost the lower part of his limb altogether.  He looked at the Wolf Priest, who seemed to be meditating.  This surprised Saphael somewhat, as he had never imagined that a Space Wolf would seek any kind of inner peace after battle.  He made a mental note to learn more about the Wolves from his chapter’s archives, if he ever got the chance after this campaign.

They had been lucky to escape after their raid, but once the marines had outpaced the mad ork charge and hidden in the dark, the aliens had appeared to lose interest and focus, perhaps due to the lack of the warlord’s presence that seemed to bind the whole alien army together.  As morning broke once more, they had been aware of increased vehicle activity in their vicinity and had presumed that the orks were attempting to locate them.  However, that the motorised patrols had been no more effective than the previous day’s had not surprised Vogel.  The orks lived for war and not one of them wanted to be relegated to patrol duties when a large battle was imminent.

Vogel and Saphael had been able to view the devastation they had caused and the Dark Angel had communicated their success to his Grand Master.  All that remained of the fuel dump was a huge blackened crater.  Several fires still burned in the camp where fuel drums had dropped amongst the orks and even a Battle Fortress had been caught in the blast.  At this range, they could not tell whether the vehicle was still operational, but Vogel was satisfied at what they had wrought.  As he pointed out to Saphael, even if the Battle Fortresses had full tanks on board, they would never reach the marine line without the benefit of reserves.  Grand Master Belial had closed communications by informing Saphael that he could not spare any forces to retrieve them until after the battle had been won.

‘We did well,’ said Saphael, once again looking at the crater on the edge of the ork camp.

‘Aye, we did,’ answered Vogel. ‘I believe I can make this mission a good exercise for my Blood Claws.  Have the orks broken camp yet?’

Saphael stared into the distance.  ‘They are just beginning to.  The Ravenwing have begun their initial strikes, drawing the orks forward.’

‘Into our waiting guns,’ Vogel finished.  ‘It will be a good battle.’

The Interrogator Chaplain nodded his assent.

‘You know, little Angel, it does not seem right for us to rest here idle whilst our brothers are fighting.’

Saphael inwardly groaned.  ‘Wolf. . .’

Vogel smiled at Saphael’s tone.  ‘Striking in their rear, perhaps?’ he ventured.  ‘We may draw a mob or two away from the attack.  Unless, of course, an Angel fights but one battle a day.’

Saphael sighed.  ‘Alright, Wolf.  I can match you.’

Wolf Priest Vogel jumped to his feet, drawing his plasma pistol and swinging his Crozius through the still air.

‘For Russ, and the immortal Emperor!’

‘For the Lion, and the Golden Throne!’

Nulahmia Marches

Another week, another army or so it seems! This weekend, I started ‘proper’ work on the forces of Nulahmia, a mixture of undead who will be appearing in the Balance of Power portion of the Realmgate Wars campaign.

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I figured 60 Skeletons would make for a good start, split into two units; one with swords, the other with spears.

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Perhaps 90% of these were ready-built eBay purchases requiring rebasing, with a handful made from a new sprue to fill in the gaps for command and weapon options. Not a tremendous amount of work and it gives me a veritable horde to kick off with, always a good way to start a new army.

And, as it turned out, they were quick to paint as well…

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I pretty much followed the painting guide for Nulahmia forces in Balance of Power, starting with a white undercoat and washing the whole thing with Seraphin Sepia. The whole model then gets drybrushed with Screaming Skull (you can alter the colour of the drybrush to aim more for sunbleached-bone or just-clawed-its-way-out-of-the-earth-bone).

The next stage is Naggaroth Night on the cloth, Leadbelcher on the metal and Rhinox Hide on the leather. Wash all of those with Nuln Oil, then do all the brass bits with Balthasar Gold, and wash that with Agrax.

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Then it is just layering and drybrushing – on the Naggaroth Night, use Xerxes Purple then Genestealer Purple, Runefang Steel goes on all metal and brass bits, with Gorthor used on the leather.

Base, and then you are done – skeletons are a really quick and easy way to bulk out an undead force fast!

