Review – General’s Handbook & Campaign Pack

The all new General’s Handbook for Age of Sigmar has landed on my desk, so we should dive in and see exactly what is what! This is the most important release for the game since its launch last year, so this review is going to be a little longer than usual. We’ll also take a look at the Campaign Pack that was sent to retailers at the same time…

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This is a book that suggests new ways of playing Age of Sigmar, using three main methods: Open Play, Narrative Play and Matched Play. Along the way, it includes Battleplans, the core rules and yes, a points system, so the General’s Handbook really does  contain everything needed to play Age of Sigmar with no other purchases (except, of course, an army!). I have not seen the price of this softback yet but £15 has been suggested – if that is the case, this may well be one of the best value books GW have ever produced.

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Open Play is the version of Age of Sigmar that many players have been using up to this point – simply set up two armies, choose a Battleplan (or not, though it is usually best), and then just go for it. So far, so simple.

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The main addition here is the rules set for multiplayer games. These are divided into Coalition of Death games which feature two opposing teams, and Triumph & Treachery games which have each player fighting on their own, no matter how many are on the table.

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New Battleplans have been created for these multiplayer games, two for Coalition of Death (King of the Hill and The Fog of War), and four for Triumph & Treachery (Field of Blood, Artefact of Ultimate Power, Might is Right, and Tower of Screaming Death).

It might be a shame that this is the section of the book that gets used the least, due to its lack of structure. That said, it does not consume many pages and if you are just looking for a knockabout fight one one club night between 5 players, it has everything you need for an evening’s entertainment. However, I think the majority of players will be flicking quickly to the other two sections…

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Narrative Play has been my hobby horse in Age of Sigmar, as any regular reader knows. We have been using a mixture of what is now Open and Narrative Play, using the Battleplans and storylines from the Realmgate Wars books to play through the main storyline of Age of Sigmar. So, I am going to have a healthy interest in this section!

Narrative Play is, quite simply, tying a storyline to the games you play. So, instead of just putting a Lord-Celestant on Dracoth on the table, you are instead using Lord-Celestant Vandus Hammerhand, who has been charged with liberating the Brimstone Peninsula from the vile hands of the Bloodbound. The models you use have backgrounds, histories, desires and goals, and the battles they participate bring them closer to or further from those goals. I heard one of the GW designers describe it as creating a movie on the tabletop where the two players are the directors, and that is a good fit. Age of Sigmar seems to do this particularly well, and a snap shot from an average battle could well serve as the basis from a scene in Lord of the Rings, say.

There are plenty of ideas on the types of narratives you can ‘forge’ in just the first two pages of this section, but they are backed up with  Battleplans too. Some, we have seen before in other books (Raging Fury, Hold or Die, War of Storms, and Consumed will all be familiar with hardcore Age of Sigmar players), but there are new Battleplans too.

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These are laid out in the same way as those from the Realmgate Wars books, with a four page narrative that describes the events behind the battle, followed by the Battleplan. Over the Abyss is set in the Realm of Fire, pitching the Celestant-Prime and his Stormcasts against a Bloodthirster and its minions across a bridge spanning the Black Chasm.

For the first time in Age of Sigmar, however, the exact forces have been listed on the Battleplan, so you can just grab the correct models and start playing )nothing stopping you from switching out units or entire forces, of course, to create your own narrative based on the Battleplan!). Don’t expect an easy ride if you are collecting from scratch though, as the Chaos force alone has eight units of Bloodletters and two Blood Thrones (among other things), so these are not small armies by any means. This is something, incidentally, that I was a little afraid of when I heard GW would be ‘speccing’ forces – they would be a little on the large side.

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The next Battleplan is called The Fate of Shyish, under the grand heading of The Death of Nagash.

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This is a ‘historical’ battle that took place long before the Realmgate Wars and is, I think (from my current limited understanding), a prequel of sorts to the Clash of Titans Battleplan found in Battletome: Everchosen. Which means, of course, you have a little campaign right there, using this Battleplan followed by Clash of Titans to tell the tale of Archaon’s long running fight with Nagash!

Again, the armies are listed and, again, they are on the large side (to be fair, this is an epic battle). However, the idea of 20 Hexwraiths, 120 Skeletons, 9 Crypt Ghouls and 10 Blood Knights (!) alone might make some players think twice about aiming for these lofty heights. And that is before you get to the Chaos army.

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This is followed by eight pages of photography, illustrating just how cool your gaming table is going to look if you ever amass armies of this scale…

Narrative Play does not end with linking Battleplans and telling your own story, however. GW has backed it up with a series of campaigns, systems whereby one battle affects another.

The first is Path to Glory, which will be familiar to Chaos players who picked up the ebooks from Black Library last Christmas. In a nutshell, you pick a leader, then roll for or choose their retinue. You then play through a variety of battles to accrue Glory Points. The player to first gain a certain number of Glory Points (the default is 10, but you can change that for shorter or longer campaigns – 10 will see you complete the campaign over a long Saturday or lazy weekend) wins!

The big change between what is presented here and the Path to Glory campaign released last Christmas, however, is that it is no longer restricted to Chaos forces.

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Warband tables have been included not only for Chaos forces, but also Stormcasts, Fyreslayers, Skaven, Ironjawz, Sylvaneth and Death armies. It is very easy to imagine that not only is this quite a simple list for GW to expand upon later with new forces, but a great many will start springing up, designed by players, to handle older forces – I would expect to see Freeguild warband tables appearing online very quickly!

Path to Glory has two Battleplans included, both from the Christmas release (The Monolith and Beast’s Lair – the latter is quite fun!), but you can use any Battleplans for this campaign. Simply agree a Battleplan with your opponent and fight!

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Map and Tree campaigns are covered next, giving further options for Narrative Play.

