Empire vs Khorne Tactica Part 2

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In Part 1 of this Tactica, we covered which units to take against the pure combat focus of a Khorne army and with an idea of what your list includes, let’s now look at deploying and using them effectively.

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I’m a firm believer in having a strong core at the heart of your army with everything else flowing around it – the expendable stuff, and that word synergy is at its most prominent at this point as you will want as many of your units as possible to benefit from your ability ‘bubbles’ and not have to spend time shuffling about after the game starts to get into range.

By keeping your core intact you can still win even if the rest of your army gets smeared into a fine red paste, which is still a very real possibility no matter how well you’ve prepared.  This core will of course tend to be your slower foot troops who don’t tend to move much, backed up by their support elements which make them better, and the simple diagram below shows that by deploying them in a compact line with the Celestial Hurricanum behind them, all three infantry blocks will be benefitting from the +1 to hit in combat.  The white squares in the Greatsword unit represent characters which can also then spread their influence to these units – namely the re-rolling of Leadership tests provided by your Battle Standard Bearer and the increased Leadership of 9 provided by your General in the shape of an Arch Lector. This entire group is now re-rolling its Leadership tests on an unmodified Ld of 9 (through Steadfast and Stubborn) whilst hitting back on 3’s with a ton of Strength 4 and 5 attacks. The Lector is also granting Hatred to the Greatswords and can also cast a prayer on them either increasing their chances to wound or improving their survivability. It would take a brave enemy General to charge headlong into that and he will bleed for the damage he inflicts – and seeing as you have around 110-120 wounds in that formation he’ll be hard pressed to outlast you.

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Once you throw in your Archer Detachments that can range in front of your line, you should be able to divert enemies units looking to charge you and set up favourable flank charges for when you do want to step out of formation.  This core also has the benefit of accounting for a significant proportion of your points making it harder for your opponent to achieve a victory and easier for you to avoid defeat.

Some of your more combat capable units can also act as powerful deterrents to those who think themselves strong enough to break your core.  For example, a Steam Tank makes a brilliant protector of this formations flank, it’s hard as nails and unbreakable letting you focus on what’s in front of you.  A counterattacking unit of Demigryphs or Knights can also fulfil this role.

If circumstances are permitting, always endeavour to get a unit of Demigryphs in a position to flank the enemy. This doesn’t have to be out on a flank necessarily, simply using a piece of terrain to hide behind waiting for the enemy to come past is just as, if not more useful.  At worst it delays your enemy as he doesn’t want to get flanked, at best you get to pull off a devastating charge that can roll right up a battle line.

You should always try to place your cannons out on the flanks and this is for two reasons. Many opponents forget to look sideways across a battlefield when moving their army forwards and often assume you will shoot the unit directly in front of the Cannon in an effort to keep them alive. Whilst this is an option, shooting across the battle field into the flanks of units of Skull Crushers and Chaos Knights is far more damaging to your opponent.  Your Cannons’ days are numbered as your opponent will do much to remove them as a threat as quickly as possible, so their only job is to inflict as much damage as possible before they go. The other reason to put them on the flanks plays into this.  They’re a great distraction and buy the rest of your army time while they’re being dealt with – and if they’re way out on a flank it’s even longer before their disposers get back into the fight.  I usually deploy the small halberdier units with my cannons to buy them another turn or two of firing to really soften up the enemy before they go and make sure my opponent has to commit a significant unit or two to deal with them – playing even further into reason two.

In the compressed battle line below, you can see the core formation in the centre – although it can be positioned anywhere – supported by the Steam Tank and unit of Knights protecting its flanks. These, and any other units, moving to assist the centre also have the advantage of coming under your ability bubbles too, further adding to their potential.  The Cannons are way out wide supported by the small halberdier units and the Demigryphs are well placed on either side to support either the centre by arcing around or the flank if necessary, or even to advance forwards and punch a hole through vulnerable points through the enemy line.  You can also see how a simple copse of trees can be hidden behind to set up a trap for any unit advancing on the core formations, with the screen of skirmishing archers being used to pull enemy units into favourable positions for flank or dual charges.

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By angling the archers correctly, you should be able to ensure a flank charge at least somewhere along the line and your opponent will likely be hoping to pass his Ld tests to stop his frenzied units charging into your traps.  Don’t be afraid to advance your skirmish screen aggressively to take the initiative away from your opponent who is used to having it when playing with such an offensive army. By getting those archer units high up the board you can clog up his approach with unexpected combats or slowed units trying to avoid getting into combat with them, and then overrunning into your lines unsupported.

The elements not visible in the diagram such as the Helblaster, Outriders etc. can be placed where they are needed as your enemy deploys.   If you can see he’s going to try to rush your core in force, put your Helblaster down in the centre to really make him suffer – or even abandon his plan. If he’s emphasizing (refusing) a flank, you should have an opportunity for your Outriders to find a prime firing position. A lot will depend on how your opponent deploys so try to keep your best stuff until the end. Things like Halberdiers and Knights aren’t going to hold many surprises with where they go, but the likes of Demigryphs and Steam Tanks are crucial units so try to get favourable match ups across the board to maximise their damage potential – and your opponent will be doing the same as he will be fully aware of the danger these units possess. Steam Tanks need to avoid anything with multiple high strength attacks like Slaughterbrutes, Dragon Ogres and tooled up characters. Demigryphs should simply avoid wasting their offensive power on grinding down units in multiple rounds of combat.  They are the point of the blade and if applied correctly should be able to take on almost any unit if they avoid a frontal charge.

The army is also surprisingly offensive when needed, with three mounted offensive units plus a Steam Tank battering ram, you can really take the initiative when the time comes and launch a crippling counter attack to carry the day.  Look for gaps or vulnerable points in the enemy line, as charges are made these holes will appear and capitalising on those moments to get a unit in behind his line will create a real headache as to how to deal with them – all the while you’re pounding him with black powder and magic.

Don’t be afraid to feed your expendable units into his to buy you the time you need to whittle him down with your shooting and get into position with your best units.  Expendable covers everything that isn’t in your core formation – even things like the Demigryphs.  As long as they are buying you an advantage with their sacrifice, you know that by protecting your core (which accounts for around half your victory points) you can still win.

The trick is to get him to underestimate your army.  Let him think he can roll over any unit you’ve got without consideration with his hulking combat monsters, ignoring the risks of charging across the board as fast as he can [With a Khorne army one doesn’t have much choice in the matter. – Ed].  Capitalising on his overconfidence and haste in avoiding warmachine fire will let you dictate where the combats happen and with who. Constantly deflect his best units, either into flank traps or off the board to waste their time, and only taking them on when the circumstances are in your favour.  Do this and you will win the battle.

Empire vs Khorne Tactica Part 1

 

TaleOfTwoArmies copyAs we near the end of our ‘Tale of Two Armies’ series, I thought it would be helpful for those interested to put the lessons I have learnt into a Tactica article of sorts – but one that focuses on tackling a specific opponent. This is the first part of that article which will cover general army selection against a foe which favours combat over all else, with the second part moving on to deployment and tactics.

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I’ve enjoyed a large amount of success in the series of games Phil and I have played out, only losing once in the first game – to a total bloodbath where but a single Chaos Warrior was left standing at the end, a Pyrrhic victory if there ever was one.  This was in stark contrast to how I thought the series was going to go after the decision was taken to do it and getting my hands on the army books.  I still stand by what I said in my Empire Army Book review, the subtleties of the changes in the Empire book still leave a slightly sour taste in my mouth knowing what the author’s motivations were, and the fact that the list suffers from significant imbalances corroborates my opinions when paired with the Chaos book.