The slightly bigger news is that the last Skeleton I did in this force was actually the 999th model I have painted for Age of Sigmar since it was released. So, what am I doing for model number 1,000, eh? Surely it must be something quite special…

Three Paths to Sigmar

So, after giving us all a 24 hour countdown, Games Workshop have made their big announcement for Age of Sigmar. With what will presumably be a wave of releases, downloads and updates this summer, they will be pushing three different approaches to playing Age of Sigmar.

 

Open Play

This looks to be the basic rules approach – bring what you like, fight, have fun, no stress. They mention ‘any number of players’ so I am guessing this angle will not just be presented as the basic 4-page rules sheet and then all but ignored, but will have some other bits and pieces hung off it.

 

Narrative Play

This is billed as ‘recreating the great battles of the age’. It would be tempting to think of this as merely following in the footsteps of the existing campaign books (and this is, indeed, the main way my group have been playing Age of Sigmar), but I suspect this will also get more support in the way of tools that show players how to create their own campaigns.

 

Matched Play

This is the big one, of course. Designed for tournaments, a points system is being added and it looks to be based upon the SCGT system (found here) which has gained a good following.

 

So, What Does This All Mean?

Well, until everything is actually unveiled, we do not really know yet. However, while some people have openly welcomed a full points-based system for their games, others have expressed concerns.

And I can understand why.

You see, these people (and I can be counted among them) fully embraced the lack of points/narrative style that Age of Sigmar was first presented with, taking to it like ducks to water. The fear is that a points system will ‘infiltrate’ all styles of play and become the ‘default’ type of game. Even in a purely narrative campaign, people will start off using points to help ‘eyeball’ the forces.

The opposition to the points system comes from a belief that this is just not needed and, indeed, my own experiences with the game have borne this out – if you take a look at the many battle reports here covering the Realmgate Wars campaign, you will notice that none of them have even come close to being unfair.

 

Panic Stations, Then?

Well, maybe not. First off, and by no means least, the recent release of the Godbeasts book means I easily have enough Realmgate Wars battles to play through until the end of this year – that is juts playing through the Battleplans as presented, without creating my own spin-offs and side-campaigns. I have more than enough to be getting on with for the immediate future without worrying about points creeping into my games.

Second, I am not against the use of points by any stretch – I am a dedicated 40k gamer after all, and have been playing through fairly extensive campaigns in Fantasy Battle. I can certainly see myself attending a points-based tournament, perhaps at Warhammer World, when the time comes. Taking part in a such a tournament in no way invalidates what I am doing in my own campaigns.

All that said, I ca well understand the reservations some have with points, where their use becomes the default method of play. So, to that end, I would be very, very happy if GW constructed tall (yet permeable) walls between these three different styles of play.

So, for example, if the points system incorporates tournament-style Battleplans – this would encourage people to only use the points system with those Battleplans in a tournament setting. At the same time, the campaign systems that are provided for narrative play have zero mention of points. Basically, the points system is kept in its own little box. The campaign system(s) instead have their own set of mechanics and rewards.

This is not to say players cannot port the points system to narrative play, only that it is not the default. The walls between the three styles are present, but permeable.

If this can be managed, everyone will be getting the best of the world they want to play within, and can completely ignore the other styles if they so wish without them ‘poisoning’ their own games.

For my part, I can foresee me delving into both narrative and matched play styles, probably leaning towards the former.

Overall, I see this as providing many new options for Age of Sigmar, and I am looking forward to what happens this summer!

Battle Report – Fortresses of Death

We are due to dive back into the Realmgate Wars storyline proper very soon now, delving into the Balance of Power campaign book and the Battleplans it contains. However, before we do that, we are going to take a quick peek into the Realm of Fire and the less ground-shaking events occurring there with a Battleplan I have been wanting to play ever since it was published last summer…

 

The Story So Far

The Bloodbrass Bridge connects the Realms of Metal and Fire via a Realmgate in its centre. Being a vital link between the realms, the forces of Chaos constructed large Dreadholds at either side, securing the Realmgate firmly between them. When the Stormcasts arrived with their crusade, this was a strategic target that had to be attacked.