Map campaigns feature, well, a map that includes territories which must be fought over and claimed. Maps can be drawn, but the old Mighty Empires tiles would work very well here. The example given in this section actually uses a Realm of Battle board, but that might be going too far for most players!

Each territory claimed gives a bonus to your force in future battles (The City of Hallowguild increases your general’s command abilities by 6″, for example – and you can, of course, create your own territories), and the campaign is fought over a certain number of rounds (6 is suggested). The player with the most territories at the end of this is the winner.

Tree campaigns start with a single Battleplan and who wins that fight determines which Battleplan is played next – it is very simple, and you can see the example GW created for this book. The premise of this example campaign is simple, with two armies each possessing a Realmgate and wanting to take another away from their enemy. To do this, GW has created 6 unique Battleplans to play through the campaign (I’ll be giving this one a go!) but when you create your own Tree campaign, you can of course use any existing Battleplan rather than make yours from scratch. There are certainly enough to choose from in Age of Sigmar!

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Finally, Matrix campaigns are presented. This cross references strategies chosen by the players which results in special rules being applied to a Battleplan. For example, one player may opt to flank the enemy by advancing through the Grim Crags, while his enemy instead chooses to send out scouts to spy on the enemy. Using the matrix, this will result in one side being delayed while the other launches an ambush.

If you have never played a campaign, I will tell you the same thing that anyone else who has played a campaign has ever told you – try it. It does not matter which of these systems you go for, I just urge you to try campaign play. Other people may have told you that campaigns are the pinnacle of tabletop gaming.

Well.. they are right!

It would be a fond hope of mine that the General’s Handbook gets more players involved in campaign play. It really is a side of gaming that should be tried by everyone.

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The we come to Matched Play, the competitive points-based system for Age of Sigmar. And, I suspect, the part of the book that will get the most use.

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Presented first is a Ladder campaign system – not to be confused with Narrative Play, a ladder campaign is effectively a simple league system whereby players compete to be top dog, moving up the ‘rungs’ of the ladder by winning games. This is just a preamble, really, a way to structure competitive games, before we move into the meat of this section – Pitched Battles.

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Anyone who has played Fantasy Battle or 40k will be very comfortable with the Pitched Battles system. You have a set points value, which dictates how many points you have but also how many Leaders, Battleline units, Artillery and Behemoths you can have in your force. For example, at 2,000 points (defined as a Battlehost), you can have 1-6 Leaders, up to 4 each of Artillery and Behemoths, and you must have at least 4 Battleline units (all of these are defined a bit later on).

Rules are also added to handle some specific situations, such as summoning, Triumphs, how to reinforce armies and, of course the Three Rules of One (which limit spellcasting, extra attacks and make any roll of 1 a failure).

Summoning, incidentally, is handled well. You can think of it as a type of Deep Strike, but units come from a points ‘pool’ that is deducted from when they appear. This means you do not have to decide what you are summoning until the game is actually in progress, thus you can choose what to summon based upon the Battleplan and your opponents army (and your remaining points, of course).

Could be some interesting tactics coming from that…

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Six Battleplans are also included specifically for Pitched Battles, balanced so neither side is favoured: Take and Hold, Blood and Glory, Escalation, Border War, Three Places of Power, and Gifts from the Heavens. These are all one page Battleplans and they have less of the special rules we normally see in Age of Sigmar – but then, that is the point. They have been designed to give balanced objectives to competitive forces.

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A battle report follows, pitching 2,000 point Stormcast and Chaos Daemon armies against one another, giving a good demonstration how Pitched Battles come together.

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Then comes the part of the book that will probably get the most scrutiny – the Pitched Battle Profiles or, in other words, points!

This covers units from each of the Grand Alliances, giving each unit sizes (minimum and maximum), points costs, and their Battlefield Role (whether they are a Leader, Battleline unit, etc). The units that are Battleline (the equivalent of Core or Troops) are defined by the Grand Alliance they are from (so, Gors are Battleline for Chaos, for example) but some units can become Battleline if your entire army follows a specific allegiance within that Grand Alliance. For example, if your army is Warherd, then Ungor Raiders become Battleline (they are usually ‘other’, having no set role) or, if you are playing an Everchosen force, the Varanguard become Battleline (heavens help your opponent!).

And yes, all the old armies are included too, so you can use your Bretonnians and Tomb Kings in Matched Play with just this book (and Warscroll downloads)!

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Layered on top of all of this are Allegiance Abilities. These give flavourful abilities to an army, depending on the allegiance it has. These are split into three:

Battle Traits are army-wide rules. Command Traits are used by generals, while Artefacts can be given to Heroes. The Allegiance Abilities for Order armies are shown above, but others are included for Chaos, Death and Destruction (and I have a feeling we will see rules like this for sub-factions down the line…).

And that is the General’s Handbook!

With the core rules at the back, it really is everything someone needs to play Age of Sigmar (ably assisted by the free app or Warscroll downloads). If the £15 price mark is correct, there really is no reason not to pick this book up if you are even mildly curious about GW Fantasy. And if you are already well into Age of Sigmar… this is the book you have been looking for, no matter which of the three styles of play you end up using (or combining, for that matter!).

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The General’s Handbook was not the only thing retailers have received – the summer Season of War campaign is due to start, and there is plenty of support material in the bundle! The Season of War booklet forms the core of this package, and it outlines the campaign and the premise behind it.

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In a nutshell, great cities have been built by the forces of Order around Realmgates, from which the good guys can start smacking Chaos. The greatest is Hammerhal, the Twin-tailed city, so called because it straddles a Realmgate into both the Realms of Fire and Life. However, there is also the Living City (Alarielle’s own pad), the Greywater Fastness (full of engineers, and their careless construction has really annoyed the Sylvaneth), and the Phoenicum (where the Phoenix Temple is a Big Deal).

