Wednesday 20 January 2016

Warhammer Siege - Dwarf Turn 2 - Send for Help

Lord Durak Irongrim's face was grim as he sat at the conference table in the centre hall.

"The Dawi-Zharr were put down," he said. "That is good news, but it was a small victory. Every loss we suffer is costly, while their numbers seem endless."

"Aid will come from Karak Kadrin," Thane Zoe, his daughter said, with a touch of optimism.

"But will it find any of us left when it does come?" Thane Eyni said. "It could be weeks or months before they realise something is amiss. And even then, they may not send help in sufficient numbers to make any difference."

"What do you suggest?" Lord Durak said.

"We must risk sending a message through the enemy lines," he said. "It's the only way to ensure that help will reach us in time."

"I will go father," Thane Zoe said, still smarting from her failure to destroy the Chaos supplies.

"No," Lord Durak said, "you've risked too much already and I need you here. Thane Eyni, I will entrust the message to you. Take a guard, but no more than we can spare."

Thane Eyni said nothing and simply nodded.

For the Dwarf's second siege turn, I selected the Scenario Send for Help. The dwarfs had to get a message past enemy lines. If they succeeded, every dwarf would get a moral boost of +1 Leadership and they would be able to play the follow up scenario, Reinforcements, when reinforcements arrived.

This scenario was only 500 points a side. The dwarfs had to select 1 hero level character as the primary messenger and could select a rank and file model as a backup messenger, who could behave like a character for this scenario. They were also allowed two decoy messengers, of the same type as the backup messenger, who did not have a message but could serve as a distraction. The dwarfs objective was to get either messenger off the table on the opposite side to their deployment zone.

Thane Zoe and Chakram Manflay had been doing a lot of work in this campaign. Although they both had some bonuses from having survived a few games, I didn't want to use them in every scenario. Also, it would be useful to produce some other characters with bonuses.

With that in mind, I painted up two new characters especially for this scenario. Both were models that had been sitting around for years but that had, so far, escaped the paintbrush.

The forces were as follows:

Dwarf Messenger and Guards
Thane Eyni - Dwarf Thane and Primary Messenger
Meeni - Longbeard and backup messenger? (axe)
Myni - Longbeard and backup messenger? (sword)
Moe - Longbeard and backup messenger? (mace)
10 Dwarf Warrios with Great Weapons, Standard and Musician
10 Thunderers
5 Longbeards with Command Group
5 Slayers including 1 Giant Slayer

Chaos Patrol
Skjalpi Bloodscream - Exalted Champion
10 Chaos Marauders with Command Group
10 Chaos Hounds
6 Chaos Warriors with Command Group
5 Marauder Horsemen with Javelins and Command Group

To make things more interesting, I decided not to identify the real backup messenger at the start of the game, Instead, at the end of the game I would randomly determine which of the three were really carrying a message.

I decided that the hills would both be scree slopes, and so troops moving over them would have to make a dangerous terrain test. The swamps would have the same effect. I then randomly determined that the forest would be a venom forest, giving anyone in it poisoned attacks but also making it dangerous.

Dwarf Turn 1
The Dwarfs Advance

The dwarfs advanced cautiously, the Longbeards passing their dangerous terrain test to take position at the crest of the hill. The Thunderers hung back and opened fire on the Marauders at long range. The managed an impressive six hits, but then only wounded 2.

Open Fire!

Chaos Turn 1

The Chaos Warriors charged up the hill to face the Longbeards, but less comfortable on rocky ground, one of their number fell to his death (they failed their dangerous terrain test). The Warhounds also emerged from the forest to charge the Thunderers, losing 1 to poison and then another to the Thunderers hand guns. The Marauders tried a long shot charge against Meeni, but failed to make contact.

The Chaos Army charges

Meanwhile the Marauder Horsemen manoeuvred around the Slayers and hurled their javelins, killing 1 dwarf. Both The Thunderers and Marauders killed 2 of their opponents but, thanks to their charge, the Warhounds won the combat by 1. But the Thunderers managed to roll a double 6 for their break test and fled off the table, the Warhounds pursuit brought them into contact with the Dwarf Warriors. An early set back for the dwarfs.