I feel a large portion of my success was actually down to Phil’s choice of which Chaos God to theme his army on as much as it is to my playing ability. Playing as Khorne is certainly a limitation – at least when it comes to playing the Empire.  I’m sure it would have been harder for me to succeed if I was playing against say, an Undivided list, with all its magical gizmos and tailoring potential – it has a hideously powerful potential in the hands of someone willing to throw any kind of theme or fluff out the window. The lack of any shooting or magic are both huge advantages to an Empire player as you don’t have to invest any of those precious points into protecting yourself from those elements and can focus more on directly dealing with the biggest threats you know you’ll face. But anyway, on to what I’ve learnt which will hopefully benefit those budding Empire General’s out there for the times when they’ve run into an army of Khorne frothing at the mouth.

Army List Selection

Games of Warhammer Fantasy Battle can be won and lost before a dice is even rolled, the choices you make in building your list will have a significant say in how easy or hard your games will be to win.

Frenzied Khorne units are like lawnmowers when it comes to the green grass of the Empire.  Most of your soldiers will die horribly by the wagon load in a stand up fight – you will typically be striking last, with inferior weapon skill, lower strength, and with far less attacks. You will need numbers, and it will be crucial to get your units working together – synergy is a term used a lot with Empire armies and harnessing it is the key to victory.

For your Core, you will need at least one, maybe two, big blocks of State Troops to act as both an anchor for your battle line and an anvil to break the enemy on.  They will need to hold their ground in the face of the whirlwind of death that will inevitably hack its way to them, at least 40-50 bodies if you’re going down the single block route.  I personally prefer to go with two units of 35-40 but that’s what works for me against my opponent and it can be hard to maintain character support across the two of them which we will come onto a bit later.  Which type of State Troops to use for this depends on your style of play, but there are some definite good and bad choices when it comes to deciding which to field.

Swordsmen are the most durable being able to make full use of shields that also provide them with a parry save, plus having an extra point of WS meaning Marauders and Hounds only hit you on 4+ instead of 3+ adds to their durability. They are great for absorbing attacks but will kill very little in return, particularly against anything wearing Chaos Armour.  They are an ideal choice for a true anvil with which to hold the enemy against, but are also the most expensive in points per man.

Halberdiers can actually kill something occasionally, but will die doing so. The extra strength helps with causing wounds and also getting through the thick armour you’ll face. However, the inability to use a shield at the same time as a Halberd means they die very quickly. For a mere 6 points they are generally considered to be the best all round choice in any Empire Army – shields are only worth taking against armies with lots of shooting so leave them behind against Chaos and take more bodies instead.  They are probably the best choice against Chaos.

Spearmen give you many attacks – albeit with very little chance of success against the high toughness and armour saves.  The Spears also make them very static and completely defensive as they only work if they don’t charge. They are the worst choice against Chaos, limited in their usefulness to only the weaker units, which are few in a Chaos army.

To back up your block/s you can add in detachments if you so choose – although there is a lot of debate as to whether they are worth it anymore after the changes made to them. My opinion is generally no, with one exception. There is a definite use for smaller 10/15/20 man units in the army, for sure, but now without the benefit of the auto flank counter charge rule, attaching them to parent units means they often just provide additional squishy bodies for your opponents superior troops to kill and gain yet more combat resolution with – that goes double for Chaos units, and triple for Khorne.  Add in all the Psychology involved with having them in amongst your line means I rather have the flexibility of taking small units on their own.  Independent 10 man Halberdier units (cheap) are fantastically useful and can be used as warmarchine protectors, charge redirectors, speed bumps, flank protectors etc.  Easily worth the measly 60 points they cost per unit.  The exception is for the lowly Archer – they’re brilliant.  They can range in front of the army and become a very irritating distraction for your opponent who must overcome their charge redirecting and blocking. Panic isn’t a problem when they die as they are out in front and the fact they can shoot is just a bonus which lets them soften up the hounds which are usually tasked with removing them.  Costing as little as 35 points in units of 5 makes them invaluable at buying you time – they are one of the most important units available to the Empire.

The rest of the ranged State Troops unfortunately are poor.  They are now very expensive for what they do and against a Khorne army with no real shooting or magic to worry about the more fragile Outriders are a much better choice.  10 Handgunners costs you 90 points for 10 shots, 5 Outriders cost you 105 points for 15 shots – all at the same equivalent BS.  Plus the Outriders get a free move at the start of the game to get into a better position, and also have horses for if they ever do need to move again – which you should avoid.

Knightly Orders are decent. The 1+ armour save is still very hard for even Chaos Warriors to get through, just stay away from Chaos Knights, or worse Skull Crushers,  who will still make a mess of them. You can also choose to equip them with Greatswords as you’ll be striking last anyway, but losing the 1+ save is a big decision as it’s their biggest strength. They won’t win in a head on charge against most units but get them in a flank and they will be hard to shift – particularly the Stubborn Reiksguard who can pin a unit in place almost indefinitely.  Their problem is they struggle to deal out enough damage and need character support if you want them to charge through units of any significance – mounted Warrior Priest’s help them massively with their Hatred.

One of, if not the best units available to you will be the Demigryph Knights – they are the one truly combat capable unit available to the Empire and can eat their way through almost anything if you play them right – just don’t forget you’re playing Chaos who are also very combat capable.  If you’re careless with them they will die just as quickly as anything else in the Empire army. Their armour-piercing beaks are tailor-made to beat Chaos units, get them in a Flank and watch them go – its carnage. Take two units if possible.

Warmachines are fairly straight forward.  The Steam Tank is a beast and you should always take it when possible.  Its hull mounted cannon is a bonus but it’s the D6 plus D3 impact hits per steam point used in moving when it charges is where the real use is. Plough it into units like Chaos Knights and Warriors and watch it mangle them – but stay away from Dragon Ogres unless you’re confident of crippling them in the impact.  Their S7 Great Weapons can do a lot of damage and at 4 wounds each are still durable despite the lack of decent armour or high toughness. The steam turret is still useful against Chaos despite their smaller units and generally high toughness.  One bad roll for armour saves can still be crippling if you ramp it up to S4 so keep an eye out for opportunities to use it.

Take at least one Cannon, preferable two – there’s multitude of fast-moving units with either high armour or multiple wounds running around for you to shoot at: Skull crushers, Dragon Ogres, Chariots, Chaos Knights, Slaughterbrutes etc. Back these up with a Volley Gun and Engineer (he’s a must).  Chaos players are terrified of the Helblaster and rightly so – it can and will remove entire units when it fires using the Engineers BS and re-roll, and will also act as an area denial weapon.

A few other things I’ve found useful are Greatswords and the Celestial Hurricanum.  Greatswords are a 50/50 for a lot of Empire players as they’re expensive, but against Chaos Warriors their weapons can wreak havoc against their tough units. Put a Battle Standard bearer in the unit and they will (almost) never ever run away. Cold blooded, unmodified leadership 8 with a re-roll is nearly impossible to break and it’s easier to just slay the entire unit, and although expensive they are very hard to get points out of because of this.  The Hurricanum enjoys the benefit being something of a wild card as well providing some reliable effects. The +1 to hit 6” bubble is valuable beyond measure for your troop blocks and means that when you do finally get to hit back, those numbers you’ve sunk your points into will do some serious damage.  It also provides an extra power dice to help get those all-important spells off, and that means the random weather spell is a bit of a bonus afterthought really – you’d take it for the first two reasons alone.