The Stormcasts attacked quickly from the Realm of Fire, taking the Khorne Bloodbound holding Skullbrass Keep on that side of the Realmgate completely by surprise. The battle was bloody but quick, and it left the Stormcasts in command of the Dreadhold. However, to claim the Realmgate on the Bloodbrass Bridge, they had to take the fortress in the Realm of Metal, the Bloodspire Citadel.

However, the Bleak Horde held the Bloodspire Citadel, and its lord, Heldrath, saw an opportunity to not only defeat the Stormcasts, but also to gain possession of the Skullbrass Keep, too long held by his Bloodbound rivals. Casualties would be high among the units first moving through the Realmgate but the cost was one Lord Heldrath was more than willing to pay.

 

The Forces

We have two bruisers of armies here, both capable of holding an enemy and grinding away. Any deadlock will likely be broken either by magic and daemons within the Bleak Horde, or the specialised troops (Paladins and Prosecutors) of the Stormcasts.

The Bleak Horde
Malefic Gate
Walls x 6
Chaos Lord on Gorebeast Chariot
Chaos Sorcerer of Tzeentch on Disc
Chaos Warriors x 36 (three units of 12)
Chaos Knights x 10 (two units of 5)

This is a nice, solid list for the Bleak Horde. While the Chaos Warriors may not have truly exciting rules, they are extremely solid and their Runeshields have a habit of turning aside mortal wounds just when you need them to. However, with that Tzeentch sorcerer lurking around on his disc, daemons are likely to feature very heavily during the battle.

Stormcast Eternals
Malefic Gate
Walls x 6
Lord-Celestant
Retributors x 5
Decimators x 5
Liberators x 25 (five units of 5)
Judicators x 10 (two units of 5)
Prosecutors x 6 (two units of 3)

The Stormcasts have a good, solid force here, made up primarily of Liberators to match the Chaos Warriors of the Bleak Horde. They will be hoping that their Paladins will tip the balance between the forces, allowing the Judicators and Prosecutors to support the Liberators as they make the long march to the walls of the Chaos Dreadhold they hope to sieze.

This Battleplan appears in Battletome: Chaos Dreadholds and is, frankly, a great idea for a game. Two fortresses are separated not just by a bridge, but by a Realmgate – this is a fight that will literally take place across the realms, with one castle in the Realm of Fire and the other in the Realm of Metal. The appropriate Time of War sheets will be used for each table.

The Battleplan suggests laying out battle boards to represent the two different realms, but we figured we could do better and used two different tables!

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Deployment

The Stormcasts prepared their assault forces, layering retinues into three waves that could be launched into the Realm of Metal. liberators would lead and take the brunt of the assault, supported by Paladins and Prosecutors.

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The Bleak Horde took a much more direct approach, preparing themselves to receive the Stormcast attack, aiming to contain anything that came through the Realmgate.

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Battle Round One

The battle began slowly, with the Stormcasts moving up to the Realmgate in preparation for their attack.

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Meanwhile, the Tzeentch sorcerer summoned a unit of Pink Horrors to support his defence, who promptly brought more Pink Horrors along.

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The whole Chaos force then pulled back from the Realmgate in order to give its now more numerous units room to move.

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Battle Round Two

The first wave of Stormcast retinues charged through the gate, ready to engage whatever lay beyond!

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The Prosecutors and Judicators opened up first, laying withering fire upon the closest Chaos Knights, killing one and badly wounding another. Behind them, the rest of the Stormcast force prepared to exploit the beach head that was being created.

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Seeing the battle had begun in earnest, the Tzeentch Sorcerer summoned a Herald upon a Disc, while one unit of Pink Horrors  summoned Flamers and threw an Arcane Bolt at a Liberator. The other Pink Horrors summoned another Herald who in turn summoned more Flamers.

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Suitably bolstered, the Chaos force advanced to meet the Stormcasts. The Judicators were immolated by a single blast from one unit of Flamers, while the others destroyed a unit of Liberators. A unit of Chaos Warriors, led by their Lord on the back of his Gorebeast Chariot, charged another retinue of Liberators and smashed them apart.

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To the right, Chaos Knights ploughed into the final Liberators, inflicting heavy losses.

