This week, we are taking a trip to the Realm of Beasts for a battle that, at first glance, does not seem exactly fair…
The Story So Far
The forces of Chaos had been besieging the Howling Cities of the Beastplains for months for little gain. Then, the underways were discovered.
These tunnels below the cities had been abandoned for centuries, used only as a haven for the Spiderfang Grot tribes. Now, Archaon led a combined Chaos force into the tunnels to claim them for his own.
The Spiderlord Spittlegit watched from the shadows as the Varanguard advanced, biding his time as his tribe moved into position. When he judged the time right, he ordered the attack. Alongside the Spider Riders were two Gargants the tribe had befriended, along with two massive Arachnarok Spiders also scuttling towards the cavern. All of a sudden, Archaon had a real fight on his hands.
However, the Everchosen had spied what the Spiderfang Grots had been protecting and urged his forces on to take the real prize – the nests where a new generation of spiders were being hatched.
So, we have a rock-hard Chaos force, led by Archaon and the Varanguard no less, diving into a Spiderfang lair to beat up some Grots. Balancing this one is going to be interesting!
Archaon, Exalted Grand Marshal of the Apocalypse
Varanguard x 3
Lord of Chaos
Blightkings x 5
Blood Warriors x 10
Chaos Warriors x 20 (two units of 10)
Chaos Knights x 5
This army might be the definition of small but solid. Archaon has brought along representatives from three Chaos Gods (Slaanesh still being MIA) and, of course, the Varanguard are never to be sniffed at. It almost seems unfair…
Big Boss on Gigantic Spider (Spiderlord Spittlegit)
Arachnarok x 2
Spider Riders x 40 (four units of 10)
Aleguzzler Gargants x 2
The Spiderfang Grots had to be wondering who they annoyed when they saw Archaon enter their lair… In truth, with four monsters on their side, the Grots might not have much to worry about from the likes of Blood Warriors and Blightkings. However, it is Archaon that is going to be very much the problem, and they will have to find an answer to him before the battle is over…
At the start of this battle, Archaon only has a rough idea of where the nest is, and he must spend some effort trying to find it. The Spiderfang Grots have to hope they can decoy him long enough to force his army to retreat or else throw everything at the Everchosen to stop him reaching the nest!
However, while the Gargant allies are going to start on the battlefield (they give a hand with the really big eggs), the Arachnaroks are going to pop up (maybe) throughout the battle, meaning the Grots are going to be even more hard pushed right at the start. To balance this, Spiderlord Spittlegit has so many toxins in his blood that enemies wounded him may take mortal wounds, and his command ability allows anything in his force close by with eight legs (so that will be most of it) to re-roll misses.
Upon seeing the five yawning cavern entrances, Archaon immediately ordered his forces to spread out and begun searching each one.
The Spiderfang Grots were similarly cautious, deploying heavily outside the central cave but also spreading themselves out to cover the other entrances.
Battle Round One
The Varanguard were the first to advance, riding into one of the sickly growths of trees that littered the dank cavern, but though they sighted tiny Grots on the back of spiders ahead of them, they remained elusively out of range.
The rest of the Chaos force dispersed, contemptuously splitting their units with no fear of the Grots whose cavern they had invaded. Archaon himself had spied his target, however – two massive Gargants, slaves to the Grots, bellowed a challenge he was all too happy to accept. Urging Dorghar forward, the Everchosen swept towards them.
Faced with elite warriors of Chaos, not to mention the Varanguard and Archaon himself, the Spiderfang Grots advanced very hesitantly as Spittlegit granted the Blessings of the Spider God on those closest to him. One unit of Spider Riders were armed with bows and as they scuttled forward into the cover of trees, they unleashed a volley at the advancing Blood Warriors – most of their arrows simply bounced off thick armour, though one Blood Warrior developed a slight limp.
Believing the isolated Blood Warriors to be vulnerable, Spittlegit led another unit of Spider Riders into an attack, but he pulled back at the last moment, letting his minions go in first.
The Grots cheered as they speared one Blood Warrior and one of their spiders munched on another. Then the Blood Warriors attacked back.