And last but no means least, we have the characters – Empire armies rely very heavily on them and thankfully they’re cheap.  First up is a Captain upgraded to a Battle Standard Bearer and he really is non-negotiable as it will be the rock of your entire army. Back him up with as with a few Warrior priests where you think you’ll need them and you should have a pretty formidable formation all benefitting from each others abilities. After you include the previously mentioned Engineer for the Helblaster, you just need some Magical firepower in the form of some wizard levels – Level 2 or more, it’s up to you really. As you don’t have to worry about any spells coming back your way you can put as much or as little into magic levels as you want. Lore of Metal really hurts Khorne with their sky-high armour saves so I take at least one Wizard with that lore in my army. The biggest choice you will face in your character selection is who to make your general.  A Wizard Lord gives you access to the very desirable Ld 9 and can hang back from the battle line relatively safe.  Another good choice is to make one of the Warrior Priests an Arch Lector, who can sit in your battle line and benefit the whole formation with his leadership and prayers – just remember to protect him adequately.

Things like Grand Masters and Generals are good but typically being mounted they tend to move away from your force so the army doesn’t usually benefit from the leadership bonus.  Sitting still in units are a waste of points for what a cheaper character can do – and if you do want them to go charging off to plough through enemy units you really have to invest the points in his unit and his magic items – which all significantly weakens the rest of your army.  Besides, who’s stupid enough to actually go chasing a Khorne army?

So based on what I’ve gone over, in a 3000 point list you should have a unit roster looking something like this:

Captain – BSB

Wizard/s

Engineer

Arch Lector/Warrior Priests/s

Halberdier Block  x2

Small Halberdier Unit  x2

Inner Circle Knights Block

Archer detachment  x2

Demigryphs  x2

Greatsword Block

Outriders

Great Cannon  x2

Steam Tank

Helblaster Volley Gun

Celestial Hurricanum

Don’t be under any illusions, its hard work getting it all to fit – there just never seems to be enough points when making Empire lists – but it can be done. Some sacrifices will need to be made depending on how many magic levels you want or how many points you wish to invest in magic items.  A few things can easily be trimmed to free up points like the Outriders or one of the small halberdier units, but by including at least most of the units above you should have a flexible and tough army that your opponent will struggle to do any meaningful damage to.

In the next part we’ll look at deploying the army to get the maximum benefit out of each unit and how to use them once battle is joined.

-Lee

A Tale of Two Armies – Chapter 4

TaleOfTwoArmies copyAfter a longer pause than intended, we submit to you, dear reader, the fourth chapter in the continuing saga of von Bomburg and von Strauss…

All along the clearing the forces of Order and Chaos clashed. Skullcrushers rampaged through units of infantry, Chaos Knights, atop mighty, yet twisted, steeds charged through regiments five times their size and laid them low. Yet amidst the seemingly senseless, explosive, violence there was an out-of-place oasis of calm. The eye of the storm. An implacable block of Warriors of Khorne, their armour daubed a muddy red, their shields locked and their feet beating the ground in perfect time moved towards the familiar form of the von Bomburg household guard. At it’s centre: the emaciated form of Ludwig von Bomburg.

Otto clucked his tongue. It saddened him to see how far his brother had fallen, but it was understandable what with that brute von Strauss dogging him for years. Were it not for a touch of luck and his own guiding hand, the Red would have had Ludwig’s head on a spike years ago. Poor bastard. But his own patron had plans for his brother, as she did him. And she would not be denied.

The battle flowed back and forth, losses mounting on both sides. Carrion birds circled overhead, squawking to the men below to hurry up and finish the bloody business before them. Mangy dogs that followed the scent of death were already pulling at corpses. Growling and snapping amongst themselves to be the first to feed. To Otto’s gifted sight he could see daemon things licking at the fabric of the world, hungry to taste the blood of the fallen. To caper amongst the entrails and severed heads. And to take the skulls back to their master.

von Strauss was yet to commit himself to the fight, content, it seemed, to allow his Skullcrushers and their deranged mounts the chance to gorge themselves on sweet meats of Marienburg fighting men. Although losses were mounting for the subjects of the Blood God, they would ultimately prevail. Nothing could stop their ferocity. Or deter their mortal master.

Otto closed his eyes for a moment and reached out with his nethersight, touching the minds of the Demigryphs. Nudging their curiosity and firing their hunger, he coaxed them to turn their heads from the main force they were galloping towards and focus on the clanking wall of doom that made up von Strauss’ escorting regiment of Warriors. The minds of disciplined soldiers were hard to manipulate at this range but creatures were far easier. Base instincts were something he understood all too well, and with the tiniest poke and prod he had done little more than stoke the fires of the Demigryphs’ natural aggression.

Otto smiled to himself, his pale features folding around lips painted thick with rouge, as he saw the alarm on the faces of the Demigryphs’ riders. He suspected it was as much to do with their hulking, clanking, target as it was the unprovoked change of direction. The Demigryphs picked up speed, shrieks ringing out from their cruel, hooked, beaks. Otto’s smile broadened as a ragtag mob of primitives turned to face the creatures, their bearded thug of a leader raising a crude axe and bellowing orders in their guttural language. They didn’t stand a chance. Had they not been in the grip of their blood frenzy they might have seen it.

The marauders didn’t so much collide with the Demigryphs as explode against them. They were hopelessly, hilariously, outclassed. Otto’s fingers twitched as his mind poked and prodded the minds of the Demigryphs, like a conductor directing a grand orchestra. Every tear of muscle, spray of blood and scream blended together into a symphony. The creatures lunged and rendered with unerring accuracy. Within minutes the entire mob was bloodied chunks of meat in pools of spreading gore. The Demigrphys hooted and chirruped their satisfaction and began to move on, towards the Warriors and hulking form of von Strauss. He had stopped to watch the slaughter. Otto had assumed the simple-minded brute was merely transfixed by the carnage but he corrected himself. For the followers of the Blood God it wasn’t, as most assumed, a sexual high or even a euphoric one. The frenzy didn’t stop them in their tracks, it drove them onwards as if Khorne himself was at the press of his follower’s backs.

No, he was thinking. Otto felt unease settle in his stomach as he scanned the tree line and then the hills. Eventually the featureless gaze of his horned helm rested on Otto. Even though he was miles away, Otto knew that von Strauss could see him. The blessings of Khorne had seen to it that the Red was far more than a mere man. Otto watched with a growing sense of fear – that made his body tremble so new was the sensation – as von Strauss lift his hunting spear in challenge before quitting the battle field with his warriors in tow, leaving five of his finest warriors to slow the Demigryphs down if only for a moment.

von Strauss didn’t even give his forces a cursory glance as he rushed back towards his own lines and into the trees, his retinue close at his heels. On the battlefield the tide had turned. The various arcane contraptions with which Ludwig waged war were taking their toll. Although the Marieburger force would be lucky to have a soul left alive but the forces of ruination would be wiped out. Not that it seemed to bother all that much.

‘Well,’ He said to himself as much as his patron, he was always listening, ‘I suppose it would be rude to pack up and leave.’ He drew a gnarled root from the flowing folds of his purple rob and began chewing on it. He closed his eyes as he felt the narcotics working their magic. He chuckled to himself as he got comfy, perching atop an old tree bole, root clenched in between his teeth as he patiently awaited the Red.

***

The armoured fist around his throat snapped Otto from his trance state. He had cast his mental net wide and was reaching out trying to soak up the raging storm of emotions that seethed in the forest and nearby townsteads. His body was opening up to the nature of existence as seen through the eyes of Slannesh only to be yanked free so close to enlightenment…

von Strauss would pay.

Before he could utter a word of protest or lay a curse upon von Strauss, the armoured giant lifted him into the air and began to squeeze. What little colour was left in his sallow complexion drained away and he gasped and flailed against the iron grip.