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The Stormcast assault had been stymied before it had properly begun.

 

Battle Round Three

The Sorcerer brought Screamers to the battlefield while the Heralds and Pink Horrors threw bolt after bolt into the rapidly thinning Stormcast ranks. A last blast from the Flamers wiped out the last Stormcast who had set foot within the Realm of Metal.

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Realising the attack had stalled, the Lord-Celestant reacted quickly, ordering his remaining forces to back away from the Realmgate in Aqshy, and prepare to receive the Chaos counterattack.

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Battle Round Four

They did not have to wait long. After receiving a Mystic Shield from one of the Heralds, the Chaos Knights were the first through the Realmgate.

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They were quickly followed by Screamers, a Herald and more Knights, all of whom had been granted Mystic Shields. The Flamers and Herald threw magical flames at the Stormcast defence, but the Sigmarite armour proved up tot he task and none fell.

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The Knights targeted the Liberators holding the line directly in front of them, slaying all except the single Stormcast who carried the Grandblade. Meanwhile, the Flamers and Screamers had the misfortune to happen upon a retinue of Retributors, with two Screamers falling immediately.

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The Tzeentch attack had already claimed almost all the Liberators in the field and there was a lot more to come. The Lord-Celestant petitioned his God-King for aid, and Sigmar responded admirably, sending the one Stormcast who had a chance of stopping the Chaos assault in its tracks.

Ably assisted by retinues of Protectors and Judicators, the Celestant-Prime landed on the battlefield within a bolt of lightning.

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As Prosecutors and Judicators destroyed a Herald, the Celestant-Prime led a retinue of Retributors against the Chaos Knights, smashing every horsemen apart within seconds in flashes of bright lightning.

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Sigmar’s wrath was meted out across the battlefield, with the other Retributor retinue finishing off the Screamers and Flamers. Not one Chaos worshipper or daemon had survived the initial assault.

The tide had turned in favour of the Stormcasts.

 

Battle Round Five

Back in the Realm of Metal, the Tzeentch spellcasters furiously summoned more reinforcements, knowing that whatever momentum they still possessed had to be maintained if victory was to be grasped.

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The Screamers were the first through the Realmgate, scything through Retributors as they went. They were quickly followed by Pink Horrors, the Lord on Gorebeast Chariot and the Burning Chariot.

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Back in the Realm of Metal, the third wave of daemons and Chaos Warriors were already waiting their turn to travel through the Realmgate.

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The Stormcasts , led by the Celestant-Prime, were eager for the fight now and set about the task of wiping out the Chaos forces as they appeared.

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The Celestant-Prime directed a comet down onto the battlefield with a flourish of his sceptre, and it smashed into the Realmgate, Chaos Warriors and both chariots. Then, he charged, tearing into the Gorebeast Chariot and slaying the enemy general with ease.

The Judicators concentrated their fire upon the Pink Horrors, causing many to pop out of existence, though not before they claimed the Liberator with Grandblade.

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Battle Round Six

Within the Realm of Metal, Tzeentchian magic threw up Mystic Shields over many units, who then marched into the Realm of Fire.

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The forces of Chaos were now pouring through the Realmgate, but the Stormcasts were confident the Celestant-Prime was up to the task of beating them back.

Screamers roamed the battlefield, their sharp spines slashing across any Stormcast they could reach, sending two Retributors back to Sigmar. The Flamers and Burning Chariot all concentrated their flames upon the Celestant-Prime, wreathing him in magical fire – he emerged not just unhurt by the flames, but actually healed of the minor scratches suffered up to now!

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Thinking that cold steel would triumph where magic had obviously failed, a unit of Chaos Warriors charged the Celestant-Prime, but Ghal Maraz made them pay or their temerity. They were smashed apart almost instantly, with only two surviving Sigmar’s anger.

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In some desperation, the Flamers charged into the Retributors acting as the Celestant-Prime’s bodyguard, and soon came to regret going up against the massive hammers.

The Celestant-Prime called down another comet onto the Chaos forces massing at the Realmgate, to great effect, while the Boltstorm Crossbow-armed Judicators on the walls of the fortress unleashed lightning into the Burning Chariot, destroying it even as a retinue of Prosecutors moved to intercept it.