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The cities are the objectives for the campaign, and it is not just Chaos that will be wading in – you can be sure the forces of Death and Destruction will be playing a key part.

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Battles are arranged, and results recorded on the Season of War web site. However, interestingly, it is not just battle results that can be reported, but also painted Warscrolls of miniatures.

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Four new Battleplans are provided, ostensibly one for each week of the campaign. These do not require massive armies by any means (though they can handle them) with A Clash of Battle Lines requiring at least three units of ten models at the bottom end.

The other Battleplans are A Champion Emerges (battling Heroes), Might of Monsters (go big guys), and Raze and Ruin (which encourages – but does not make compulsory – the use of the Dreadhold).

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Finally, you get some cool counters to use during games (very useful!).

This week might well be a veritable hammer blow for Age of Sigmar. As well as the campaign to get everyone’s blood up, the General’s Handbook not only contains what many people have been asking for from the game, it also supports (very heavily) those who have already dived in. It is not a change in Age of Sigmar but a vast widening of its breadth.

Basically, if you are into GW Fantasy, there is now something in Age of Sigmar for you, whatever direction you are coming from.

And then, of course, there are those lovely Sylvaneth models whose pictures have just been leaked…

Ratty Reinforcements

Just gearing up to paint up an entire Extremis Chamber, but took some time out to sort some more rats out. Nothing too spectacular but having more basic Skaven means the armies they face can have more variation.

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I ended up doing another unit of Clanrats, along with some Plague Monks – the majority of these were actually painted as I watched the Brexit results come in live!

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I already have a Clans Verminus Warlord, but I managed to get this little chap cheap, and it is always good to have a variant representing different personalities in a campaign.

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The new Warlock Engineer is a bit more necessary as the Clans Skryre are going to be a thing (quite a big thing) in the Godbeasts battles.But more on that at a later date.

On my painting table at the moment is a new Chaos beastie that I was not going to bother with for a while, but once I figured out how quick/easy it was going to be to paint, I dived in. I also have some Craftworld Eldar I wanted to add for an upcoming game of 40k.

However, the next big project, hopefully starting a little later this week, is the beginning of the Extremis Chamber, kicking off with 12 (12!) Dracothian Guard. Over the next 2 or 3 weeks, I will be adding another dozen Dracothian Guard to that, along with two Stardrakes. The Khorne forces I did recently will be opposing them, along with a brand new Bloodthirster that I put together on Friday evening.

This is going to end up in a very big battle…

Battle Report – Sorcerous Duel

With Balance of Power complete, we are taking a quick break from the heavyweight campaign books (Godbeasts is next!) to find out what else has been going on in the Mortal Realms during this time. And we are not starting small, either – we are beginning with a titanic clash in the Realm of Metal.

 

The Story So Far

The Tyrant of Eyes, one of the Gaunt Summoners under Archaon’s command, had been tasked with opening the Palladhor, a Realmgate that linked Chamon directly to the Realm of Chaos, a highly strategic point in the ongoing war. However, it had long since been sealed and required complex rituals to unlock its magicks.

Unfortunately for the Tyrant, the Seraphon had been watching his efforts and arrived to stop him, in force. As the Slann Starmaster began working his own castings, the two engaged in a sorcerous duel from which only one could survive, throwing magical energies at one another while simultaneously trying to influence the Palladhor – one intent on keeping it sealed, the other working hard to open it.

Seeing the duel was balanced on a fine edge, Archaon himself flew into the fray, leading a large Chaos force against the Seraphon in pitched battle, intent on slaying the Slann Starmaster and leaving his Gaunt Summoner free to continue his work.

 

The Forces

This is a battle between two heavyweight forces – the Everchosen, led by Archaon himself, versus everything the Seraphon can throw at them!

The Everchosen
Arcahon, the Everchosen, Exalted Grand Marshal of the Apocalypse
Gaunt Summoner (the Tyrant of Eyes)
Exalted Hero
Varanguard x 3
Blightkings x 10 (two units of 5)
Blood Warriors x 10
Bloodreavers x 20
Chaos Warriors x 36 (three units of 12)
Chaos Knights x 10 (two units of 5)

This is an eclectic mix of Chaos forces, with representatives from Khorne, Nurgle, Tzeentch and, of course, the Everchosen’s own forces. With the Gaunt Summoner tied up with the ritual, this army has no ability to summon reinforcements until the Chaos portal is opened, but it has a number of incredibly destructive units, spearheaded by Archaon himself…

Seraphon
Slann Starmaster
Starpriest
Eternity Warden
Oldblood on Carnosaur
Saurus Guard x 15 (three units of 5)
Saurus Warriors x 40 (two units of 20)
Skinks x 40 (two units of 20)
Stegadon x 2
Bastiladon

The Seraphon have the numbers and, of course, the ability to summon yet more as they need so long as the Chaos portal remains closed (a Starhost of Saurus Knights will be waiting in the wings at the start of the battle). However, their biggest advantage might be in the Eternity Starhost that the Saurus Guard will form around the Starmaster, along with the Eternity Warden – they might just be able to protect the Starmaster long enough for him to throw the bulk of his efforts into thwarting the Gaunt Summoner’s ritual. However, with Archaon on the battlefield, it remains to be seen whether this will be enough…

This battle is all about the Slann Starmaster and the Gaunt Summoner, who are concentrating on opposing rituals to seal and open the Chaos portal respectively. While the two sorcerers can attack one another directly, they will have little other affect on the battlefield, and if one army can assault the enemy spellcaster directly, things will turn in their favour very quickly.