‘Why?’ The sound was like an avalanche. A deep bass rumble that threatened unimaginable violence. Otto, in his own way, was just as powerful as von Strauss. He had been blessed many times over by his mistress but with his brain being rapidly starved of oxygen he could do little more than try to stay conscious. And it was a battle he was losing. Forcing his manicured hands between the purpling skin of his throat and the gore red gauntlet he used all his diminishing strength to bend a digit back enough that he could draw a wheezing gasp.

‘Because She wills it.’ He managed.

von Strauss’ obvious disgust was punctuated by throwing the sorcerer bodily to the floor. Otto hit the ground hard and he felt something break and his arm exploded in pain. He rolled on the floor in a state of ecstasy, momentarily lost to the pain pleasure that was surging around his body, lost to the gravity of the situation. But the sensation passed all too quickly and his mind returned to the moment and the armoured monster looming over him.

‘So weak.’ von Strauss growled, disgust dripping from every word. He reached for the spear lashed to his back, the blade a seething mess of madness and dark light, preparing to finish off the whelp of Slannesh. Otto lashed out a hand, speaking a string of oily words that had no place in the material realm. A seething wave of energy struck von Strauss and for a moment the Khorne lord disappeared. Otto’s elation was replaced with cold dread as von Strauss appeared seemingly unharmed. Something approximating a laugh emanated from his helmet. It made Otto feel immediately sick and his head began to swim. von Strauss drew his spear and deftly spun it in his grip raising it high above his head, ready to plunge it into the stricken form of Otto von Bomburg. In the distance the sounds of battle had died away. He knew his forces were scattered but he cared not. More flocked to his banner with each passing day. For every skull he took and town he burned in his efforts to wreak misery on the son of Marienburg his power grew.

Silence fell upon the hill. Even the cawing flocks of carrion birds had given up their incessant complaining. Even the low rumble of von Strauss’ heavy breathing had faded to nothing. Otto blanched in the face of his own mortality, the fear gripping him tasting bitter depriving him of the thrill he’d felt so often in his life. He screwed his eyes shut, earning a snort of disgust from von Strauss, as he offered up prayers to his mistress, promising her his soul, the soul of his brother and all who follow him and the life of von Strauss, the favoured of Khorne. The spear lunged downwards, the blade an ever-changing horror of leering faces and daemonic fire. The edge rippled with black light as it sliced through the air.

The blade impacted with the thin, accentuated, metal of Otto’s chest plate and shattered. von Strauss was thrown from his feet as the dark energies bound within the ancient weapon were suddenly unleashed. Otto howled as the dark energies scoured his form, cooking his flesh and fusing his ornate armour to his body. But he did not die.

By the time Otto stood on quivering legs von Strauss had already recovered, his armour scorched and smoking but otherwise unharmed. The chuckle again. ‘It seems, little man, your God favours you. No matter.’ He said tossing the splintered spear haft into the bushes, the smoking end immediately setting the brittle branches alight. ‘ I will have your brother’s head, and yours. And you will perish in such agony not even you will find pleasure there. Besides,’ He growled, ‘This will make it much greater sport.’

As von Strauss left the shattered form of Otto von Bomburg, the Deviant of Altdorf, surrounded by flames and atop scorched earth where once thick grasses grew he cast one last glance back. ‘No more hiding for you, little man.’

Empire Greatswords – A Review

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Woohoo! I’ve finally got my hands on a box of Greatswords, who are one of the units in the Empire list I am genuinely excited about from both a gaming and hobby perspective. When I first skimmed through the Empire book and started piecing together in my head what I wanted my army to look like, a massed unit of Greatswords standing proud in the centre of my battle line was an image I definitely wanted to see through to completion. They are the elite infantry of man. Clad in Full Plate armour and wielding their hefty swords, they are one of the units in the Empire army that can do some significant damage to the enemy.  A horde of 40 would certainly help them do that but alas, as with everything in the current Empire book, a compromise has to reached as they are not cheap, so a trimmed down 30-35 will be more likely – and affordable [Poor baby. – Ed].

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There has been some debate over whether Greatswords are actually a worthwhile choice as their points cost makes them a very significant investment.  At 11 points each they weigh in at almost double that of the staple Halberdier and it’s been argued that the 100-150 points you save by going with a Halberdier block come in very handy elsewhere in the army – and this of course is an extremely valid argument.  A unit of 5 Outriders, for example, is only 105 points for 15 Handgun shots per turn – on top of those 40 Halberdiers.  Or even another Helblaster perhaps? (cackle)

However, my opinion is that Greatswords offer you one of the best options for dealing with elite troops head on in combat.  I plan on taking quite an infantry heavy army – three large blocks with one of them being the Greatswords, because I think Empire armies look way cool when there are a lot of boots/socks/tights on the ground.  However my opponents plays Khorne for A Tale of Two Armies, which has many units (read all) which fall into the ‘Infantry Blender’ category that can quite easily chop their way through half a horde of state troops a turn.

In the Greatswords I believe the Empire have a unit that can actually stand up to these and then dish some hurt back.  Their Weapon Skill of 4 is only a limited improvement in my situation against the combat superstars of Chaos, but against many other armies it vastly improves their survivability by immediately cutting 25% off the numbers of wounds they would suffer.  When you then add in the Full Plate armour save of 4+ that’s potentially another 50% off the wounds tally, meaning not only do they stick around for twice as long, but they give up less combat resolution in the process making it easier to break your opponent.

When it’s their turn to strike they can really dish out the hurt – even against heavily armoured opponents with the -2 armour save from their Strength 5 attacks.  They are one of the few Empire units you’d probably want to run a bit wider than the minimum of 5 as you do want to make the most of their high strength attacks, and as they’re Stubborn you don’t have to worry about stacking ranks to gain Steadfast.  We know they can wound easily but the only problem is hitting the target, Weapon Skill 4 is good but not great, but this is where the Empire army synergy comes into play.

The Celestial Hurricanum is almost a must have if going for an Infantry heavy army. The +1 to hit bubble is invaluable for actually doing some damage to your opponent rather than just holding him in combat.  With your Greatswords now hitting on 3’s and wounding on 2’s or 3’s they are going to leave a mark.  If you really fancy juicing them up, put a Warrior Priest in there (or better yet, an Arch Lector for Leadership 9 Stubborn) for re-rolling misses straight off the bat and then your choice between re-rolling to wound, for increased damage output, or a 5+ Ward Save to make them even harder to shift.  You’ve now got a unit that even Chaos Warriors would hesitate to engage – start throwing in magic buffs and it’s getting silly. But I’ll again mention the cost, all this doesn’t come cheap and it really has to be part of your strategy to get all your units working together and squeezing the most out of your army.  Your points investment gets you a unit that doesn’t need to hold on for dear life while help comes over the horizon like your state troops will, they can mix it up and even though they may not always win, they will have almost certainly ground your opponent down and held them in combat for a long while – giving you time to prioritize who gets assistance and when.  Just remember to keep you Battle Standard Bearer close by as you wouldn’t want your 400+ point unit running away due to one unlucky dice roll.

As for the models themselves?  They’re – ahem – great. Sorry couldn’t resist.  But seriously, they’re a really nice plastic kit with minimal mould lines and some very desirable components for use on them and elsewhere.  Their design is excellent and lends itself easily to a more lavish paint job with the slashed sleeves just crying out for a colour combination befitting their status.  You get two sets of arms for every soldier letting you choose between straight or wiggly sword blades, a load of extra torsos and multiple head options.  But that’s where the one gripe about this set comes in, with Games Workshop charging over £25 a pop for only ten pairs of legs on bases, the set is actually only missing just that – more legs.  You could make another 2 or 3 out of each box if you had the legs to do it! Buy two boxes of them and if you could find somewhere selling individual components then get hold of some more legs (I did) and your unit size increases a nice chunk. Thankfully our friends at Firestorm Games charge less than Games Workshop so make sure you buy them from them as that shrinks a potential outlay for a large unit of 30 from £76.50 to more like the £45.90 for two boxes plus the cost of obtaining a some extra legs and a torso or two– not too shabby.