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Meanwhile the Protectors charged into two groups of Pink Horrors, all but finishing them off.

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The Celestant-Prime dispatched the last of the Chaos Warriors who had dared to face him, and then assessed the efforts of the Stormcasts. He saw a golden opportunity for victory…

 

Battle Round Seven

If the Stormcasts could just push forward with enough strength, they could destroy every Tzeentch spellcaster in the Realm of Fire (just two Heralds and two Pink Horrors). This would leave the Chaos force broken and crippled, ripe for destruction with one more push into the Realm of Metal where the last Sorcerer could be killed – and, with the Celestant-Prime leading the attack this time, the few remaining Chaos units would be quickly crushed!

Seeing all of this in a few brief seconds, the Celestant-Prime waved his sceptre forward to urge the Stormcasts onwards, before charging the Chaos Warriors at the foot of the Realmgate.

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All across the battlefield, spellcasters were hunted.

The Protectors dispatched the last two Pink Horrors with ease, while Retributors ended the existence in this Realm of one of the Heralds. However, the Prosecutors could not land a telling blow on the last Herald, leaving just one Tzeentch spellcaster alive in the Realm of Fire…

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Though wounded, the last Herald was no fool. It summoned another Herald to join it, who brought along yet more Pink Horrors.

The Stormcasts had been knocked onto the back foot once more, and the battle was again turning against them.

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The Herald, fearing for its life at the hands of a vengeful Celestant-Prime, fled through the Realmgate back to the Chamon, while more Chaos Warriors poured into Aqshy.

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They ran straight into the waiting Ghal Maraz, and were soon being sent back to Tzeentch bereft of their mortal bodies.

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Battle Round Eight

The Celestant-Prime was doing well – too well for the liking of the new Herald, and he directed the Pink Horrors to hurl bolt after Arcane Bolt into the Stormcast. Not even Sigmar-s chosen champion could withstand the continued assault and, in a massive flash of lightning, the Celestant-Prime was sent back to Azyr, leaving the other Stormcasts in a precarious position.

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As Screamers hunted down the last of the bow-armed Judicators, the Prosecutors desperately tried to disengage from the duelling the remaining Chaos Warriors, knowing their Javelins were best used at range.

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The Lord-Celestant left the fortress to tie down the Screamers, dispatching two in short order, while the two surviving Retributors charged into one unit of Pink Horrors, killing seven, and giving hope that Tzeentch wizards could be put back onto the endangered list.

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Battle Round Nine

The remaining Pink Horrors and Herald combined their powers to finish the Retributors off with Arcane Bolts, while simultaneously summoning Flamers and Screamers into battle.

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Chaos Warriors rushed the Protectors, determined to finish off the last Paladins on the field.

The Judicators atop the fortress walls laid down a withering hail of fire upon the Pink Horrors, dissolving many with lightning, but reality chose that moment to blink and five Pink Horrors were returned, much to the dismay of the Stormcasts!

 

Battle Round Ten

The Protectors and Lord-Celestant were now alone outside the fortress, the rest of the Stormcasts having retreated to the protection of its walls.

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A mixture of Arcane Bolts and magical flames had dealt a terrible blow to the Stormcasts and more daemons were appearing by the second. The end was now close and it was just left for each Stormcast to sell his life as dearly as possible.

 

Battle Round Eleven

As one, the Liberators and Judicators leapt down from the walls, taunted by Pink Horrors who had started to dance just out of range of their crossbows.

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The Herald threw blue fire at the Lord-Celestant, immolating the Stormcast, while Arcane Bolts from Pink Horrors and magical blasts from the Flamers tore the Judicators and Liberators apart.

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Only a single Prosecutor now held the field for the Stormcasts, and the daemon forces of Tzeentch were approaching quickly.

 

Battle Round Twelve

With a casual gesture, a Pink Horror sent an Arcane Bolt into the heart of the Prosecutor, causing the Stormcast to disappear in a bolt of lightning that rocketed skywards back to Azyr.