 

Deployment

The Gaunt Summoner took position within the Overlord Bastion, enjoying the protection of the thick walls. The Starmaster, however, deployed quite close to the front line, within the Numinous Occulum. His Saurus Guard and Eternity Warden remained close by to shield him from the inevitable attacks as it was clear Archaon himself would be leading the assault. A Bastiladon waddled close by to ward off the Everchosen.

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Faster moving units were placed by both sides on the opposite flank, both clearly hoping to launch a powerful hook that would begin rolling up the opposing force and put the enemy sorcerer under pressure.

 

Battle Round One

The opposing sorcerers quickly got into their rituals and targeted one another with lethal arcane energies. Both were wary of their opponent though and both managed to dissipate the magical attack.

Ever wary of the Bloodreavers breaking in battle, Archaon lent them his Inspiring Presence and threw a Mystic Shield over the closest Chaos Knights. Then, he ordered the attack and the entire Chaos line raced forward.

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The Seraphon began a more cautious advance, aiming to stymie the oncoming horde and protect their Starmaster, the Saurus Guard and a Stegadon lumbering forward to face the Chaos Knights.

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While missile fire from the Seraphon ranks proved ineffective, the Starpriest called the light of the heavens down upon the Oldblood on the Carnosaur – and then he charged!

Ripping into a unit of Chaos Warriors, the Carnosaur swallowed several whole and left the survivors reeling.

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However, it was not all going the way of the Seraphon. Close to the Starmaster, a unit of Saurus Knights charged into their Chaos counterparts but were quickly destroyed. More Saurus Knights engaged Chaos Knights on the opposite flank and, supported by a Stegadon, managed to make more of an impact.

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Battle Round Two

The Gaunt Summoner unleashed a massive magical assault upon the Starmaster, and the Slann reeled from the attack. The Starmaster was now wounded and the Chaos portal had opened a crack.

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The two armies were drawing closer now and fights began to erupt across the entire line. The crew of the Bastiladon chittered as they saw Archaon himself had moved into range and they launched a massive blast of energy at the Everchosen. Unfortunately, the beam simply bounced off Archaon’s defences and a splinter of force rebounded back into he Bastiladon, sending armour plates spinning into the air.

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The fighting intensified outside the Numinous Occulum where the Slann Starmaster had taken refuge to concentrate on his duel with the Gaunt Summoner. A Stegadon slammed into the Varanguard and managed to spear one with its horns.

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Saurus Warriors were having mixed fortunes across the battlefield. In the centre, one unit had ploughed into a group of Chaos Warriors and simply tore them apart – six fell to Celestial Clubs, another two to jaws and, after the nearbvy Carnosaur unleashed a mighty roar, the rest ran, deciding it was better to risk Archaon’s anger than the wrath of the Seraphon!

However, closer to the Starmaster, another unit of Saurus Warriors found their charge had little effect upon Chaos nights and were decimated when the Blood Warriors piled into them.

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A lone member of the Varanguard rode onto the battlefield as the Seraphon attempted to mass a flanking attack with their own knights. Sighting Saurus Knights close by, he charged, killing two then urging his mount onwards to finish off the rest.

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Archaon hurled an Arcane Bolt at the Bastiladon but was frustrated to see the magical energy simply bounce off its shell. Snarling, he cloaked himself in a Mystic Shield and then soared over the front line to land amidst the Seraphon.

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Urging Dorghar on, Archaon targeted the Bastiladon, wounding it with the Slayer of Kings while Dorghar swallowed three Saurus Guard whole.

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The Bastiladon’s huge tail flailed away but bounced off Dorghar’s thick hide. Then, the Saurus Guard attacked. Steeling themselves, they thrust their glaives deep into Dorghar’s flesh, badly wounding the beast and causing even Archaon some cause for concern (eight wounds in one attack!). Dorghar then reared up and its Nurglesque head spewed acid at the Slann Starmaster, though the Eternity Warden bravely absorbed the attack.

Ads the Varanguard slaughtered the Stegadon that had charged them, the Exalted Hero led both retinues of Blightkings against the Oldblood on the Carnosaur.

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Their attacks did little damage but the Oldblood and his mount were on fine form. The Exalted Hero was skewered by the Oldblood’s spear while the Carnosaur swallowed two Blightkings whole (and would probably regret that later…).

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Battle Round Three

Seeing the Chaos portal beginning to open, the Slann Starmaster summoned his arcane energies to hold it form and stop it gaping any wider, but the Gaunt Summoner took advantage of this distraction to launch a magical attack that threatened to kill the Starmaster outright. The Slann directed a portion of the energies to the Eternity Warden, who was fried instantly, but the Starmaster was still badly hurt.

Seraphon reinforcements appeared around the Starmaster, trying to fill in the gaps that had appeared around him. Another Eternity Warden appeared, along with another Stegadon, though both were a little too far away from the Slann to be of immediate help. Further away, more Saurus Knights appeared to help attack the far flank and perhaps launch a direct attack upon the Gaunt Summoner.

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A unit of Chaos Warriors had closed with a large group of Skinks, but the Seraphon were too wily to trade blows with the heavily armoured soldiers, and they slipped past the line, flowing like water to race towards the Overlord Bastion and the Gaunt Summoner inside.

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Meanwhile, the battle outside the Numinous Occulum was rapidly heating up as Archaon fought hard to break through the line the Seraphon had mustered and attack the Slann Starmaster directly.

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The Bastiladon blasted Dorghar with its energy beam at point blank range, wounding the beast though some of the energy rolled back and wounded the Seraphon too. However, the Bastiladon’s thick carapace proved to be resistant to even the Slayer of Kings and Archaon raged as his mighty sword simply bounced off the touch scales. The Everchosen then turned his attention to the Saurus Guard, wiping out one unit completely, but he failed to notice the small but agile form of the Scar Veteran on Cold One darting in, hammering Dorghar with a War Pick. Blood gushed from Dorghar, and the beast was forced to the ground, now badly injured (Archaon and Dorghar had been reduced to a single wound!).