It’s going to be a daunting task to paint up 30 or 40 of these guys but the effect on display when they’re done will be well worth it – and hopefully they’ll repay my faith and effort in their performances on the table top.  To arms!

Empire Greatswords are available from Firestorm Games priced £22.95.

Empire Celestial Hurricanum – A Review

TaleOfTwoArmies copyPhil just had to get one more review in before Christmas and it fell to old muggins here to get the job done. So sit back with your coco/brandy/hot toddy/hot piece of ass and enjoy.

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After I had finished reviewing the Empire army book one of the units I came away thinking would be fairly key to the performance of any future army of mine were the magical chariots of doom, aka the Celestial Hurricanum and Luminark of Hysh.  They each offer a great unit buff to your army with a very handy 12” bubble, added bonus to dice to your magic phase and also possess a bound spell to complete a trifecta of goodness.

I was certain I was going to include one of them in my army, and maybe both in a 3,000 point list [Beardy fucker. -Ed.] if I could stretch the points far enough – which in the end they didn’t (as anyone who’s written a list for the current Empire army will know too well).

Having settled on just the one (for now) I had the task of choosing between them, which actually turned out to be easier than I thought. When I scored the two’s abilities the Hurricanum came up trumps quite convincingly, although it must be said the Luminark is still a very viable option.  The Hurricanum wins on the bubble effect with the +1 to hit being very useful in adding some sorely needed combat effectiveness to the very lowly rank and file, whereas the Luminark’s 6+ ward save, although desirable, wasn’t going to stop them dying in their droves.  Likewise the bonus dice in the magic phase, an extra power dice being infinitely more desirable for me (given my Khorne playing opponent) than the extra dispel dice.

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The bound spell is where it was a bit harder to choose between them. The Luminark casts Solheim’s Bolt of Illumination which is a very dangerous Strength 8 bolt thrower with flaming attacks that causes D3 wounds and no armour saves (yikes!), which is perfect for disposing of all the scary monsters and monstrous cavalry running around.  In comparison the Hurricanum is a little more subtle with its Storm of Shemtek, which scatters a small template that causes a random weather affect – most results cause hits at varying strengths with other minor side effects, and the most interesting being the tornado that rotates the target’s facing. One small gripe is that the ‘Sudden Downpour’ result causes no additional effects on the target – I thought an effect on black powder weapons would have been suitable here, friend or foe, as it’s just logical.  For sheer destructive power I’d say the Luminark is superior, but at the same time it’s that obvious damage which means you’re unlikely to ever get the spell off as your opponent will almost always keep a dice or two back to dispel it.  You can of course use this to try to get other spells off but the less obvious nature of the Storm of Shemtek means most opponents will ignore it which then could potentially result in a game winning result with the afore-mentioned tornado.

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Games Workshop seems to like making its new kits very appealing when they’re first released, no doubt in order to boost sales, and these are no exception as they are both a steal for the points.  Like I said earlier, if I could, I would take both but points be scarce least so instead I must choose. Even though the Hurricanum is the better of the two, the Luminark no doubt has its many uses and that mega laser beam of death just does not keep quiet – it constantly whispers its power to you like the oversized assembly of rings it is. As such, I’ve been looking into the possibility of assembling it so that you can flip between the two – you can easily switch out the contraption mounted on the top as each has its own dedicated parts, and then as long as you build the platform to the rear it won’t obstruct anything on top.  This is no big deal as I think any wizard operating the Hurricanum would actually be staring up at it at the back rather than just ignoring it as he rides up front so this doesn’t spoil the aesthetic.  The peripheral telescopes and what nots can go anywhere as can the scribes who crew it, the only real obstacle is the paint job.  Something a bit more neutral will be needed with more definition being possible on the contraptions themselves but it is possible.  I think I might actually give it a go, if it doesn’t look right I’ll just settle on the most appropriate and look to getting another at some stage.

As a bonus you also get an extra wizard included in the box, which is nice.  Either a Light or Celestial wizard of course which gives you the possibility of mounting your Wizard Lords onto their respective magical chariot.  Everyone I’ve spoken to seems to think this is a bad idea though as it offers no additional protection and presents your most powerful individual model as a huge shiny bull’s eye. Eggs and baskets basically, but no bother as a bonus wizard on foot is better than kick in the baubles [Nice Christmas reference. -Ed].

Overall I think this is a great kit, I know not everyone was a fan of the design but I think it’s the right kind of crazy for the Empire.  The sheer size and ambition of the Hurricanum again being the better of the two.  The frames are packed full of cool little bits and pieces which will find their way onto your other models and guess what? You get new horses! Yay! If you also consider the bonus wizard that’s included, that has actual value, half of the Empire Wizards box which retails for up to £18. Once you knock that off the price it’s pretty reasonable.  And we already know rules wise is pretty amazing for the points, so what are you waiting for?

The Hurricanum/Luminark kit is available from Firestorm Games priced £29.25.

Amera River Sections – A Review

TaleOfTwoArmies copyAs A Tale of Two Armies series ramps ever upwards towards the 3,000 point total and an almighty game of fisticuffs I started thinking about the different types of scenery that could give the games a bit of zing. And those lovely people at Amera obliged me with a solution in the form of their river sections.

I’m a bit of a fan of Amera (this being my fourth review of their stuff) because they do a wide range of cool looking gaming standard scenery that doesn’t break the bank. But the really great thing about Amera is they provide you with the template and you have the freedom to turn it into something stunning. Whereas kits from the likes from the Games Workshop are crammed with detail – and you pay a premium for it – that will take an age to paint, Amera focuses on practicality and usability. That’s not to say that their scenery lacks detail – not at all – but the details is the important stuff rather than indulgent stuff. As I say, it’s proper gaming terrain.

But on to the river sections themselves. For a start they’re incredible value. The set I received was enough to occupy a two foot by one foot space and comes in at around a tenner, which is very good. And because it’s modular you can just add to it. Or, because the outlay is far from bank busting you can have sets of rivers painted up like different environments to suit your boards and existing scenery sets.

The simple fact is the river sections simple and designed with real thought, not only from a gaming point of view but a real life one too. The latter being that they’re incredibly light, being moulded plastic, and easy to store. The pieces all stack nicely together and will tuck into a spare gap in a storage box nicely. The former is the best bit. The sections have a very gentle gradient leading up to the water’s edge make adds to the realism as so many sets I’ve seen have very high/steep banks so the river feels very out-of-place on the board. This feels far more natural and does a much better job of suggesting water running below board level rather than on top of it. The other good thing about the shallow gradient is that you can stand toys on it.

An obvious thing to take into account when designing wargaming scenery, one might say, but you’d be surprised how many times the aesthetic of a model is put before functionality and the banks are rounded abominations that you can’t balance anything on. This is not the case with the Amera river sections and in fact, they’re awesome because the river bank has a slight lip at the water’s edge which is a lovely touch as it gives the sections as sense of movement,with sediment building up on the banks.

The only downside to the sections, if it can be called that, is that they do lack texture so if you wanted something you can spray and drybrush these aren’t necessarily the sections for you. And that’s fine because as I mentioned before, one of the best things about Amera’s scenery is that you get the chance to work with a bit of a blank canvas whilst all the key elements are there right in front of you. Just be prepared to get through a lot of sand, PVA and pots of gloss varnish.