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Both fortresses were now in the hands of Tzeentch, though only six Chaos Warriors from the original army had survived the battle,

 

Conclusion

Well, that was a battle and a half! It was also the longest Age of Sigmar battle we have ever played, taking about four hours and extending over 12 turns!

It also serves as a great example of how a battle can swing one way and then the other throughout the course of the game; the Stormcasts suffered badly as they launched their initial assault, but managed to pull things back and were ‘this’ close to breaking the back of the Tzeentch army. Unfortunately, a single Herald survived at a critical point (those Prosecutors are going to have some explaining to do in front of Sigmar), and that was enough for the Chaos army to perform a break out and get things moving again. The Stormcasts might still have been able to force things back to their way but multiple Arcane Bolts finished off the Celestant-Prime, against which he had no defence.

A tough battle, but an enjoyable one!

Still, I cannot help thinking what it would be like if the Tzeentch force was greatly increased in size, and Nagash was on the other side of the Realmgate… That might be a battle that would last all weekend!

 

The Story Continues…

So, we have seen what has been happening elsewhere in the Realms, and we will now be returning to the main storyline with the Balance of Power hardback. Specifically, we will be travelling to the Realm of Life to see what Alarielle has been up to since she was forced to flee the Hidden Glade…

The Dreadhold… Complete?

So, this week I finished off (another) Malefic Gate and (another) four wall sections. Why would I put myself through that?

Well, I can now do this…

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That would be a total of 12 wall sections two Malefic Gates, two Skull Keeps and one Overlord Bastion. And I think it is safe to say, I am done with the Chaos Dreadhold – I ain’t painting any more for it!

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On the plus side, this gives me everything I need for some truly awesome castle assaults, and I can pretty much configure the fortress to any shape or pattern needed (yes, I am ignoring the fortifications that use 3 or more Skull Keeps – they are dead to me…).

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Not that the Dreadhold was awesomely bad to paint – I have been doing it in sections over the past few months, gradually building up to this final construction. But let’s just say I have absolutely no desire to paint anything else for it!

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So, now this is done, it is about time we had a big castle assault take place and, it just so happens, I have exactly the right Battleplan for this – Fortresses of Death, where the Dreadhold becomes two castles separated by a Realmgate.

Expect the battle report soon!

Battle Report – At The Threshold

We are continuing our tour of the Mortal Realms before diving back into the storyline proper with Balance of Power, and it is time to answer the question: What are the Fyreslayers up to?

 

The Story So Far

Deep in the Realm of Fire, the hordes of Lord Bruul descended on the Cynder Peaks, determined to root out the Fyreslayer lodge within the central Furios Peak. The Duardin had faced many Chaos armies in the past, but Lord Bruul’s force was large enough to push them back to the very gates of their stronghold.

As the Bloodbound approached, Runefather Bael-Grimnir ordered the magmaducts open, and a sheet of liquid rock crashed down onto the battlefield. A few of the Bloodbound chanced their luck and were incinerated.

Angered, Lord Bruul forced his vanguard onwards, determined to break the last line of Duardin resistance and gain entry to their stronghold, no matter the cost.

 

The Forces

This is quite a compact little Battleplan (though it could easily scale up to massive armies), suiting a small force of Fyreslayers against a larger Khornate horde.

Bloodbound
Lord of Khorne on Juggernaut (Lord Bruul)
Bloodstoker
Mighty Skullscrushers x 3
Blood Warriors x 10
Bloodreavers x 20
Khorgorath

This looks like a very small force for the Bloodbound (and it is!), perhaps representing just the lead elements that Lord Bruul is commanding in the initial assault of the stronghold. It is limited primarily by the number of Fyreslayers facing them (as we have only a small force of those) but still greatly outnumbers them in terms of Wounds, which is always the initial spot check for reasonably balanced forces in Age of Sigmar. However, the Bloodbound lack any monsters, and the battlefield itself will be somewhat against them.