Elsewhere, there were mixed fortunes on both sides. Saurus Warriors turned upon the Bloodreavers and absolutely savaged them, leaving only a small handful of survivors alive but, close by, the Blightkings managed to bring down the Oldblood and Carnosaur with their infected weapons.

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Beginning to feel the effects of his wounds, Archaon botched his casting of a Mystic Shield upon himself, and of an Arcane Bolt he tried to throw at the Starmaster. Dorghar had lost so much blood, it could barely raise any of its heads, let alone attack.

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Blood Warriors charged into the Scar Veteran, hoping to gain the notice of the Everchosen but, despite inflicting several hideous wounds, the Scar Veteran lived.

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The Varanguard threw their weight into the attack as well, charging into the Saurus Guard. Another of the Varanguard fell, but they had taken four Saurus Guard with them, leaving the way clear to the Starmaster.

However, the Scar Veteran was still fighting hard and he unleashed a flurry of attacks with his War Pick. Such was his fury that Archaon had no choice but to goad Dorghar into one last effort, ordering the beast into the sky to flee the battle (the Scar Veteran had ‘killed’ Archaon but, of course, the Everchosen cannot die in a battle like this, so he departed rather quickly instead)!

The Skinks racing towards the Gaunt Summoner in the Overlord Bastion were rapidly developing problems of their own. The Blightkings, having finished off the Oldblood, had reversed their advance and fallen back to attack the Skinks. The Skinks nimbly avoided them but a reinforcing unit of Chaos Warriors appeared to cut them off.

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The Skinks were trapped!

 

Battle Round Four

The Gaunt Summoner chanted with glee as the Chaos portal was flung open by his arcane efforts, then cried out in terrible pain as the Slann Starmaster exacted revenge and burned his mind, leaving the Gaunt Summoner all but crippled. Despite the satisfaction gained from this, the Starmaster realised that not only had he lost the battle but was in very real danger of being killed himself.

To their credit, the surviving Bloodreavers were still fighting but their life span against the Saurus Warriors they faced could barely be measured.

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The Saurus Warriors quickly finished them off, then raced to the Overlord Bastion, determined to end the reign of one Gaunt Summoner at least.

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The Skinks, realising they were doomed, turned their attention away from the Blightkings and Chaos Warriors who surrounded them and instead hurled their celestial javelins into the Overlord Bastion before they were slaughtered by the Chaos Warriors. However, it was a newly arrived Bastiladon that managed to line up the perfect shot and the cry of the Gaunt Summoner echoed across the battlefield as a massive beam of energy vapourised him where he stood.

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While the Starmaster could take some satisfaction that the Gaunt Summoner had fallen, he was all too aware that Chaos Knights had broken into the Numinous Occulum. While three tied up the advancing Eternity Warden, their leader jumped off his horse and scaled the building to reach the Starmaster. Already badly wounded from his duel with the Gaunt Summoner, the Slann could offer no real resistance and faded from reality as the Chaos Warrior’s sword was thrust towards his heart…

 

Conclusion

Despite having lost the Gaunt Summoner and seeing Archaon driven from the battlefield, this remains a strong win for Chaos – they opened the portal and killed the Slann Starmaster, the two conditions needed for a major victory!

This was a good, solid battle from start to finish, and it could have been anyone’s game right until the Chaos portal was opened as the focus really is on the duel between the sorcerers (though a sorcerer getting immolated by an energy beam does sort of help the matter!). The Sorcerers both have to balance themselves between attacking their enemy and opening/closing the Chaos portal. Get that wrong and your sorcerer can be on the wrong end of some powerful magical feedback, as the Starmaster found out in this battle!

 

The Story Continues…

Well, Archaon remains quite a brute on the battlefield! No doubt we will be seeing more of his machinations in the future but, next time, we will be hopping off to the Celestial Realm, where followers of Slaanesh are trying hard to find their master. But have they gone unnoticed by the Seraphon (short answer: umm, no)?

Quad Khorne Killers

Meant to finish these last weekend, but watching the results of the referendum last night gave me a chance to polish them off.

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The result: the three new recently released Bloodbound heroes were finished, along with the chieftain from Warhammer Quest (giving us another new character to try out!).

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The Slaughterpriest is probably my favourite in terms of sculpting. For all these models I went with the same paint scheme as the rest of my Bloodbound, derived from the guide in the Age of Sigmar starter set.

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Coincidentally (or not, perhaps someone at GW intended this), this now gives me a total of eight lackeys for the Bloodbound, meaning I now have a full set of Gorechosen.

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The new Aspiring Deathbringer is probably my favourite in terms of pose, and the texture on his helmet came up really nicely.

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And finally, the Drakoath Chieftain. He will probably get more use in Warhammer Quest than on the battlefield, but I am guessing the Silver Tower models will make the odd appearance in the next campaign book or two, so at least I am ready.

I also managed to get quite a bit done on a bunch of Plague Monk and Clanrat reinforcements, which will mean my Skaven forces can take part in some larger, more convincing battles. Should be able to polish them off this weekend, and then it will be all about the Dracothian Guard!

Delving into the Silver Tower

So, we had our first games of the new Warhammer Quest this weekend!

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I hadn’t finished all the characters in the box set (just a couple to go), but we had more than enough from my Age of Sigmar collection to be getting along with. I picked the Knight-Questor, while Andy wanted to try out the Excelsior Priest and his Gryph-hound. James was particularly brave and went with the Knight-Venator – long-term readers of this blog will know how useless the Venator has been in Age of Sigmar, and so we wanted to see if maybe he preferred flying down tunnels (short answer: no, not really).