The river sections from Amera are superb value and very good quality. And because of that value you’ll be able to buy the number of sections you need without worrying about whether or not you’ll be able to afford food and electricity as well. Yes they’ll arguable require a fair bit of sand and paint to get them to where you’d want them to be but it’s more than off set by the cheapness of the products.

The river sections are available direct from Amera.co.uk from £1.50.

 

A Tale of Two Armies: Genesis of a Hero

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As part of A Tale of Two Armies one of the things we wanted to look at, as part of the wider narrative, was how hero and villain of the piece evolved from our early conversations to the characters they’ll become at the series’ conclusion. I elected to go first as I had the luxury of having much of my character’s back story long ago established.

‘It all started with a game of Mordheim’ I guess is the best way to begin explaining the almost sentient growth of a humble assembly of plastic pieces into a character worthy enough to actually write about.

When The Chaps decided to run a Mordheim Campaign and we were deciding who would do which warband, I plumped for the rich boys of Marienburg figuring the extra gold pieces they had would give me a significant head start to turn them into a dominant force – even if they were a bit lacking in the rules department.  That gold enabled me to tool up my Captain with all the cool toys he could want including a pair of very shiny, and very expensive, Duelling Pistols.  I had the image of a lethal sharpshooter in my mind, wading through combat, picking off enemies one after the other with deadly accurate head shots – none able to get close for fear of ending up face down in the dirt in an expanding pool of their own vital fluids. But it never really happened like that, quite the opposite really.

During the campaign von Bomburg wasn’t exactly living up to those expectations I had when gleefully listing his equipment I invested so heavily in. Dice are fickle at best of times but he could almost be guaranteed to roll a ‘1’ when it really mattered.  During the early days of a character’s progression you forgive poor performances knowing that experience will no doubt improve through skills and stat increases. von Bomburg had now accumulated a few of these (through the rest of his warband performing quite well – love those crossbows), most notably an extra point of Ballistic Skill taking him to a very healthy 5 and the Pistolier skill letting him shoot both of his pistols together if needed.  And a suit Gromril armour – very handy indeed. With the firepower at his disposal he should have been kicking asses and taking names, but it just wasn’t happening for him.

The specific game in question has been mentioned before in other posts and relates specifically to Bomburg’s lack of shooting accuracy.  As this game was playing out he was demonstrating his usual ineptitude with all things ballistic only this time he happened to be in the beer garden of the town tavern.  Standing upon a table acting all heroic like, he took careful aim at the horde of enemies rushing towards him and his fellow Marienburgers, and then proceeded to miss both his shots despite hitting on 2’s as if bestowed with eyes that stared at each other. As this stage his sub par performances could go unnoticed no longer and the rest of The Chaps threw their 2 pence/cents/maple leaves worth into the mire of my disappointment. Amongst the usual tit for tat one comment was latched upon which was he must have been enjoying the beer garden a bit too much and thus impaired his vision [That may have been me… – Ed.].  It stuck and so began the effervescent evolution of Ludwig von Bomburg – the wealthy drunkard fallen on hard times. The son of a wealthy family looking for adventure whilst slowly drinking his fortune away. Somewhere between Paul Whitehouse’s 13th Duke of Wybourne and Rowley Birkin QC (for those of you that watch The Fast Show) – he no doubt possessed the sleazy suaveness of the former but was far more inebriated like the latter.

As the campaign continued, von Bomburg’s performance did improve under the avalanche of additional skills he acquired but he was always below what was expected – the others feared his potential, but never surprised by his failure.  As Bomburg’s ability had improved somewhat during the campaign it seemed natural that he would once have been a formidable foe – the kind of which I wanted at the start, but impact of life’s vices had dulled his skills. The constant state of combat he endures in Mordheim being enough to reawaken some of the potential he lost to the drink, drugs and women.

Another of von Bomburg’s traits were brought to light when he seized on an opportunity to take down Ian’s Vampire who had got a little isolated – von Bomburg stepped forward pistols in hand and proceeded to miss with both shots. von Bomburg and Ian’s Vampire have a little history as way back in the first games of the campaign von Bomburg critically wounded him which resulted in him losing his hand. With us being the fun guys we are, we decided to let Ian graft the crossbow pistol he possessed permanently onto the stump to mitigate such a severe blow so early in the campaign and add a bit of character to proceedings.  This had not been forgotten and so the tables now reversed as Ian managed to distract von Bomburg’s guards and charge him with said Vampire in retaliation. Bomburg was easily out matched but through a healthy dose of luck he managed to survive several rounds of combat and long enough for Ian to fail his route test as my Marienburgers dispatched his minions – sparing Bomburg his doom.  The outcome highlighted that he’s really really lucky when it comes to staying alive. There’s the time he got brained by the handgun only for me to remember his Lucky Charm at the very last second prior to removing the model, or the time he side stepped that Strength 5 lightning bolt.  He rarely dies and always seems to have a way out a sticky situation – often thanks to his long-suffering bodyguard, Viktor holding the enemy up long enough for him make his escape.

By this time I had themed all of the Marienburg warband around what would have been members of his household guard; Viktor was the head of the Household Guard with the Halberdiers being members, one of the Young bloods was his disturbed cousin etc. but Viktor with his role as bodyguard stood out as a key figure in Bomburg’s development – constantly being the difference between him living and dying.  We started to fill out why Viktor accompanied von Bomburg and why Bomburg was even in Mordheim in the first place, a fall from grace seemed to fit the bill and tied in with his truly outrageous drinking, overall poor performance punctuated with flourishes of mad skills.

As Phil and I started to make our foray into the wider Old World in the ‘A Tale of Two Armies’ series it was a no-brainer to expand the Marienburg warband into a fully fledged army of the Empire, but that would then need an explanation as to where any such army he would have been part of had gone and then led to him coming to the cursed city. Part of this story has been told in the articles Phil has been writing and without wishing to spoil anything I can only say so much – the short of it being he loses much and leads his final few followers into Mordheim as a final gambit.

Bomburg has come a long way from the original model I created for my captain using parts from the old Mordheim box.  After the Pub Garden incident I remodelled him to have a wine glass in hand and moved the second pistol to his belt to better represent his character.  He’s tremendous fun to play and almost takes the decision-making out of my hands with his personality deciding what he should do. I’m now getting just as much enjoyment bringing his supporting cast up to a similar level with the dour Viktor and perverted relative having already been mentioned and accumulating their own anecdotes.

Playing games in A Tale of Two Armies allows me to see von Bomburg as a young man, before years of war and booze ruined his mind and as the narrative develops we’ll learn more just what brings von Bomburg to his fate of a tortured existence amidst the ruins of Mordheim.

I’ve also come into possession of a few plastic wine bottles and have designs in mind to add them to the Captain of the Land Ship from Forgeworld and give the young von Bomburg the model he deserves.  It’s an absolutely ace piece and comes with a fantastic looking crew – particularly said Captain.  It would be perfectly fitting as his chariot of choosing, being overly wealthy (at the time) he would no doubt select the biggest and most expensive vehicle he could find.  I can’t wait to send it careening across the battlefield with him loose at the wheel, it’s practically what Warhammer was made for!

Chaos Dragon Ogres – A Review

TaleOfTwoArmies copyAs we’re closing in on Christmas I thought I’d cram in one more review for the ongoing A Tale of Two Armies series and a unit that will feature in my 2,000 point list.

Warhammer-logoThe Dragon Ogres were always a unit I wanted in my Chaos army of old but never bothered for two reasons. One, they were expensive and looked shit. Even all those years ago when standards were lower, they were pretty awful models. The situation was only exacerbated when the Shaggoth came out what must be knocking on a decade ago.