One Slayer felled by Javelins

On the hill, the Aspiring Champion challenged the Longbeard Old Guard, only to be cut down for his trouble. The rest of the troops exchanged blows ineffectively and the combat ended in a draw.

Face off between Longbeards and Chaos Warriors

Dwarf Turn 2

With the hill blocked and the left flank looking dangerous, the messengers made their way around the right side of the hill, while the Slayer took up position guarding them.

The Messengers advance

The Warhounds failed to kill a single Dwarf Warrior, losing one of their number in return. The Warriors won the combat easily and the Warhounds fled, but the Warriors restrained themselves from pursuing.

Clearly demoralised by the loss of their champion, the Chaos Warriors were unable to harm the Longbeards. But the dwarfs were emboldened and slaughtered the Warriors, leaving none alive.

 Wipe Out!

Chaos Turn 2

The Marauders charged uphill to engage the Longbeards, while the Warhounds failed their rally test and continued to flee. The Marauder Horsemen and Skjalpi Bloodscream made a pincer movement approaching the messengers from either side.


The Horsemen threw their javelins. I decided it would be fairer and more interesting to treat the messengers as a group and randomise hits between them. Myni was then randomly hit by three javelins and killed.

The Marauder Chieftain challenged the Longbeard Old Guard and killed him! Clearly the Old Guard was over confident after his defeat of the Aspiring Champion. The Chieftain gained the Chaos Reward Dark Fury, giving him +1 attack and the Marauders won the combat 3-1. The Longbeards failed their break test and fled, losing 1 to dangerous terrain but, out paced the Marauders. No part of this combat went the way it was expected to.

 The Longbeards retreat

Dwarf Turn 3

The Dwarf Warriors rushed to the Longbeard's aid and charged the Marauders in the flank, while the Longbeards rallied. Both the Messengers and Slayers continued a steady advance.

 The tables turn on the Marauders

The Dwarf Warriors killed 3 Marauders and lost 1 in exchanged. The Marauders lost the combat 5 -2, fled and were cut down. Glory is fleeting!

 The Dwarfs are victorious

Chaos Turn 3

Skjalpi Bloodscream charged Thane Eyni. This could be the deciding moment of the game. Once again the Horsemean failed to rally, and the Marauder Horsemen moved behind the Slayer, keeping out of charge range.

 Shoot the Messengers!

The Horsemen through their javelins again and killed Moe. Only one possible backup messenger was left. But if Thane Eyni could defeat Skjalpi Bloodscream, the Dwarfs still had a good chance of victory. The Champion failed to wound the messenger and suffered one wound in return.

 Face off between Champions

Dwarf Turn 4

The Warriors, Longbeards and Slayers moved to support the messengers, sadly no-one was within charge range of Skjalpi Bloodscream. This was to prove disastrous. The Gods with with Skjalpi Bloodscream and he cut down Thane Eyni, gaining Slaughterer's strength from the Eye of the Gods.

 The Messenger falls

Chaos Turn 4

Skalpi Bloodscream turned around and the Marauder Horsemen pursued Meeni. The Warhounds finally rallied, but it was too late for them to do much good. The Horsemen threw their javelins, but Meeni was saved by his armour.

 All eyes on Meeni, and he isn't even the Messenger

At this point, with only one possible messenger left, I decided to roll to see which one was carrying the message. There didn't seem much point continuing if Meeni didn't have the message. I rolled and, anticlimactically, Myni was the messenger. With both messengers killed, Chaos had won.

I think my mistake with the dwarfs was letting the messenger go on ahead. With no turn limit, it would have made sense to hold position, wait until the Marauders and Chaos Warriors was roundly beaten and have the messengers advance slowly, guarded by the Warriors, Slayers and, what was left, of the Longbeards. I think I panicked after the Thunderers unexpectedly fled from the Warhounds.

I finally got the hang of using the Marauder Horsemen. Though it helped that a scenario special rule allowed them to freely march within 8" of their opponents. Their javelin sniping made them a threat, but careful manoeuvring kept them out of range of the Slayers. The Warhounds also performed better than expected, despite running away, they destroyed more point of dwarfs than they were worth. The less said about the Chaos Warriors the better.