We gave the first trial a bash, and managed to get through it in less than an hour, carving apart Acolytes and Horrors as we went. Suitably empowered by a fragment of the Gaunt Summoner’s amulet, we felt confident enough to up our game and went for one of the difficult trials – the Trial of Ghur.

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Things went well… initially. There was a bit of plonking around as we generally made life difficult for one another (one person exploring a new area before finishing the monsters in another), and the Tzaangors made their first appearance – they proved a bit tougher than the average denizen of the tower, I can tell you. However, even when the Ogroid turned up, we dealt with it before it could get a lick in.

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Then we got to the final chamber, and things went sideways.

James flew his Knight-Venator into the chamber and then activated a magic item that meant he was effectively invisible to the monsters. I had been running to catch up to the others and so had not quite got to the chamber leaving, as you can see in the photo above, the Excelsior Priest and his Gryph-hound to be the only ones in full view of the monsters.

They came forward like a steamroller, and flattened both hound and priest in a single turn, leaving me (the Knight-Questor) more or less surrounded by Acolytes while the Horrors went after the Knight-Venator, who was now revealed.

I was very confident, with my Guard Stance active – but a series of 1s and 2s left the Knight-Questor on the floor too.

So, it was down to the Knight-Venator to save the day – which, of course, was never going to happen. A barrage of attacks from the Horrors blew him apart.

We failed in just our second quest!

We’ll be having another bash of Warhammer Quest very soon, perhaps going with a ‘themed’ group (all Stormcast, all Fyreslayer or all Khorne seem to be the popular choices).

I’ll let you know how we get on…

The Angry Hunt

This weekend was all about reinforcements for Khorne…

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This was prompted by an upcoming battle involving quite a few Stormcast Extremis, pitted against Daemons of Khorne. The problem is that if you want a respectable amount of Dracothian Guard on the table, then you need a fair shed load of daemons to have any chance of facing them.

While doing daemons for that battle, however, I managed to lump in one more for a battle further down the road.

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In Godbeasts, there is a battle involving four Daemon Princes and while I already have a Daemon Prince of Khorne, we have been using the model to represent an ascended Lord Khul – so, it seemed right and proper to do another Daemon Prince, especially as Lord Khul makes an appearance in Godbeasts.

Enter Samus, a Daemon Prince from the Horus Heresy range…

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I have had my eye on this model for a while, specifically as a variant Daemon Prince for Age of Sigmar and, when I had the chance to pick him up fairly cheaply, I snagged him (also the Horus Heresy Nurgle Daemon Prince, which I am planning to have in the same battle).

Samus is quite large, so I may have to look at adjusting his Wounds during the fight, but he looks every inch the part of an angry leader of Khornate Daemons!

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Painting-wise, I chose to use the same scheme as the Bloodletters and Bloodthirster (as shown by Duncan on Warhammer TV), so he was a doddle.

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In the forthcoming battle, retinues of Bloodletters need to stall the Dracothian Guard’s advance, so I added two more units (bringing the total up to 50 – not quite enough to make a proper showing against the Extremis, but enough to build upon with other forces).

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I also polished off a Herald on Juggernaut to lead them.

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Finally, some models I have been meaning to do ever since Age of Sigmar came out – Flesh Hounds! I was going to wait until plastics were done for these daemons but that does not seem to be forthcoming, so I took the plunge (also acquired these at a good price, making the decision easier).

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And if I was doing Flesh Hounds anyway, it made sense to paint up the Karanak that I had acquired on eBay, even though he will not be present in the battle (lumping in very similar models into painting ‘batches’ in this way really speeds things up – or, at least, means you get more done for very little extra effort).

For this Khorne force I need to add another Bloodthirster (going to finally go for the one with the whopping big axe) but, before that, I want to crack through the Dracothian Guard. I have put three quarters of them together (going to be going for a total of 24, arranged into the two echelons, with three riders per unit), and will be making a start on the first 12 very soon – before that though, I want to take a little diversion with Skaven, adding another unit of Clanrats and Plague Monks for some upcoming battles, along with a couple of new Heroes.

Battle Report – Never Give Up

It has been another long road but, finally, we are at the end – this is the final battle in Balance of Power, and Archaon is unleashing the full weight of his hordes.

 

The Story So Far

The Stormcasts had been fighting hard within the world- sphere of Golgeth, in an effort to keep the Great Lord of Change Kiathanus imprisoned. They had taken the Temple of the Truthsayer and using the Realmgate there, ascended Mount Kronus. As the full weight of Golgeth’s strange time and gravity fluctuations took their toll on the Stormhost, they saw a greater foe awaited them.

Row upon row of warriors of the Everchosen, flanked by Tzeentchian warriors and daemons marched forwards, ready to smash Sigmar’s soldiers apart. And, above them all, hovered Archaon on the back of Dorghar.

The Everchosen reached out to grasp the sigil that granted the true name of Kiathanus, giving him eternal power over the greater daemon.

Lord-Celestant Vandus shouted a challenge at the Everchosen, even as the immensely superior hordes of Chaos closed range. The Stormcasts were hideously outmatched, but Vandus swore that of himself and Archaon, only one would leave the battlefield this day.