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So there was much rejoicing in the streets when not only were the Dragon Ogres re-released but re-released in plastic. The price hadn’t got any better more on that later.

Whilst the overall look of the Dragon Ogres hasn’t changed much – it’s an Ogre torso on Dragon legs – the design has moved on by huge zero gravity moon steps. For a start the lower half feels reptilian. Not dragon-like as such, but the subtle scaling of a crocodile rather than the ugly, angular scales of the recent plastic dragons. These are just little flourishes instead. The effect is quite striking and highlights that these creatures aren’t Dragons, or the result of a drunken night between a Dragon, an Ogre and a condom past its expiration date. These are a breed of creature given the name of Dragon Ogre. It’s an important point of difference. It just makes them more, if the word can be used, believable. However, for all that very organic looking design, including the distinctly crocodilian, rigid, tales the feet are pretty poor. They kinda look like latex boots worn by the poor bastard forced to wear the alien suit in Mighty Morphing Power Rangers. To be fair, it’s a minor grumble, but something that probably shouldn’t have made it past the prototype because they do look a bit odd.

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But on to the Ogre half. Of the design evolution this was the part of was happiest about. The huge and stupid looking great weapons have vanished along with the huge stupid looking face that looked like they’d come off worse in a game of chicken with a castle wall. But instead of making them look like Ogres (because they’re not) they refined the original, making the features more human, whilst retaining the bestial feel. The under bite, orcish ears and flat features are all inspired improvements from the previous model. Throw in the spine spikes and slight scaling on the back and you have something that feels like it was born rather than created, if that makes sense. The weapons and armour are also a perfect balance between crude yet crafted. You get the impression they were gifted but not maintained rather than crafted by crude, ill-educated hands as in the case of Ogres and Orcs. But most importantly they look cruel and brutal, much like their owners.

Whilst a lot of the newer kits tend to give you lots of air in the middle of your model, rather than plastic, the sculpt on the Dragon Ogres is a little more generous. Everything slots together rather well and gives quite a nice feeling of solidity which makes up for the fact that at full retail each model is over £11. So roughly how much the metal model was before it came off the shelves… But at least you won’t have the frustrations and heartache of the old models that would either shed their base or their weapon between games.

In the game Dragon Ogres are, at first glance, a bit of an odd fit. They’re hugely hard-hitting, like the rest of the army and can keep pace with the likes of Knights, Skullcrushers and Warhounds, but they suffer from Initiative 2. You’d be forgiven for thinking they serve little purpose in a Warriors of Chaos army considering the army relies on the ability to deliver a devastating barrage of attacks before their opponents get the chance. However, it’s the one unit in the game you can give great weapons to without any penalty what-so-ever as they’re going to be striking after 80% of the units in Warhammer. Which is fine.  Because the other thing to remember is that Chaos don’t have a lot of very high strength units. Don’t get me wrong, they don’t lack punch, but having a unit of 3 Dragon Ogres running around at Strength 7 with 3 attacks each is tasty. It means you have something in your army that are a threat to Steam Tanks and monstrous cavalry. The 4 wounds is handy too and slightly offsets their below average (for Chaos) base save. Unfortunately at 60 points a model they’re too expensive to be used as a distraction or sacrificial unit but that will be an inevitable side effect of using them along side other units as opponents will be forced to choose between damaging a mortal unit or trying to soften up the Dragon Ogres before they get to attack. Despite the aforementioned 4 wounds does make that tough but it’s offset by the fairly low toughness of 4 as well. Although if you’re sensible and use them to deliver the flank charge you’ll mitigate that somewhat.

Dragon Ogres are possibly one of the most important units in a Warriors of Chaos army. Their obvious hammer blow tactics means Warriors of Chaos have something to deal with the really nasty stuff in other armies. Granted they’ll need support thanks to the low initiative and relatively low toughness but adopt a combined armed approach and they’ll just devour everything.

Dragon Ogres are available from Firestorm Games priced £31.50.

A Tale of Two Armies – Chapter 2

TaleOfTwoArmies copyAhead of the narrative to go with the 1,000 point game Lee and I played a couple of weeks ago, I wanted to write a middle part to set the scene, if you will.

von Strauss grunted with satisfaction as Baduk’s axe impacted against the chest of his beastman opponent with a wet snap of a split sternum. The beast grunted its own sound of simple approval, a cloud of steam billowing from a scarred snout, as the life bled from its eyes as quickly as it poured from his ruptured heart.  The beastman dropped to the wooded ground in an expanding pool of blood that blackened the grass and soaked the soil beneath. von Strauss eyed the herd master carefully. These twisted children of Chaos were unpredictable at best, stupid at worst, and as likely to turn on their allies as their enemies if the hunger took them too soon in battle.

von Strauss was loathed to deal with  the herd beasts at all but he needed their brutish simplicity to draw out his quarry from behind Middenheims grat gates. He knew the arrogant fool would be keen to prove his worth following the injuries he suffered at the hands of Baduk. von Strauss could sympathise, he too had suffered wounds and with it the displeasure of his patron. Baduk’s protection of his liege despite near fatal wounds of his own had earned exultation. Baduk’s ascension had been painful for both of them. von Strauss’ failure to slay von Bomburg had drawn Khorne’s attention. As Baduk had endured the fire trials the flames had leapt from the fire pit and enveloped von Strauss. The heat had burned him to his core. His skin had become liquid, mingled with his vital fluids, and flowed from the seams of his armour, swirling around his glowing red form. He hadn’t made a sound. To utter a word of protest would be to invite his doom.

As the embers of the fires grew dim and Baduk’s body crumpled to the floor, his armour creaking and pinging as it cooled in the night air. All around them the rest of von Strauss’ force stood in silent reverence. von Strauss himself stood reborn. He stood far taller than he had been and his armour was a resplendent crimson horror. The armour he’d worn into the Northern Wastes and had protected his body ever since was no more. Every edge was razor-sharp and made of brass and gold. The plates were swirling crimson coalescing into leering daemonic faces before dissipating into maddening patterns. He knew without having to try that he’d never be able to remove his armour again and his face would forever be the hollow eye sockets and vertical slit of his helm. Such is the price of failure.

Following the duel the von Strauss and the herdmaster had entered negotiations for their assistance. Trying to understand the beast’s gutteral tones was all but impossible but they had somehow made it work. At its conclusion the herdmaster had insisted on a feast to celebrate the alliance and the promise of man flesh that would keep the herd fed for weeks. Herds of twisted creatures cavorted and brayed as they feasted on raw, rotting, carcasses the origins of which von Strauss couldn’t determine. The clearing was ruined by black, jagged, herdstones adorned with crude runes of power that von Strauss could only just identify. They were all a far cry from the symbols of power that were inscribed on the armour of his men. The earth around the herdstones bubbled and seethed with the unholy powers infused in the rock. One moment the soil melted and bubbled like liquid, the next it was leering sucking mouths.

The beastmen bounded through fires, off rocks and on to one another’s backs rutting and biting and fighting the prospect of raiding an Imperial town too much for their simple minds. Minotaurs clubbed smaller creatures to the ground and ripped them apart, gulping down wet bloody chunks of flesh, the bones audibly cracking as the powerful jaws of the minotaurs made short work of their diminutive cousins. von Strauss and his men stood like crimson statues watching the orgiastic display impassively. If von Strauss could sneer he would have, Khorne didn’t need cavorting or debasement to prove obedience but skulls and murder. His hollow eyes rested on the herdmaster who, in turn, was looking on at his beasts like a proud father. von Strauss would take great pleasure in offering up his skull to Khorne once he’d served his purpose.