Four spiders were torn apart with their riders, and another two shrieked and fled from battle. The Spiderfang tribe immediately gained a new respect for the servants of Chaos, even when caught alone between two of their Spider Rider units…
Battle Round Two
Cursing the efforts of his Spider Riders, Spittlegit thumped his spear on the back of his own Gigantic Spider and the beast carried him into battle with the Blood Warriors. Spittlegit believed that, being the superior warrior, he could drive the Blood Warriors back on his own, thus securing the nearby caves against their advance.
Spittlegit managed to spear two Blood Warriors by himself, while his surviving Spider Riders dragged down more, but a Blood Warrior with a massive Goreglaive opened up great rents in his spider, causing the beast to shiver and shriek.
Things were going little better for the Gargants. They advanced together, but became extremely cautious as they neared Archaon. One, in his drunken fug, decided to charge the Varanguard instead, but they cut him down effortlessly, barely blinking as his corpse crashed down among them.
Archaon urged the Varanguard onwards, past the Spider Riders before them, to check the nearest cave to see if it contained the Spiderfang nest. Further behind, the Chaos Knights did the same with the cave nearest them – both reported no sign of any spider eggs.
Furious at this delay, Archaon threw a Mystic Shield upon himself, hurled an Arcane Bolt at the last Gargant, and then charged it.
The Gargant swung its club and managed to slightly bruise Dorghar but between the monster and Archaon himself, the Gargant was quickly hammered to the ground where it lay, unmoving.
Meanwhile the Varanguard had wheeled around and charged into the closest Spider Riders, their spears levelled at the Grots on the back of the spiders, while the Blight Kings barrelled into the Grots holding the centre and forming a barrier on the largest cave entrance.
Everywhere across the battlefield, Spider Riders were either being killed or were fleeing as fast as their spiders could carry them, hordes of them scuttling back into the shadows. The last of the Spider Riders supporting Spittlegit were slaughtered by the Blood Warriors, but Spittlegit himself had learned to catch the blows of the huge Goreglaive on his shield, and he survived without further injury.
Battle Round Three
Seeing the battle beginning to turn very ill against him, Spittlegit screamed the order to retreat, though there were few Spider Riders left to hear it. He then turned and ran from the Blood Warriors, happy to avoid any more of their axe blows. The last intact unit of Spider Riders raced forward out of their tree cover to engage the Blood Warriors and protect the Spiderlord.
They opened up with a flurry of arrow fire, then levelled their spears and crashed into the last few Blood Warriors. Miraculously, the Blood Warriors were spitted on spears, poisoned by spiders, and trampled under foot – the Spiderfang tribe had gained its first victory of the battle!
However, there were very few of them left and things were looking bleak for Spittlegit.
The Chaos Knights and Warriors of Tzeentch continued to search caves on opposite sides of the battlefield, and both called back to Archaon that they had not yet found the Spiderfang nest. Archaon gave a savage bark of an order, as he now realised there was now only one cave the nest could possibly lie within – the cave currently defended by only the wounded Spiderlord.
With all speed, the Varanguard and Archaon raced across the battlefield to deliver a lethal blow to the future of the Spiderfang tribe.
The Varanguard barely noticed the lone Spider Rider in their path. The Grot was the last of his unit, having suffered greatly at the pestilential hands of the Blightkings, and he shrieked in terror when he saw the three massive riders approaching at full tilt.
Closing his eyes, he pointed his spear forward and felt a massive impact as one of the Varanguard impaled himself upon it. The Grot briefly felt a surge of elation – he had killed a Varanguard, one of Archaon’s own! He would be feted by every Spider Rider in the tribe! Surely he would be chosen to replace that coward Spittlegit as Spiderlord. Perhaps he would become the ultimate leader of all Spiderfang tribes!
These dreams ended instantly as the other two Varanguard simply rode over him.
Closer to the nest, the Blightkings charged the last of the Spider Riders, those who had defeated the Blood Warriors.
The battle was brief but very bloody. The leader of the Blightkings was wounded during the charge, but the Spider Riders were either slaughtered or scattered into the darkest recesses of the cavern within seconds.
Battle Round Four
Spiderlord Spittlegit shuffled back on his Gigantic Spider as he realised he was the last of the Spiderfang Grots on the battlefield. He decided to stand his ground before the tribe’s nest – not out of any sense of moral duty to the collection eggs, you understand, he simply had nowhere to run to.
