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.’

Leaked 40k Chaos Helbrute Images

After a loooooooooooong wait Chaos Space Marine players can rejoice that a multi-part plastic Helbrute is finally on its way. By the looks of the leaked photos below there’s only one body option but several head pieces so kinda like the plastic Venerable Dreadnought for their loyalist counterparts. And, of course, a bunch of weapon options including plasma cannons, big smashy hammers and big smashy fists.

Interestingly it looks like they’ve opted for corrupted versions of the current Space Marine Dreadnought rather than a pre-Heresy/Contemptor version. I’m not disappointed perse it just would have been cool to see a wibbly Contemptor Dreadnought stomping about gaming boards.

helbrute1helbrute2helbrute3

 

Chaos Slaughterbrute – A Review

TaleOfTwoArmies copyRegular readers will know that the ambition behind A Tale of Two Armies is to gradually build our forces up by 500 points a month, each month, until we hit 3,000 points. This month we’ll be busting out 2,000 points which will mean using the Dragon Ogres and other such nasties. The Slaughterbrute I was planning to hold in reserve until the larger games but I simply couldn’t resist getting one now and telling you all about it.

Warhammer-logoSo I’ll address the elephant in the room straight away. I have always disliked this model. Aside from being a random daemonic beastie in an army that wasn’t supposed to have daemonic beasties any more, I didn’t like the pose and I didn’t much like the head options.

As Lee and I embarked on this project and I began to read and re-read through the army list I quickly came to the realisation that to not take a Slaughterbrute in the army would be utterly utterly stupid. With Lee’s cannons, the steam tank I knew he’d eventually take and things like Demigryphs running about the place it I’d need something hideous to either act as a line breaker or as a cannon magnet. Either way it would serve a very useful purpose. So putting my prejudices of the model to one side I added it to my list.

The funny thing about our hobby, and the fairly addictive nature of it, is that even though I had mixed feelings about the model I was still excited when it turned up at my door. I was excited when I opened it up and was excited when I looked over the sprues. And as I scrutinised the frames and flicked through the instructions I realised something: the model is actually pretty cool. Hope replaced self loathing for having sacrificed my principles in favour of a brutish unit killer. And so I got down to the business of building the largest plastic Warhammer Fantasy kit I’ve ever constructed.

SlaughterbruteNow, just to be clear, I’m focussing on the Slaughterbrute as I’m collecting a Khorne army (if you hadn’t guessed by now) so if you want to know about the Mutalith I’ll touch on the components but that’s your lot.

The kit is actually a little bit remarkable. As I built the various sections – which kinda felt like a Lego kit in that respect – I was impressed by how each component was key cut to not only fit snugly with its counterpart but also give maximum strength to model as a whole. It does mean, mainly thanks to the really quite crap instructions, it’s not always obvious how the components fit and you also have to be precise with the glue otherwise you risk smearing it the kit slots together.

Once built all the crap that bothered me about the Slaughterbrute kit, I realised, was entirely down the to the crappy paint job and lousy photography. The raised arm isn’t at a perfect angle, and a bit odd-looking but it does tie in with a lopsided, barely held together, creature from beyond. The general feel of crustacean fused with hunched long limbs of a primate works really well and throw in the multi-eyed, multi-tongued, multi-horned head and it’s got bags of menace and looks like it can dish out the hurt its stat line says it can. The heads are a bit OTT but, again, doesn’t look as stupid in the plastic as it does in the Games Workshop photography.

As for the Mutalith components, again, they’re actually much nicer than the images suggest. And if you have built the Slaughterbrute so have the parts going spare it wouldn’t take much to a Chaos portal. And a very cool one at that. Or, alternatively the tentacles would be ace as some kind of wibbly piece of terrain.

In a game, the Slaughterbrute is a walking bad day. For a big slobbering start, the Rune of Binding gives it the Weapon Skill & Leadership of a chosen Hero or Lord which means that this walking tank will be hitting just about anything it charges on a 3+. Throw in Strength 7, Toughness 5, Wounds 5 and Attacks 4 and it all gets a little unpleasant. Granted with only 4 attacks the woe it unleashes will be fairly contained but its ability to draw attention and causing Terror will be a definite and real headache for any opponent. Work it in unison with a unit of Dragon Ogres and they’ll carve themselves a pretty tally from your enemy’s hide. And between them they could turn a Steam Tank to tin foil.

For 20 points more you can chuck in a couple of extra Strength 5 attacks. Which is tasty. So 6 attacks, total, with plenty of muscle behind them. With some very lucky rolling you can pull down one, maybe even two, Demigryph Knights. Which pleases me immensely. It does mean the Slaughterbrute weighs in at 225 points which is a bit hefty. Especially as there are other units that can dish out more hurt for the same level of investment. However the Slaughterbrute gives you a high hit rate, with the strength of a cannon ball, and the added bonus of causing Terror. The 4+ scaly skin save and the fact that it’s a large target does make it vulnerable to enemy fire and it’s an expensive unit to lose in that way but I suppose if your opponent is concentrating on the Slaughterbrute then they’re not punching holes in your Knights and Skullcrushers.

So, whilst you can throw your points at Dragon Ogres, Chaos Ogres or a big units of Knights for the same points, but somehow, when you’re fielding some – or all – of those units already, it’s just not as fun. And I suppose that’s really what the Slaughterbrute will give you when you field it. Granted it won’t necessarily be fun for your opponent but I think you’ll be able to live with it. It’s big, it’s daft and it’ll kick face.

The Slaughterbrute/Mutalith kit is available from Firestorm Games priced £45.00.

