Thursday 22 October 2015

Unconventional Armies

I have been reading the story section of the Tamurkhan book recently. Yes, it has taken me nearly four years. I had read the rules and all the Chaos Dwarf background stuff, I just hadn't read the main story.

It's actually quite a good read, albeit a touch overwritten, with some of it trying a bit too hard to sound epic. But it does a good job of presenting a series of battles, across a variety of locations clearly and without getting too repetitive.

The story describes Tamurkhan and his armies journey across the Warhammer World, starting in the Northern Chaos wastes, before travelling South through the Ogre Kingdoms, west across the Dark Lands, into the Border Princes and then attacking the Empire from the South. In the course of the story, the Chaos Horde fights a variety of foes, including a few quite unconventional armies, such as a tribe of Mutant Savage Orcs living close the Chaos Wastes and an army of Ghouls and giant worms, lead by a Dragon that they worship as a God.

It's a welcome reminder that not every army in the Warhammer World fitted into the narrow confines of the published army books. When Warhammer 3rd edition was published, these sharp restrictions between armies did not exist. The points system was written as a tool box, allowing you to build your own custom troop types and then combine them to produce extremely varied armies. If you wanted your humans to hire Ogre mercenaries you could. If your dwarfs formed an unlikely alliance with a tribe of Giants, no problem. Want to field a Chaos horde allied with the undead followers of an ambitious Necromancer, go ahead.

All of this started to die out with the publication of  the original Warhammer Armies book. Although the book was intended to provide strict army lists for tournament and competitive games, in practice everyone started following its rules. When fourth edition was published, the practice started of publishing individual army books for each army, and the divisions between them became crystallised. By the end of eighth edition, virtually every model was part of a specific army and could be used in that army alone.

In fact, this has become standard practice in most games developed by miniature manufacturers to support a specific range of models. War Machine, Kings of War, Malifaux, Infinity, Bushido and so on, all feature rigidly defined factions with each model being a member of a specific faction (though most also include a range of unaligned models usable by all). This means that each faction has its own aesthetic and play style, but doesn't lend itself to player creativity.

In contrast, rules sets that are not attached to a specific range of miniatures, such as Song of Blades and Heroes, Hordes of the Things or Dragon Rampant, necessarily offer players a great deal of freedom to build their own troop types and army lists from a range of types. When your game does not have its own range of models, it pays to make it work with as many different manufacturers as possible.

But the release of Age of Sigmar may have shifted Warhammer armies back the other way. The latest issue of Warhammer Visions features an alliance of Undead and Elves* which combines Dark Elf and High Elf miniatures and includes Elves mounted on Demi Gryphs. I don't know if their owner has made his own warscrolls for these, but I certainly hope so.

If throwing out the old army books and points values leads to more creative army building, I am very much in favour of it. Sadly, Games Workshop has already released two "Battle Tomes" that are almost army books, even if they feature no points costs. Hopefully, as Age of Sigmar develops, Games Workshop won't reimpose a needless division between armies.

*I don't know what an Aelf is and I don't want to know

Wednesday 14 October 2015

Warhammer Siege - A quick update

I haven't had time to play Siege Turn 1 of my campaign yet. But I do have a quick update.

At the end of my last post I said that I thought Thane Zoe deserved some kind of reward for having defeated the Chaos Warrior Champion. I found the solution in the back of the Warhammer 5th edition battle book.*

The rules give a boost to characters who win challenges against characters of equal or greater rank or whose unit captures a standard bearer or kills an army standard bearer.

I've decided to chuck out the "equal rank" rule because it doesn't apply to Chaos Champions and is a little over restrictive. I want my characters to have a shot at actually getting a Veteran bonus.

I'm divided over the capturing standards rule. The concept of capturing enemy battle standards was chucked out in Warhammer 8th edition,  though, weirdly, you can still get victory points for the standards that your opponent lost. I'm inclined to resurrect the rule as I rather like it, especially as it gives you the opportunity to recapture fallen standards, which isn't possible under the official 8th edition rules.

That said, I'm not sure I want characters to win Veteran bonuses for capturing standards. To make it fair, I would have to extend the rule to Chaos characters and let them roll on the Eye of the God table. I think this would probably lead to a few too many bonuses to both sides. Realistically, no character is likely to win more than one or two challenges per game, but if you include captured standards that could double and that could lead to a lot of bonuses.

With that in mind, I think I am going to use the Veteran character rules, but only allow a character to have one for winning a challenge. And, having won a challenge, Thane Zoe can now re-roll all of her hand to hand or shooting to hit rolls once per game

*The battle book was included in 5th edition along with the rule book and included lots of background material, scenarios, campaign rules and a bestiary for the various monsters that, at the time, were usable by all armies but were not included in individual army books.

Tuesday 6 October 2015

Warhammer Siege Introduction - Forlorn Hope

Kazad Kor was a small Dwarf hold to the east of the Karak Kadrin, of no great significance apart from its link to the dwarven underway. Lord Durak of the Irongrim clan claimed that it was an honour to guard the eastern edge of Karak Kadrin, but many of his retainers would have preferred the honour of guarding the city itself.

Thane Zoe "the Princess" Lord Durak's daughter was leading a routine patrol of the borders when she was suddenly approached by Borri, a young dwarf with good eyes. "Invaders, from the east, Chaos worshippers I think," he said. Thane Zoe considered for a moment, then sent a messenger pigeon back to the hold.

