We have been playing through the Clash of Wills campaign in the General’s Handbook (the Tree Campaign detailed within), and we have arrived at the final battle!
The Skaven of the Blackblood Weald have suffered two calamitous defeats at the hands of the minions of the Vampire Lord Helmut von Drakenspyre, and are now very much on the back foot. To make matters worse, von Drakenspyre himself is taking command away from the hands of his flunkies (first a Wight King and then his Vampire Queen on board her Coven Throne) and is taking to the battlefield himself atop his faithful Zombie Dragon, Rattles.
Into the Realm of Fire
The Skaven have been pushed right back through their Realmgate and so this fight takes place within the Realm of Fire. Missile weapons catch fire here (not relevant to the Undead, though the Skaven may benefit), and the Skaven are trying to hastily build their defence line so not all units may be available to them at the start of the battle. For their part, von Drakenspyre can opt to send a single unit on a flank march to hit the Skaven unawares.
Other than that, it is a straight fight to the death! If the Skaven manage to win this battle, they will have yanked the iron out of the fire as they smash von Drakenspyre’s main army and (maybe) finish off the Vampire Lord himself. However, if the Undead win, it will be a campaign victory to them!
These are the two forces:
Warlock Engineer x 2
Stormfiends x 3
Stormvermin x 20
Clan Rats x 50 (two units of 20, one unit of 10)
Jezzails x 5
Command Trait: Great Destroyer
Artefact of Chaos: Daemon Weapon
The Warlord from previous battles has been dismissed (coming back with too many tales of defeat is never healthy) and replaced by his own boss, a Verminlord Corruptor. The Skaven have also strengthened their gunline, throwing everything they can at the advancing Undead horde.
Vampire Lord on Zombie Dragon (Helmut von Drakenspyre)
Wight King with Baleful Tomb Blade and Skeletal Steed
Black Knights x 10
Grave Guard x 30
Skeletons x 60 (two units of 30)
Zombies x 30
Command Trait: Red Fury
Artefact of Death: Tomb Blade
This force is a round 2,000 points under Matched Play rules. As you might see, I have managed to complete some painting for this fight, and the Undead have been bolstered by the presence of Black Knights and a nice big block of Grave Guard, so we shall see how they do in their first outing (I have an idea that the Black Knights might be the unit that flank marches the Skaven).
The Wight King has been upgraded with a Skeletal Mount, allowing him to more easily use the Deathless Minions rule (effectively giving all Undead a 6+ Feel No Pain), and the Tomb Banshee has been fired (she never really lived up to her promises, but that is what you get for trusting a spirit), replaced by the Cairn Wraith – less subtle but more killy, as the Orruks say.
Finally, there is von Drakenspyre himself, and there is a fair amount of sickness there, it has to be said. A Vampire Lord on a Zombie Dragon is nothing to sniff at during the best of times, but he has been pumped up by the Red Fury (practically guaranteeing he will attack twice every turn) and the Tomb Blade will give him back a wound every time he kills a rat. That, combined with his Blood Chalice, will mean that he is going to be very, very tough for the Skaven to kill…
Despite having to erect a hasty defence line, the Skaven responded well under the mastery of their new overlord, the Verminlord Corruptor. Only a Warlock Engineer, some Clanrats and the Jezzail teams failed to respond immediately to the call.
The Stormvermin took the place of honour in the centre, directly opposite the Grave Guard, while all the other rats glanced nervously behind themselves as they heard the sounds of hooves – the Black Knights had been sent on a flanking march.
Battle Round One
The Undead force surged forward, the Grave Guard under a glittering Mystic Shield cast by von Drakenspyre. As the Skaven shuffled nervously, the Black Knights charged onto the battlefield.
Such was their momentum, the Black Knights sailed straight into the closest Clanrats. Though one Black Knight fell under their knives, six Skaven were spitted on lances and another five turned tail and ran.
Not to be out done, the few Skaven who had not turned up early for the battle decided to make an appearance. The Warlock Engineer immediately assessed the situation and used his Warp Condenser to zap a Black Knight into dust.
As the Skaven began their general advance and the Verminlord moved to counter the Black Knights, the Plagueclaw Catapult hurled its payload of filth high into the air. The missile immolated mid-flight, and crashed down among the Grave Guard, smashing nine of them with this single shot.
Meanwhile, the Warlock Engineer piloting the Doomwheel desperately tried to retain control of his machine. Spinning it around, he ploughed into the Black Knights, grinding the last of them into the dust of Aqshy.
As the lines closed, the Verminlord chittered instructions to his Stormvermin and, knowing the price of failure, they surged ahead of the rest of the army.