The Bloodbound were actually owed a Triumph in the Realm of Fire (from way back when we played The Ritual!), but it turned out to be a book of spells that, at best, will be used by Lord Bruul for toilet paper…

Fyreslayers
Runefather on Magmadroth (Bael-Grimnir)
Battlesmith
Hearthguard Berzerkers x 5
Auric Hearthguard x 5
Vulkite Berzerkers x 20 (two units of 10)

This is our first battle using the Fyreslayers and, as they have a fair few special rules between them, we are only using a few units. All the basic infantry are in (the Berzerkers and Hearthguard), but we have trimmed down the possible characters. The Runefather on his Magmadroth is mentioned in the text of this Battleplan, so he is included as the leader of the force. A Battlesmith has been added too, to help prop up the line for what is likely to be a very nasty battle.

The Battleplan starts with the Fyreslayers not really knowing what they face (the Bloodbound have a hidden set up/movement rule), but there is a sheet of lava pouring across the battlefield that will seriously burn anything that tries to cross it – only a small tunnel allows safe crossing.

The Bloodbound are trying to get past the Fyreslayers and gain entry to the fortress, where they will start hacking apart all the women and children – the amount of innocents they slay (!) inside will determine the level of victory.

 

Deployment

The Fyreslayers deployed outside their massive stronghold with the Vulkite Berzerkers to the fore, the Heroes and Hearthguard Berzerkers behind them, and the Auric Hearthguard taking position in the single watchtower.

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The forces of the Bloodbound were wreathed in smoke, with the Fyreslayers only able to tell that something was moving out there…

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Battle Round One

The Battlesmith and Runefather both shouted orders to their nearby retinues, steadying any frayed nerves and ensuring all Duardin were fighting fit. The Hearthguard Berzerkers started to march towards the Numinous Occulum, thinking its thick walls would aid them in resisting the attentions of the Bloodbound.

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Meanwhile, behind the sheets of falling magma, something was approaching very fast and blood-curdling cries could be heard.

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Battle Round Two

The Hearthguard Berzerkers realised their short legs were not going to carry them to the Occulum before the Bloodbound hit their lines, and so they retreated back to defend the Runefather, the Vulkite Berzerkers moving to cover the gap that had appeared in their line.

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Just at that point, Lord Bruul appeared across the smoke-choked battlefield, shouting at his minions to encourage much blood-letting. The lead elements of the Blood Bound charged through the small gap in the magma fall, revealing Bloodreavers ahead of a Khorgorath and Skullcrushers.

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Battle Round Three

Lord Bruul, eager to get to grips with the Fyreslayers, shouted a mixture of encouragement and dire threats to his lead units, just as the Bloodstoker appeared at his side.

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With a single cry, the Bloodbound charged.

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The Bloodreavers hurled themselves at one of the Vulkite Berzerker retinues, though the solid shield wall meant there were few casualties on either side. However, the other Vulkite Berzerkers fared less well, with fully half their number succumbing to the Khorgorath, Skullcrushers, and their Juggernauts.

As the combatants fought and manoeuvred about one another, the final Bloodbound unit came into view, revealing a large force of Blood Warriors.

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Seeing their target, the Hearthguard Berzerkers moved to engage the Khorgorath, wounding it badly, but it seemed to be too late for the Vulkite Berzerkers, who were suffering terribly against the Skullcrushers.

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The Runefather was determined to hit the Bloodbound hard and quickly, aiming to demoralise them early in the battle, and he led his Magmadroth towards the largest concentration of Chaos worshippers, the Bloodreavers. Looming over his Vulkite Berzerkers, the Runefather bade his beast breath magma upon his enemies, immolating four reavers immediately. More fell to his great Latchkey Axe, and the Berzerkers finished them off.

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One Chaos assault had been stopped but, on the other flank, the last of the other Vulkite Berzerker retinue fell to the Skullcrushers.

 

Battle Round Four

With Lord Bruul still bellowing orders, the Bloodstoker started to whip the Skullcrushers into a frenzy, and they started to flank the watchtower and the Auric Hearthguard within. A solid charge collapsed one of the tower’s walls and the Duardin inside quickly fell to the ensorcelled blades of the Skullcrusher riders.

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Meanwhile, the Blood Warriors charged in the Vulkite Berzerkers who had seen off the Bloodreavers, but the attack was chaotically disorganised and the Fyreslayers were quick to take advantage of that. The Runefather decapitated three of them with a single swing of his axe and his Vulkite Berzerkers did their part too, leaving the Blood Warrior unit a shattered ruin within seconds.