As far as the Campaign is concerned, the Dwarfs and Chaos are no neck and neck with 2 victories each. Unfortunately, both sides keep losing the scenarios they select. This means that none of the results, apart from the opening scenario, have any impact on the final assault.

Will the Chaos Warriors overturn this on their next turn? We shall see.

Wednesday 6 January 2016

A brief interlude for Dragon Rampant

I haven't given up on my Siege Campaign, but having received my copy of the Dragon Rampant rules I felt the need to give them a try.

Dragon Rampant, written by Daniel Mersey and published by Osprey, is based around the earlier Lion Rampant rules for large skirmish (30 - 60 models or so a side) during the middle ages. The base rules are substantially the same, but add some extra fantasy touches, such as spell casters, flyers and undead.

Models are divided into units of different type, such as heavy foot, elite riders or light missiles. In Lion Rampant, all units had a set size 6 for cavalry and usually 12 for infantry. Dragon Rampant translates this into strength points, still 6 or 12, but no longer corresponding to the number of models in a unit. So, for example, a unit of heavy foot might be made up of 12 dwarfs, 4 ogres or a single giant but would still have 12 strength points. This gives you enormous flexibility in how you represent your models.

I put together two standard 24 point warbands using my Warhammer Chaos Warrior and Chaos Dwarf models. The army lists were as follows:

Chaos Champion Skjalpi Bloodscream (Elite Foot, Single Model unit with the Leader and Venomous special rules) - 9 points
12 Chaos Warriors (Heavy Foot) - 4 points
12 Chaos Marauders (Bellicose Foot) - 4 points
6 Chaos Knights (Elite Riders with the enchanted weapons rule) - 7 points

Chaos Dwarf Lord Dharzak Steelhand (Greater Warbeast, Single Model unit with the Leader, Flame Breath and Flyer rules) - 10 points
12 Chaos Dwarf Warriors (Heavy Foot) - 4 points
12 Chaos Dwarfs with Blunderbusses (Heavy Missiles) - 4 points
6 Bull Centaurs (Heavy Riders) - 4 points
6 Hobgoblin Wolf Riders (Light Riders with the cowardly rules) - 2 points

In addition to the army lists, each Leader has a randomly generated trait. Skjalpi Bloodscream got "Strong" allowing him re-roll a missed attack in close combat, and Dharzak Steelhand got Boneheaded which allowed him to make one unit within 12" per turn attack without having to roll (see below).

I played the basic scenario "A Gory Bloodbath on the Plains of Doom" (seriously). The game would continue until only four units were left on both sides, then I would roll a six-sided die at the start of each turn. If the roll was greater than the number of units left, the game would end. The side that had destroyed the units with the highest total points cost would win 5 glory (victory points).

In addition, both sides could choose quests to score additional glory. Each side selected a 2 glory and a 1 glory quest. The Chaos Warriors had "They will tremble before me" (2 enemy units must be "battered" at the same time) for 2 glory and "I shall strike the first blow" (they must declare the first attack) for 1 glory. The Chaos Dwarfs selected "Smite their Champions" (destroy the enemy unit with the highest points cost) for 2 glory and "Our missiles shall rain down upon them" (reduce one enemy unit to half strength through shooting alone) for 1 glory.

Turns 1 - 3


Dragon Rampant uses an IGOUGO turn structure, one side activates their models then the other. During their turn a player selects a unit, gives it an order and rolls 2 dice to see if it is carried out. The orders are move, attack and shoot, plus a few specialist ones available to specific units. The roll required depends on the order and unit. So a unit of Elite riders is more like to attack than move, while a unit of missiles is more likely to shoot than attack. Most rolls require a 5, 6 or 7, so you are more likely to succeed than not, but still have a decent chance of failure.

 Chaos Warrior Advance

The turn continues until the player runs out of units or fails an activation roll. This means that you have to be careful about the order in which you activate your units and balance the order in which you want units to act with the chances of them doing it.

 ...And if answered by the Chaos Dwarfs

For the first three turns, both sides advanced towards one another, with both sides staking a claim on the central hill. The Chaos Warriors planned to target their attack on one part of the Chaos Dwarfs line, while the Chaos Dwarfs aimed to break up the Chaos Warriors formation with missile fire and skirmishers.