"Send the Thunderers ahead to hold the old fort at the pass. We'll join them as soon as we can. If we can hold the fort for us long as possible it will give father time to prepare."

The dwarfs said nothing, but picked up their gear and began to march.

For the first scenario 750 points of besiegers, representing the Chaos vanguard, met 500 points of besieged dwarfs. No wizards, magic items or war machines were allowed.

The Chaos army line up was as follows:
Chakram Manflay - Exalted Champion of Slaanesh
20 Marauders - Mark of Slaanesh
12 Chaos Warriors
5 Marauder Horsemen
10 Chaos Warhounds

The outnumbered dwarfs included:
Thane Zoe of Clan Irongrim
10 Longbeards
10 Quarrellers
10 Thunderers

The dwarfs had to hold one significant piece of scenery at the centre of the table (in this case a ruined fort) for four turns. If an unbroken dwarf unit was within 6" of the fort after four turns, the dwarfs would win. Anything else was a chaos victory. Because the dwarf objective was to hold out for four turns, I decided to count the turns down from 4 to 1 to increase the tension.


Facing the Chaos battle line. The Thunderers take position behind the wall, while everyone else must deploy at least 12" from it. The Chaos line from left to right: Warhounds, Marauders, Spawn, Chaos Warriors, Marauder Horsemen.

The Marauder Horsemen use their Vanguard move to manoeuvre around the forest, rather than risk a dangerous terrain test.

Chaos Turn 4 

The Besiegers (i.e. Chaos) automatically get the first turn in this scenario. The Chaos Warriors decide not to risk charging the Thunderers, given that if they rolled low could end up not in combat and still be victims of a stand and shoot. The Marauder Horsemen throw their javelins, killing one dwarf.

The Chaos Line advances.

Dwarf Turn 4  

The Thunderers open fire on the Chaos Warriors but, thanks to some ghastly dice rolling, cause no casualties. The rest of the dwarfs advance as fast as their stumpy legs will carry them.

Chaos Turn 3

The Chaos Warriors charge the Thunderers. Thanks to more lousy dice rolling  only one warrior is killed by the shooting. The Chaos Warriors slaughter the Thunderers who break and flee. The Warriors pursue into the flank of the Longbeards.

Meanwhile, on the Chaos right flank, the Chaos Hounds charge the Quarrellers only to lose three of their number to shooting and two more in the subsequent melee in exchange for only one dwarf. The Hounds flee, but the dwarfs hold position.

Dwarf Turn 3

The Quarrellers decide against charging the Marauders in favour of the lower risk strategy of shooting. Two Marauders are killed.

The Chaos Warrior Champion issues a challenge to the Thane Zoe, but neither is able to get through their opponent's armour. In fact, there are no casualties at all. The Warriors win on points but the Longbeards easily pass their break test.

Chaos Turn 2

The Marauders charge the Quarrelers. Five Marauders are killed by crossbow bolts, but, being Slaanesh worshippers, the Marauders are immune to panic.

Chakram Manflay challenges the Dwarf Veteran. He accepts, but is cut down by the Exalted Champion, who is then rewarded by Slaanesh and gain iron skin. The Marauders win the combat and chase down the fleeing dwarfs, though this takes them a long way from the rest of the battle.

On the left flank, the Chaos Champion and the Dwarf Thane fight another pointless battle. Once again the dwarfs lose on points but pass their break test.

Dwarf Turn 2

With only the Longbeards left, things look bleak for the Dwarfs. But they rise to the challenge. Thane Zoe finally kills the Chaos Champion and the Longbeards fell three more Warriors in exchange for only two of their own. The Warrior break and flee and the dwarfs pursue...

...right up to the wall!

Chaos Turn 1

With Chakram Manflay and the Marauders half way across the battlefield and in no position to help, everything that can charge the Longbeards does. But the Longberads hold the line, killing all the Warhounds and three of their Marauder Horsemen including the Horsemaster. The remaining Horsemen break and flee, only for one of their number to fail a difficult terrain test crossing the wall.

Dwarf Turn 1

The Longbeards only have to hold out for this last turn. They Spawn kills 1 dwarf, but takes two wounds in exchange. The Spawn is unbreakable, but that doesn't matter. The Longbeards are unbroken and within 6" of wall and so claim victory in the first turn of the campaign.

That outcome was really unexpected. I thought the Dwarfs had had it when the Quarrelers were killed, but the Longbeards rose to the occasion as is only appropriate. On the other hand, the Dwarfs shooting, particularly the Thunderers, was pretty lousy all game, so all their luck came in the second half.

It's hard to see what else Chaos could have done. Perhaps, the Marauder should not have pursued the Quarrellers, but if they hadn't, they would almost certainly have rallied and been in a position to offer the Longbeards support in the final turn.

With the Dwarfs victorious, Chaos will lose D6 x 15 points in the final scenario.

After the battle, I decided that Chakram (and any other Chaos characters I use) could keep his reward from the Eye of the Gods. However, any chaos characters losing wounds would have to roll a 4+ for each wound to recover it. A character reduced to 0 wounds who didn't recover any would be dead and out of the campaign.

I feel like I should give Thane Zoe some kind of bonus for killing the Chaos Champion, but I'll have to think about what it should be.

Because the first scenario was Forlorn Hope, the besieged get the first siege turn and the dwarfs get to choose the next scenario.