 

The Forces

The Stormcasts are seriously outclassed in this battle. Not only is Archaon present, not only are the Stormcasts already outnumbered – the forces of Chaos can constantly replenish their casualties. All that is left is for the Stormcasts to last as long as they can and maybe, just maybe, slay the Everchosen himself…

The Everchosen
Archaon, the Everchosen, Exalted Grand Marshal of the Apocalypse
Varanguard x 3
Chaos Sorcerer of Tzeentch
Chaos Lord
Exalted Hero
Herald of Tzeentch on Disc
Chaos Warriors x 60 (five units of 12)
Chaos Knights x 5
Pink Horrors x 20 (two units of 10)
Flamers of Tzeentch x 3
Exalted Flamer of Tzeentch
Burning Chariot

Whichever way you look at it, this army is just plain mean. The sixty Chaos Warriors alone would be enough to crush just about any army that can be fielded, they have a great deal of daemonic support, and are led by the Varanguard. Best of all, any losses can be quickly replenished through the Realmgate on the battlefield.

Stormcast Eternals
Lord-Celestant on Dracoth (Vandus Hammerhand)
Lord-Relictor (Ionus Cryptborn)
Lord-Castellant
Gryph-hound
Knight-Venator
Retributors x 10 (two units of 5)
Decimators x 5
Protectors x 5
Liberators x 25 (five units of 5)
Judicators x 10 (two units of 5)
Prosecutors x 9 (three units of 3)

In any other battle, this would be an impressive line up, especially with that hard core of twenty Paladins. Against the might of the Everchosen though? The Stormcasts can only hope they last long enough to at least delay Archaon…

 

Deployment

With Archaon near the Realmgate, the Chaos force was all set to crush the Stormcasts. Chaos Warriors made up the front line, supported by daemons, knights and a Sorcerer Lord.

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The Stormcasts lined up to receive the offensive. The Liberators with shields formed a line across the pass, with the Paladins directly behind them, ready to plug any breakthrough. For his part, Vandus planned to punch through the Chaos forces himself in an attempt to reach the Everchosen. Most of the Stormcast missile troops were placed on the right flank to annihilate the oncoming Chaos Warriors with the aim to give the Prosecutors and Vandus room to move forward.

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Vandus himself took position on the highest point of the battlefield to overlook the oncoming horde.

 

Battle Round One

The Stormcasts reacted quickly as they saw the size of the Everchosen’s legion coming towards them. As the Lord-Castellant shone his lantern upon the Liberators in the front line, the missile troops on the right made a short advance to bring their weapons into range sooner.

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The Knight-Venator aimed carefully at the Exalted Flamer within the Ophidian Archway but missed (naturally – anyone following these battles will know of my long-running struggle to get the Venator doing anything approaching reasonable performance in battle).

Next to Archaon, the Realmgate pulsed, affecting both time and gravity nearby. Some Chaos units found themselves speeding up while others were frozen in place. As the Sorcerer Lord used the power of the Numinous Occulum to Pierce the Veil of time and Mystic Shields were raised across the line of Chaos Warriors, the entire legion surged forwards.

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Floating between the Ophidian Archway and Numinous Occulum, the Exalted Flamer breezed carelessly forward and unleashed a torrent of flame at Vandus Hammerhand. The Lord-Celestant was bathed in magical fire, leaving him distinctly singed.

 

Battle Round Two

As Vandus retreated from his lofty perch to seek Sigmar’s healing from the Lord-Relictor, the missile troops on the right flank started to wear down the approaching Chaos Warriors.

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However, the Stormcasts were dismayed to find that slain Chaos Warriors were quickly replaced by reinforcements brought forward by Archaon. As more Mystic Shields were draped over the advancing units, Chaos Warriors started to reach the Stormcasts all along the front line.

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Worse, the Varanguard had managed to make their way to the front and they prepared to break the Stormcast shield line.

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On the right, Chaos Warriors charged the Judicators and their Liberator escort, but to little avail for the Stormcast line held while two Chaos Warriors fell to the ground.

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In the centre, the Varanguard smashed into a retinue of Liberators, sending three back to Sigmar in short order – but the shield line managed to hold them fast.

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Battle Round Three

The vagaries of time and gravity on this battlefield were beginning to take their toll, and the Varanguard seemed slightly confused as a wave of cognitive dissonance washed over them, slowing their blows.

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On the left flank, the Battle of the Hill had begun, with Chaos Warriors and Knights assaulting the Liberators that had taken their place upon its summit. Seeing the Liberators beginning to suffer under the continued assaults, the Lord-Castellant waded in, quickly dispatching one Chaos Knight.

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As the Lord-Relictor worried why Sigmar was not answering his prayers to heal the Lord-Celestant, Vandus led a retinue of Retributors into battle with the Varanguard. Mighty flashes of lightning erupted from their hammers, and the Varanguard were neatly dispatched, relieving pressure at the front. Just a little further down the line, the Decimators had moved forward to support the Liberators, their great axes hacking apart Chaos Warriors with speed.

Unseen by the Stormcasts already engaged in battle, a new unit of Varanguard appeared behind the Stormcasts line.

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Urging their mounts ahead at full tilt, the Varanguard caught the Lord-Relictor completely unprepared and simply mowed him down from behind.

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Their momentum carried them ever onwards and they reached Vandus Hammerhand within seconds, a glaive piercing his armour and robbing the Stormcasts of their general in an instant. Within seconds, the Stormcasts had been robbed of their highest-ranking leaders and now only the Lord-Castellant was left.

As the Sorcerer Lord stepped into the Numinous Occulum and prepared to fully harness its powers, Pink Horrors hurled a nasty Arcane Bolt straight at the Lord-Castellant, leaving him with a nasty wound. Magical fire erupted from the Chaos lines as the Daemons of Tzeentch started to add their weight to the attack, felling two Liberators and the Gryph-hound – though the Lord-Castallent found himself healed by the fire!

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The fighting intensified in the Battle of the Hill with both Liberators and Chaos Knights falling, while the Lord-Castellant was injured further. Still, he vowed not to give the Chaos forces an inch.

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The sight of the lone Liberator armed with a Grandhammer atop the hill’s summit was enough to galvanise other Stormcasts to action.