Delighted at having finished off the Spiderfang tribe, Archaon advanced with his Varanguard and Blightkings, each racing the others to claim the head of the Spiderlord.
All three checked their charge as a loud chittering was heard from within the nest behind Spittlegit. The ground began to tremble and then, out of the darkness of the cave, the largest spider any of them had seen emerged, an enraged Spiderfang Shaman and his Grot bodyguard clinging to its back.
An Arachnarok Spider had arrived!
Spittlegit suddenly became a lot more confident of his chances to not only protect the nest but actually drive off some of the Chaos invaders. Pointing his spear, he directed the Arachnarok towards the Blightkings and then followed himself.
This surge forward took the Blightkings completely by surprise. Three of them fell to the Arachnarok while a fourth fell to Spittlegit, leaving only one left, breathing heavily from exhaustion and badly wounded.
Battle Round Five
Archaon cursed the appearance of the Arachnarok, and then became incandescent with a rage that would have pleased Khorne himself as a second massive spider scuttled out of the cave.
Spittlegit was almost beside himself with excitement now, as he saw a chance to drive back the Exalted Grand Marshal of the Apocalypse. He would teach the Everchosen to come into his cavern!
Unfortunately, the newly arrived Arachnarok seemed a bit confused by the sounds of battle right outside its nest, and was reluctant to charge Archaon, while Spittlegit and the first Arachnarok were still tied up fighting the last Blightking. They duly finished off the Nurgle worshipper, then looked up from their bloody work to find Archaon.
However, the Everchosen had taken to the air on the back of Dorghar, and he soared over the two Arachnarok Spiders to land behind them.
As he flew overhead, Archaon gestured at Spittlegit and summoned the energies to hurl an Arcane Bolt at the Spiderlord, but the Grot Shaman unbound the spell before it properly formed.
However, while the Arachnarok Spider flailed vainly at Dorghar, Archaon was not interested in battling the monster. Instead, he laughed as he saw piles of eggs grouped inside the nest and, with vengeful glee, he began breaking them apart. A wave of yolk flowed out the nest’s entrance, carrying with it small, pale, semi-formed spiders.
Spittlegit howled in dismay when he saw this, and was too distraught to notice the Varanguard bearing down on him from behind. The last thing the Spiderlord saw was one of their spears jutting from his chest before everything went dark…
As so often happens in Age of Sigmar, that one went down to the wire!
Now, it is true the Spiderfang Grots received a right kicking in that battle – but remember, the fight was about protecting the nest, and they came so very close to doing that. If Archaon had not taken direct action himself, the Everchosen would have lost that battle.
To give you an idea how close things were, at the end of the fifth round, you total up the number of wounds dealt to the nest (in this case, it was 8), and roll two dice. If you roll less than the total wounds, victory goes to Chaos – this time, the Chaos player rolled 7, so it really could not have been any closer to that!
Could the Spiderfang Grots have defeated their enemies? Probably not – while they can gang up on the various Chaos units, the Varanguard are always going to be a problem, and there is really no answer to Archaon. I honestly think we could have doubled the number of Spider Riders and the only difference is that they would have only slowed down the Chaos army a little (which, in this battle, would have been enough but it is a long way from actually defeating them).
Things would also have gone a lot better for the Grots if their Arachnaroks had turned up earlier in the fight – the combination of the Big Boss’ Blessings of the Spider God ability and the Shaman’s Gift of the Spider God spell can prove to be utterly lethal, with spiders dealing double mortal wounds on a 5+ hit roll. With a couple of Arachnaroks, that might even give Archaon pause!
But, again, none of this is the point of the Battleplan. I think it worked perfectly well with the forces we assembled, and it was a lot of fun. The Grots are going to get slaughtered (or flee!) but you are always looking for those little moments of insane heroism (such as the lone Spider Rider finishing off one of the Varanguard!). On the wider view, defeating the Chaos force is not the aim of the scenario, it is hiding and then protecting the nest.
And the Spiderfang Grots are more than capable of doing that!
The Story Continues…
For the next battle, we are bouncing back to the Realm of Life where the Rotbringers are launching yet another assault on one of the Sylvaneth’s most sacred places. However, the Sylvaneth have begun rousing themselves for all out war and the Rotbringers are going to be facing creatures they have not yet seen in the War of Life.