Skjalpi Bloodscream is left isolated

The only event of note in the first three turns came in turn 2 when the Chaos Champion Skjalpi Bloodscream advanced, only for the Chaos Warriors to fail their activation ending the turn and leaving him dangerously exposed. The Blunderbusses accepted the invitation, opening fire and causing one point of damage.

 The Hobgoblins sneak through the swamp

Chaos Warrior Turn 4

Some Units in Dragon Rampant have the "Wild Charge" rule. This requires them to declare an attack if they able at the start of the turn. If they fail they cannot activate, but the turn does not end. This makes wild chargers inflexible, but in a way that doesn't disrupt the rest of the army.

The Chaos Knights, having advanced over the hill, were forced to declare an attack against the Chaos Dwarf Warriors. Which they passed. This also gave them 1 glory for completing the "I shall strike the first blow" quest.

In close combat, units at greater than half strength roll 12 dice and units at half strength or less roll 6, regardless of the number of models in the unit. Units need different scores to hit depending on whether they are attacking or defending. Elite Riders are a lot better at attacking while heavy foot are slightly better at defending.

 The Chaos Knights Charge

The Chaos Knights scored 9 hits and the Chaos Dwarfs 7, this is divided by the units armour, rounding down, to determine the damage. The Chaos Dwarfs have an armour of 3 and so suffered 3 casualties, while the Chaos Knights have armour 4 and so lost only 1. Having both suffered damage, both units were forced to make a courage test which they both passed. Having lost the most models, the Chaos Dwarfs were forced to retreat.

The Chaos Warriors, Champion and Marauders all continued to advance.

Chaos Dwarf Turn 4

The Bull Centaurs attacked the Chaos Knights, giving the Knights the opportunity to counter-charge. This special rule allows a unit to meet the opponents half way and use their attack value in the subsequent combat instead of defence. Sadly for them, the Chaos Knights need to roll a 7 and failed. But, in combat, the Bull Centaurs managed only 3 hits, causing no damage, while the Chaos Knights 3 hits in return killed 1 Bull Centaur. The Bull Centaurs retreated.

 The Bull Centaurs are driven back

On their left flank, the Blunderbusses opened fire on the Marauders, scoring 5 hits and killing 2. Finally, the Hobgoblins attempted a skirmish order, a special order for light riders, which would allow them to move at half rate and shoot at -1 to hit. But they failed their activation roll and the turn ended.

Chaos Warrior Turn 5

The Marauders wild charged the Hobgoblins, who attempted an evade order but failed. The Marauders scored 12 hits, killing 4 Hobgoblins and lost only 1 Marauder in return. To make a courage test, the Hobgoblins had to roll 2 dice and subtract the number of strength points they had lost all game (and subtract 1 because they were cowardly). They failed with a negative total score of -2, which wiped out the unit.

 The Hobgoblins clear off

The plan had been for the Hobgoblins to break up the Chaos Warrior formation by luring out the Marauders. It had worked, but had cost the unit. Still, the Chaos Dwarfs probably didn't care.

On their left flank, the Chaos Knights failed their roll to wild charge and the Chaos Champion and Warriors advanced around the hill.

 The implacable advance continues

Chaos Dwarf Turn 5

Chaos Dwarf Lord Dharzak Steelhand ordered his Great Taurus to breath fire on the Chaos Knights, but he was clearly sulking from having been left out of the fighting so far and failed his activation roll, bringing the turn to a premature end.

Chaos Warrior Turn 6

The Chaos Knights wild charged the Bull Centaurs, who failed to counter charge. The Knights score 6 hits, killing 2 Bull Centaurs, but the Bull Centaurs managed 5 of their own killing a Knight. Both sides passed their courage tests and the Bull Centaurs retreated.

The Bull Centaurs are beaten again

The Marauders and Champion continued their advance.

Chaos Dwarf Turn 6

Taking no chances this time, Lord Dharzak Steelhand used his leader trait to automatically pass an attack activation and charged the Marauders. He scored 10 hits, killing 5 Marauders and suffered no damage in return. Unsurprisingly, the Marauders failed their courage test and were wiped out.