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Battle Round Four

As more Chaos reinforcements entered the battle, it was becoming clear that the Stormcast line was beginning to buckle from the continued assault. A Burning Chariot of Tzeentch slid over a Retributor, taking off the Stormcast’s head, before turning its attention to the Judicators on the right flank. However, not much else moved as units were locked in battle across the line.

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The crossbow armed Judicators were beginning to suffer under the attacks of Chaos Warriors and Pink Horrors, but a lone Stormcast held firm, keeping the attention of the Chaos units at the foot of the rise the missile troops had positioned themselves upon where the survivors could continue to rain volleys down upon them. However, it could not last. As the Judicator was blasted apart by fire from the Pink Horrors, the forces of Chaos were finally free to surge forwards.

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In the Battle of the Hill, the lone Liberator bravely beat back the Chaos Knights and Warriors who continued in their attempts to gain the summit.

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Despite smashing another Chaos Knight into dust, the Liberator was finally overwhelmed – the hill now belonged to the Everchosen, even as the Varanguard broke another retinue of Liberators in the centre.

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Seeing no chance to retake the hill, the nearby Prosecutors took to the sky and soared forward, hoping to at least distract the Chaos forces at worst, and maybe launch an attack directly upon Archaon at best.

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Meanwhile, on the other side of the battlefield, more Prosecutors surrounded the Burning Chariot and finally broke it apart with their Javelins and Trident.

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In the centre, the fighting had intensified greatly, as Retributors concentrated their hammers on the newly arrived Varanguard, bringing down one and seriously injuring another. However, reinforcements for the Varanguard were already on their way…

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Archaon’s own lieutenant, a Chaos Lord of the Everchosen, had finally waded into battle, facing the surviving Decimators while urging his Chaos Warriors forward. However, the forces of Chaos seemed a little cowed by the Decimators’ axes, which claimed Chaos Warriors and Pink Horrors, and even managed to wound the Chaos Lord.

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Battle Round Five

If the Stormcast line had begun to buckle before, it was now broken and Sigmar’s warriors were now in a desperate fight for their lives.

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The Sorcerer Lord and Herald of Tzeentch both hurled Arcane Bolts into the surviving Retributors, destroying one retinue, while the bolts of Pink Horrors finally succeeded in bringing down the Decimators, where the swords and axes of Chaos Warriors had failed.

On the far left, Chaos Warriors and Flamers of Tzeentch swept over the hill to confront the Protectors who had been holding position behind it, even as the Chaos Knights turned round and rode down the Prosecutors who had flown over the Chaos line.

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The Exalted Hero (the same one who had ended the reign of the Watcher King on the last battle – one more great victory and he might be made a great Lord of Chaos!) led a charge to relieve the pressure on the Varanguard, and a retinue of Chaos Warriors surged forward.

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However, the Retributors picked their targets and brought down not only another of the Varanguard but ended the career of the Exalted Hero too! However, the Retributors paid for this staunch defence and, when the dust settled, only one of them was still fighting.

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Those clashes had taken their toll upon the Stormcasts and there were precious few of them left. As the surviving Prosecutors manoeuvered to find some way past the Chaos forces, the Protectors retreated, trying to buy more time.

However, that was simply not an option for the last Retributor who was now surrounded by powerful enemies.

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Even as the Exalted Hero was toppled by his hammer, the multitude of Chaos Warriors finally managed to find the cracks in the Retributor’s armour, and sent him back to Sigmar.

One retinue of Prosecutors managed to find a path free of Chaos Warriors, but they had not moved quickly enough…

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Battle Round Six

Even as a new Burning Chariot appeared amidst the surging forces of Chaos, a salvo from the Pink Horrors managed to bring down a single Prosecutor.

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Waves of magical fire washed over the Protectors on the other side of the battlefield, before the survivors were completely swamped by a mass of Chaos followers, all eager to claim victory.

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Even their long glaives could not hold back the hordes and the light of the Protectors was quickly extinguished as the Varanguard rode them down.

A similar tactic was employed upon the last Prosecutors, and they quickly found themselves swamped by Chaos Warriors, Pink Horrors and the Exalted Flamer.

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Incredibly, though badly wounded, the last two Stormcasts on the battlefield managed to fend off the worst of the attacks. Spreading their wings, they both leapt into the sky to leave the forces of Chaos far below them.

The mighty force the Stormcasts had assembled had been shattered, leaving just two Prosecutors to return to Sigmar and report on the defeat. However, even these two survivors were an insult to Archaon and he raged as he watched them disappear over the horizon…

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Conclusion

Well, technically that was a major victory for the Stormcasts as the Everchosen had to kill all of them to win the battle – but by Sigmar, that was close and I think we can all agree that, in terms of the storyline, this was a big loss for the Stormcasts.

This was another really, really close battle and with just another choice or two, it could so easily have gone the other way – for my money, sending the Burning Chariot after the Protectors might have been the final tipping point as there was already a huge amount of forces lined up against the Paladins while the Prosecutors could probably have used just one more unit against them to stop them fleeing.

Still, a nicely doomed battle for the Stormcasts and at least two Prosecutors managed to salvage some honour out of it.

 

The Story Continues…

So, dark times abound for the forces of Order. However, Archaon is about to hatch another diabolical plan, one that will give him all the Mortal Realms – as covered in the Godbeasts campaign book.

Before that though, we will be taking another look around the realms to see what else is going on. We will visiting the Clans Pestilens as they continue their quest for the Thirteen Great Plagues, the Seraphon will be having a crack at the forces of the Everchosen, and it seems as though the Stormcast Eternals are about to unleash a brand new weapon in their fight against Chaos.

Stay tuned for more action from the Realmgate Wars!