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By this time, the Berzerker Hearthguard were facing Lord Bruul, the Bloodstoker and the Khorgorath, and despite ignoring all but their most grievous wounds, this attack was starting to wear down the elite Fyreslayers.

The Magmadroth unleashed its breath once again, this time on the remaining Blood Warriors, but they had seen what had happened to the reavers, and were ready to dodge this attack. However, they were less adept at avoiding the Runefather’s axe, which claimed all but one of them.

Seeing that the Hearthguard Berzerkers were in real trouble, the Battlesmith charged the Bloodstoker, landing several telling blows upon the Chaos Hero.while the Khorgorath itself was left limping badly after a series of axes blows had been landed by the Hearthguard. However, their attention perhaps should have been on Lord Bruul, who ordered his Juggernaut to trample the last of them.

 

Battle Round Five

The Bloodstoker whipped the Khorgorath into a frenzy, then ran for the stronghold, thinking he would have better sport with unarmed Duardin children rather than a battle-hardened Hero. The Skullcrushers were already ahead of them in this regard and had already gained entry to the stronghold, though the children had taken cover behind some particularly sturdy stone chairs and few fell.

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This left the Battlesmith to face the wounded Khorgorath alone.

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Despite its injuries, the Khorgorath was still fighting fit, and the Battlesmith soon fell to the ground, badly wounded or dead.

Lord Bruul himself found himself tied up with the last of the Vulkite Berzerkers, and raged as their shields turned aside every one of his blows. He roared in ever greater anger as one of their axes found its mark and wounded him.

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Seeing the Bloodstoker make his run for the stronghold, the Runefather turned his massive Magmadroth around to intercept him, but the Hero dodged the stream of magma that roared from the mouth of the beast.

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Gathering speed, the Magmadroth charged, and swallowed the Bloodstoker whole.

 

Battle Round Six

Lord Bruul was pleased his Skullcrushers had broken into the stronghold, but he also knew he needed to get more of his forces inside – forces that were rapidly dwindling. He was especially leery of the Runefather padding around outside the gates on the back of the Magmadroth.

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The Khorgorath lumbered forwards and managed to wound the Magmadroth with its bone tentacles, but it strayed too close tot he beast and was also eaten in short order.

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Trying to ignore the cries of the innocents getting butchered inside his stronghold, the Runefather lined up his Magmadroth on Lord Bruul, the last of the Bloodbound still standing outside.

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The Magmadroth pummelled the Chaos Lord, knocking him senseless. Lord Bruul never saw the Latchkey Axe rush towards his neck…

 

Conclusion

This was another very close one! Neither force managed to wipe out the other and so victory all came down to the number of casualties the Bloodbound managed to inflict upon the innocents inside the stronghold. They needed to kill at least 18 to force a draw (by leaving the Runefather and a single Vulkite Berzerker alive outside, actual victory was beyond them). They had accrued a total of 11 kills and, in the last turn, had dealt another 7 – it was only those sturdy stone chairs that saved the day!

So, ‘this’ close to a draw on the casualties within the stronghold, and just two models outside standing between the Bloodbound and a major victory!

As it was, the Fyreslayers earned themselves a minor victory – they had won and protected their stronghold, but at a heavy cost.

This was our first time with the Fyreslayers, so how did we find them?

Well, they have an awful lot of attacks that need 4+ to hit, and that begins to tell (though the re-rolling of all misses on two-axe Vulkites is nice). They are also quite fragile given the small units we used. The Hearthguard in particular (both flavours) could certainly use units of ten, and you should always expect heavy casualties on the Vulkites, unless they have shields (which are noticeably effective).

What is clear is that Fyreslayers benefit from the abilities of their Heroes a lot, and I would expect them to get noticeably more effective when more Heroes take to the field.

However, that will be a in a few battles to come!

 

The Story Continues…

The start of Balance of Power is getting very close now, but first we are going to take a quick trip back to the Realm of Metal for a Battleplan I have been wanting to try out ever since it was first published…