 Lord Dharzak destroys the Marauders

The Chaos Dwarf Warriors passed their move test and formed a "Wall of Spears" (or axes in this case) a special formation for heavy and light foot that increases their armour but prevents them from moving. The Bull Centaurs withdrew to join them, but the Blunderbusses failed their move order.

Chaos Warrior Turn 7

The Chaos Knights once again wild charged the Bull Centaurs who, this time, managed to counter-charge. But, with 12 hits, the Bull Centaurs were wiped out with the Knights suffering no damage.

 The Bull Centaurs are destroyed

The rest of the Chaos Warrior army advanced.

 The Chaos Dwarf Warriors stand alone

Chaos Dwarf Turn 7

Clearly satisfied having massacred the Marauders, the Great Taurus passed its test and breathed fire on the Chaos Warriors killing 2. The Warriors failed the courage test with a score of 2, leaving them "battered". This state meant that the only thing they could do next turn was test their courage again. If they failed, they would stay battered, be forced to retreat and lose 1 unit strength.

 The Chaos Dwarfs open fire

To add insult to injury, the Blunderbusses fired on them as they retreated, killing 1 more.

Chaos Warrior Turn 8

The Chaos Warriors passed their courage test, but were not able to do anything else. The Chaos Knights wild charged the Chaos Dwarf warriors, but only managed to kill 2, losing 1 Knight in the process. However, the Chaos Dwarf Warriors failed their courage test, becoming battered. Meanwhile, Skjalpi Bloodscream, continued to advance.

 The Chaos Dwarfs face the Chaos Knights

Chaos Dwarf Turn 8

A pretty terrible turn as the Warriors failed their courage test with a 0, wiping them out and the Blunderbusses fired on the Chaos Knights causing no damage. Lord Dharzak Steelhand and his Taurus moved to assist the Blunderbusses.

 The armies consolidate

Chaos Warrior Turn 9

With no enemies in movement range, the whole army advanced.

The Chaos Warriors advance again

Chaos Dwarf Turn 9

Lord Dharzak used his leader trait to attack the Chaos Warriors without rolling. As they were on a hill, this would usually count as fighting up hill and give them a boost to their armour, but as the Taurus could fly, this bonus was negated. Lord Dharzak and the Taurus scored 7 hits and killed 2 Chaos Warriors, with the Warriors 4 hits causing 1 damage in return. Both sides passed their courage tests.

The Chaos Warriors are driven back

The Blunderbusses opened fire on the Knights scoring 5 hits and killing 1. The Knights passed their courage test.

Turns 10 - 13

The final three turns of the game were dominated by the same struggles. The Chaos Warriors and Lord Dharzak exchanged blows until the latter was reduced to 2 strength points at which point he resorted to fire breath until finally, on Turn 13 they failed the courage test and were wiped out.

 Open fire

The Chaos Warriors are beaten down

The Knights were slowed down by a failed wild charge, but in the end they reduced the Blunderbusses to half strength, though by this point only 1 Knight survived.

It looked as though the battle might be decided by a direct confrontation between the leaders, in which case Skjalpi Bloodscream had the advantage with 5 strength points to Lord Dharzak's 2. But it was not to be as there were now only four units left and a roll of 5 brought the game to an end on turn 13.

 The Battle Ends

The Chaos Warriors had destroyed 10 points of units to the Chaos Dwarfs 8. With the additional 1 point of glory from completing their "I shall strike the first blow" quest, they won the game 6 glory to 0.

Overall, an enjoyable game. The Chaos Dwarf plan to break up the Chaos line by focusing on the wild chargers was solid enough and worked quite well in the case of the Marauders, but accepting the Knights charge proved to costly and they destroyed most of the units that faced them. The Chaos Dwarfs might have done better if they built their centre around missile troops and focused all their efforts on stopping the Knights before they entered combat.

Despite the large number of turns, the game only took a couple of hours to play and would probably have been a bit faster without having to refer to the rules. I say probably, because the rules were pretty simple and so not much referencing was required.

The core of the game seems to lie in planning your activations and careful manoeuvring to put your units in the right place and disrupt the enemy. Skirmishers and wild chargers can be put to good use here. The order of your activations was certainly important, on more than one occasion, I would have liked to have the Blunderbusses fire first to weaken up a unit I intended to charge, but didn't risk it because I didn't trust the Blunderbusses to pass their activation roll.