***

Immelscheld was a town much like any other in the Empire. A dense collection of rundown homes, a chapel, a watch house and a low, crumbling, curtain wall. Unlike many, but not all, of the towns of the Empire this town had been chosen by the fickle Gods of fate to be the object of ruin. As the sun dipped into the luminous hours of early evening the beastmen broke cover and charged. Far too far from the town, the attack was poorly positioned, by von Strauss’ design, so the small garrison could be roused to arms. von Strauss watched them run hurriedly to the walls, yanking on chainmail and struggling to tie beltswords around their waists.

The small garrison had fought bravely, not a man fleeing in the face of the maddened, drooling, horde of beastmen as they hacked their way into the down. von Strauss was reluctantly impressed by the garrison commander’s tactics: issuing every man under his authority to man the walls with a crossbow, felling dozens of beastmen and faltering their first charge. It gave the defenders just enough time to draw their swords. It mattered very little to von Strauss, all that mattered was the town burned and Middenheim responded. von Strauss watched at the head of his vst host, concealed in the woods South East of the town. The beastmen brayed and bleated as they sacked the town, citizens attempting to flee burning homes being cut down or set upon, snouts coming up bloody. von Strauss looked skywards as if sensing his patron’s attentions. Already the carrion birds circled, the heat from the burning town making them bob and wheel in the updraft as roofs collapsed in a shower of swirling sparks. The doomed town took a long time to die. Long enough for the beastmen to gorge themselves on the town’s inhabitants and pass out amidst the smouldering ruins. 

***

The first rays of light brought with it the trumpeting of horns and the snap of banners caught on the wind. At the head of a grand host of men in black plate armour Baron von Bomburg marched with renewed purpose. His own armour was polished with lapping paste to a brilliant sheen so it shone in the light of the early morning like a second sun. And he felt as luminous as he appeared. The healing process had been long but nothing compared to the time it took to recover his physique. Endless swordrill with Viktor had slowly sharpened his skills, rifle drill with his handgunners had brought back his aim and time with his fellow nobles had honed his mind once more to the art of strategy.

When a messenger from Immelscheld had reached the gates of Middenheim, exhausted close unto death, von Bomburg had relished the opportunity to put his abilities to the test, and to run out his army that had marched for so long to reach the mountain city only to find the Chaos raiders they’d been summoned to fight had vanished. von Bomburg spared a look at Viktor, ever at his side, and the rest of his household guard resplendent in the livery of his house and he felt his breast swell with pride. No finer unit of infantry existed outside the greatsword regiments charged with the protection of the Elector Counts.

Horns trumpeted again drawing von Bomburg’s attention to the town ahead. It was a smouldering ruin, blackened timbers from homes jutting into the sky like broken ribs. The chapel had fared only slightly better but that had only meant the beastmen had defiled it with feces and symbols and runes that made his eyes hurt. Bodies lay strewn in the streets and the town square, burst open from crude axes or torn to ragged pieces by inhumanly strong arms.

He glanced at Viktor and saw his look of disgust reflected in his oldest friend’s face. Viktor nodded towards his liege and brought his arm down in a chopping action. The horns sounded once more, causing dark and twisted shapes to caper from buildings and beneath broken down wagons and hurried towards the tumbled down walls. von Bomburg drew his sword, holding it aloft for all his men to see, a gleaming blade etched with symbols of power he didn’t understand.

‘Charge!’

Empire Demigryph Knights – A Review

TaleOfTwoArmies copy

The second unit of reinforcements for my 1,000 point list comes in the form of the new and very promising Demigryph Knights.  I mentioned in the Wizard review that I needed to give my force some more teeth, well it turned out to be some beak instead.  And claws, lots of claws.

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I don’t know about you but I really like the models for the Demigryph Knights. They have the right balance of fantasy and functionality that, for me, is required in an Empire army. The oversized heavy plate barding gives them a real sense of war worthiness: something to keep all but the pointiest of sticks at bay, all the while the Demigryphs get down to the business of ripping off faces.

Their riders are regal and imposing with just a tinge of arrogance to them, which is exactly as they should be seeing as they’re knights. Riding on Demigryphs. With big sticks. Of the three poses for the Demigryphs themselves, one is awesome, one is good, and the last one is a bit meh – it’s cocking its head to the side which although accurate fluff wise, is a little too much like an oversized chocobo for me. Younger readers will have to Google what one of those is. You young whipper snappers. They really are another unit goes under the ‘reward’ title for painting as they look great and as there’s only three of them you’ll stay the course in terms of effort.

Demigryphs

When Games Workshop started to release Monstrous Cavalry for the various armies I wasn’t sure if the Empire would even get any at all, or if they did, what would the mounts be as the Pegasus had sort of been bagsied by the Bretonnians – despite it still being a mount choice in the Empire book. The use of a ‘half’ griffon made me wonder why I hadn’t thought of it before, which is a good sign as the decision is a little obvious in hindsight and makes total sense. Rare praise for Games Workshop these days.  And in doing so has given the Empire a unit capable of actually doing some real damage in combat (honestly).

The Knights themselves are fantastic, and just make me weep over the missed opportunity that is the old Knightly Order kit even more.  The heads are great, gifting you the pleasure of choosing which ones to leave out rather than which ones to include – likewise for the shields, plenty of good choice with a nice range. The stylization of certain armour elements into pointed beak shapes works very well and really tells the story that these guys are an elite unit rather than Knights given Demigryphs to ride for the day. All the weapons arms/options included look good enough to make you pause for a difficult aesthetic choice. If and when the old Knights do get a new kit, if they look anything like this there will be much rejoicing in the street, songs will be sung, mead will be drunk and babies will be named in honour of the sculptor. I’m predicting a significant rise in the number of Empire cavalry armies you’ll see galloping around what with them being a pretty good investment for the points.

Rules wise, you couldn’t ask for much more as an Empire player: the Demigryph Knights are a unit to be feared by almost anything. [Except Skullcrushers! -Ed.]  The Demigryph itself kicks out 3 Strength 5 attacks basic plus another for its Stomp for a total of 4 at Strength 5, and then the already Inner Circle Knight on its back adds another at either Strength 5 or 6 depending on how you arm them.  But this is where one of the very few annoyances rears its head: if you choose to equip them with halberds instead of lances (which is a choice most people would usually go for) there’s no rules exception for using a halberd while mounted so you lose your shield.  The 1+ armour save is a big deal for mounted units and sacrificing it for an extra point of Strength is not a decision to be taken lightly – and most seem to have stuck with the Lances as a result.  I fail to see why the Halberd could not have been an upgrade rather than a free weapon swap and let you still use the shield – as represented on the models themselves.

But still, with a box of three being able to chuck out up to 16 attacks at Strength 5 or 6, they can tear apart small to medium-sized units and elites really have a lot to fear as the Demigryphs have the armour-piercing rule to boot giving them -3 to armour saves.  With the errata on Monstrous Cavalry stating you use the higher value for both Wounds and Toughness now, you’ve also got a unit that is now quite resilient too at Toughness 4, 1+ armour save and 3 wounds each.  Deliver them into an enemy flank and they’ll eat anything. Someone even mathed out that they can beat Skull Crushers in straight up combat as the Initiative 4 on the Demigryph means it goes before the Juggernaut, and that’s at 12 points less per model too. [It’s worth noting though that the article go the Skullcrushers armour save wrong so it’s probably about even. -Ed.] It’s just a pity you can’t take them as character mounts so they can lead a unit, but maybe that is just taking the cracker.

Demigryph Knights are available from Firestorm Games priced £30.15.