With a crack that resounded across the battlefield, the Stormvermin charged at full tilt into the Grave Guard. Despite von Drakenspyre’s Mystic Shield and their own heavy armour, the halberds of the Stormvermin made short work of the dead, leaving only a scattering of crushed bone and ancient armour.
Battle Round Two
Seizing the initiative, the Verminlord rattled off more instructions to his underlings, but a Warlock Engineer got a little too excited as he tried to summon Warp Lightning, and gave himself a nasty shock from his Warp Condenser.
As the Verminlord cast a Plague that rotted the bones of the Skeleton Warriors in front of them, Clanrats hastily moved to block the pass. However, the Warlock Engineer controlling the Doomwheel saw the same target at the same time and, in his haste, two Clanrats were crushed under its bulk. That proved too much for another Clanrat, who promptly fled.
The Stormvermin swung through the hole they had created in the Undead line, and moved to directly threaten von Drakenspyre. Seeing the danger, he tried to get his Zombie Dragon to take to the air.
Then, as the Jezzails, Ratling Gun and Plagueclaw all concentrated on a single unit of Skeleton Warriors, smashing ten of them apart, the Stormvermin charged.
Cursing his mount as it failed to get airborne, von Drakenspyre jabbed down with his lance in an effort to keep the Skaven at bay, but the Stormvermin swarmed over the Zombie Dragon, hacking it apart as they went. Von Drakenspyre tried to escape himself, but ended up beheaded by a halberd.
Though the Undead army had lost their general, they were not dismayed. They did not feel anything…
The Doomwheel tried to sweep over the last Skeleton Warriors before it, but quickly got bogged down as they jabbed ineffectually at its wooden frame.
The Wight King, seeing his master gone, now assumed control of the remaining Undead forces, and raised his sword, directing the Cairn Wraith and more Skeleton Warriors to follow him – he could easily see the greatest threat were the Stormvermin, and it was his intention to destroy them quickly.
Meanwhile, a small unit of Clanrats had steeled themselves to defend a pass on the other side of the battlefield, but squeaked in fear when they saw just how many Zombies they faced.
The Zombie horde crashed into them, killing two and persuading more to run but, because of the narrowness of the pass, the Zombies could not bring their full weight to bear, and so the Skaven managed to hold their ground.
Things were not going so well for the Skaven in the centre though. The combined force the Wight King had brought with him hit hard and fast.
Though five Skeleton Warriors fell to the halberds and both the Wight King and Cairn Wraith were damaged, the few surviving Stormvermin quickly lost their nerve and sprinted from the battlefield. It was healthier facing the Verminlord than the Wight King (not true, but they were convinced of it at the time).
Battle Round Three
The Verminlord could see the Undead force was teetering on the edge of collapse, and was determined not to give it time to recover. He directed his Warlock Engineers to maximum effort, and one used his Warp Condenser to immolate the Cairn Wraith, blasting it out of existence.
Meanwhile, the Skeleton Warriors accompanying the Wight King were pummelled mercilessly by the combined might of the Plagueclaw Catapult, Ratling Gun and Stormfiends, who had managed to close range.
Th Wight King was immolated by the Warpfire of one of them, leaving the Undead leaderless and without diuection.
The few Clanrats holding the past quickly retreated and were replaced by a much larger unit that had arrived late to the battle. Straining, they succeeded in keeping the Zombies back a little longer.
However, without their leaders, the effectiveness of the remaining Undead was greatly reduced. As the Skaven swept forward, the last Skeletons and Zombies gave little resistance.
The Verminlord Corruptor had saved his Realmgate and ensured the Undead were unlikely to strike again for a long time…
A campaign victory for the Skaven!
It just goes to show, it is not how many battles you win that counts, but which battles you win! The Skaven had been getting a right kicking from the Undead for the first two battles of the campaign but managed to pull the fat out of the fire right at the end.
The heroes of this battle were probably the Stormvermin. They smashed their opposite numbers apart (the Grave Guard) with great speed, a loss the Undead could have endured. However, they were then able to get the drop on the Vampire Lord and his less than stellar saves meant the Undead were without a general. That was not such a big issue in itself, as they still had two Heroes (the Wight King and Cairn Wraith) to support the likes of Skeleton Warriors, who are mean in their own right, but it cost them both mobility and their last hard-hitting unit.
With that, there were few counters left open to the Undead. They managed to deal with the Stormvermin (which was crucial) but, by that time, the losses were too great and, to top it all off, the attacks on both flanks had been stalled.
So, notable win for the rats!
Next week, we are going back to the Battleplans found in some of the Battletomes, and will be embarking on a fight I have been promising for a while now, where Sigmar unleashes his new weapon…