You can never entirely rely on your troops to do what you want, which may not suit players who prefer a great deal of control. Personally, I rather enjoyed the uncertainty and having to modify battle plans each turn.

The quests and leader traits add a great deal of flavour to the game. The fantasy rules, in contrast, are relatively light. Most of the units didn't use any. But this didn't matter as they seemed to be pretty well represented by the basic unit types. The behaviour of the Chaos Marauders, Chaos Warriors, Chaos Dwarf Warriors and Bull Centaurs was largely appropriate, despite their lack of special rules and this highlights the extent to which a lot of fantasy units are really just variations on a theme, rather than being truly distinctive.

I will almost certainly play this again, though probably not until my Siege Campaign is finished. It will be fun to convert a few more Warhammer armies to Dragon Rampant rules.

Friday 1 January 2016

A new one just begun

Happy New Year one and all.

The first day of the new year seems as good time as any to reflect on the previous 12 months. I don't know if I got more painting done in 2015 than 2014, but what I did do was more focused. I kept up the rule of sticking to one project at a time, but chose projects that would let me actually play games with a minimum amount of effort. Consequently, I played a lot more games in 2015.

I started the year with a short Bushido campaign, before moving to historical Japan with Ronin, before starting my Warhammer siege campaign at the end of the year. I even entered my first tournament, Bushido at the UK Games Expo. I mostly learnt that I am not much of a tournament gamer (I came last) but it was an interesting experience, and added to my total of games played. So I played more games in 2015 than in 2014, and more at the end of the year than the beginning. If this trend continues, that should mean even more games in 2016.

 The culmination of a mini-campaign

As for painting, I'm not sure my standard particularly improved in 2015, but I do seem to be able to paint faster. I discovered that, with a bit of focus, I could get a 20 model unit for Warhammer done in a couple of weekends.

 Dwarf Longbeards. It either took me 2 days or 19 years to paint them, depending on your point of view.

Speaking of Warhammer, possibly the biggest wargaming event of 2015 was Games Workshop's killing of the Warhammer world and the Warhammer game system. After some initial reluctance, I had a crack at Warhammer Age of Sigmar and discovered it was not a bad system, but not one I was likely to be playing all that often. Age of Sigmar's principle impact was to prompt me to buy the last models I wanted for my Warhammer armies and investigate other fantasy rules. That AOS has been such a departure from Warhammer has prompted a lot philosophical musing on wargaming in general.

 My first trial of the Age of Sigmar rules looks pretty much like Warhammer without the formations.

As Games Workshop has recast itself as a miniature company rather than a games company, other companies have rushed to fill the void. In addition to Mantic Games Kings of War 2nd edition and the forthcoming Warpath, Warlord Games finally released Rick Priestly's Warhammer 40,000 beater,  Beyond the Gates of Antares. At the same time, Osprey's range of generic wargame rules continues to expand, and they have now produced Dragon Rampant. Former Warhammer addicts are spoiled for choice.

Oddly, this range of new rules doesn't encourage me to buy more models, so much as dig out and make use of old ones. I have a huge range of Warhammer models, less than half of which are painted and most of which I can use for several different games. Warhammer's "death" has also encouraged me to dig out some models for other "dead" systems, such as Confrontation, Epic and Anima Tactics.

So what can we expect for 2016? Personally, I plan to do more painting and gaming and less buying. In the past I often used to use buying more models as a substitute for actually using them, no that I'm painting and gaming more I don't need to buy so much. That said, I do plan to acquire a few more bits and bobs for Beyond the Gates of Antares, as I haven't played a decent 28mm large skirmish sci-fi game in a while and I have no interest in Warhammer 40,000 in its current state.

 Out with the old, in with the new?

As for the wider industry, Games Workshop seems determined to abdicate its position as the introduction into the hobby for new players. If that is the case, then this is likely to encourage other companies to fill the role. I am expecting to see a lot of activity from the likes of Warlord, Mantic, Privateer Press and other player bubbling just below Games Workshop. Not to mention Fantasy Flight games, whose range of Star Wars games is a perfect position to attract the multitude of Star Wars fans energised by the new film. 2016 could be an eventful year for the wargames world.