A Tale of Two Armies – Chapter 3

TaleOfTwoArmies copyAnd so we get to chapter 3 of the expanding tale of Ludwig von Bomburg and his nemesis; von Strauss the Red. This narrative relates to the 1,000 point game Lee & I played a month ago – yes I’ve been very slack.

von Strauss eyed the Empire army with grudging respect as they barreled towards the sacked town. Armour glistened, elaborate banners snapped in the breeze and blades were sharpened to a perfect and keen edge.

The beastmen were as craven as von Strauss had hoped. They were swept aside against the tide of the Empire’s charge as they thundered into the small, ruined, townstead. Blades rose and fell in the morning sun, glimmering like broken shards of light chased by a rainbow of deep claret. A few gors turned to face their attackers, running to improvised defences and lunging and stabbing with crude spears and rusted swords. It made no difference, the herd was in full-blown route. The morning air was filled with the thud of flesh cutting meat, brays of pain, wordless cries of rage and the drumbeat of hundreds of hooves and feet at full run. Carrion birds, gorged on the carcasses of the townsfolk, took flight on broad oily black wings, crying out their disgust, hooked beaks snapping at one another before settling into a lazy circling flight above the town awaiting fresh feed.

von Strauss jumped down from the rocky outcropping he was using as a vantage point and surveyed his own force. The might of the Blood God was arrayed before him. Knights in spiked armour, atop cruel and violent steeds jostled for position at the front of the charge. Along side them Juggernauts snorted and stamped, their own riders itching to cut flesh and break bone. Further down the line, amongst the trees, he could see the form of Baduk. Charged with commanding the second wave, he was hungry to prove his worth. Perhaps too hungry: he was pacing the line with his weapon drawn, every now and then turning to charge ahead before stopping himself. The path of Khorne was a difficult one. The weakest lost themselves to mindless blood lust and were little more than mindless warriors to feed into the gears of the war machine, but those that could control and channel the blood lust were true horrors of war. Baduk was teetering on the edge, his mortal form still adjusting to the blessed power bestowed upon him by their God. 

‘Hold!’ von Strauss roared. They need only wait mere moments more. Just long enough for the Empire force to chase the herd into the woods. Already he could see von Bomburg halting a portion of his force, as expected, to garrison the town, search for survivors and douse the fires. Just a few moments more and they’d be alone and powerless to stop what was to follow. The bray of the Dragon Ogres that had pledged themselves to his cause emphasised the point. The hulking beasts fought amongst themselves to prove their might, thudding clawed fists into pug jaws, snapping teeth amidst barks of mild amusement.

von Strauss turned as the last of the pursuing Imperial units disappeared into the treeline and raised his hand ready to signal the advance.

‘After them!’ Baduk’s voice cut through the background hum of an army ready for war. His words were immediately met with a roar of approval and the hundreds of bodies around von Strauss surged forwards even as he roared the order to hold. Baduk was already tearing through the trees, axes raised high above his head, those contingents closest to him in hot pursuit.

‘Hold!’ von Strauss bellowed just as Baduk’s own order to charge echoed through the trees. The blood lust had been left to build too long, the need to kill left unsaited and it was too much for the weak souls at his command crumbled beneath the weight of their unholy addiction and surged into the woods. von Strauss roared his frustration to the heavens, lashing out with his blade at anyone within reach damn fool enough to disobey his orders.

As the stampede died away and the dust settled he was left with barely a battalion of men. To his utter surprise some of his knights and skullcrushers had stayed by his side. Clearly the prospect of bloodletting not as powerful as the knowledge of what von Strauss would do to them if they dare disobey him.

He knew he had no choice. His army would have given themselves away. von Bomburg would know a large force was in the forest and either be fortifying his position or falling back to the mountain city of Middenheim. Taking one last look at the fraction of the army he now commanded he silently dropped his sword in a chopping action and his army advanced.

***

‘Sir.’ Viktor called as he lowering the telescope, ‘I think you better come and see this.’ The grizzled veteran and head of the von Bomburg household guard rested a hand on the shattered wall defences and sighed with the weariness of a career soldier at war. His lord was quick to respond, yanking the looking-glass from Viktor’s hand before cursing extensively.

von Bomburg drew his sword as he recognized a familiar figure at a quickening horde of warriors of the North. Breaking ahead of the force Knights on massive cruel steeds and hulking steel monstrosities were closing the distance at an alarming rate. He felt the cold steel of fear grip him and he felt the weight of the hip flask at his hip. He turned to Viktor, his guard commander disturbingly calm.

‘Muster the men.’

***

The soldiers of the Empire had advanced under the bellows of their sergeants to put distance between them and the town in the hope sparing any survivors that may be cowering in the ruins. The grass was long under foot and low hillocks offered no protection and only obscured line of sight to the detachment of handgunners and the cannon at von Bomburg’s disposal. The sparing of the peasants meant there was nowhere for von Bomrburg’s men to hide when the hulking cavalry at von Strauss’ disposal broke apart the Imperial line. Against the broken ribs of Immelscheld the foul knights of von Strauss’ army smashed aside their Imperial counterparts as quickly and as efficiently as a farmer bringing in the harvest. von Bomburg watched in horror as they were butchered to a man just as the knights on the daemonic creatures rode past the unit of Demigryphs gifted to him by Middenheim and smashed through his lines, slaying their way through his ranged units and the precious cannon at his disposal.

He watched in stunned disbelief as the two units slowly dismantled his forces. All around him his men died to the axe blows and swings of cruel edged swords. Just eight soldiers and their mounts, that’s all they were. And the two infantry units, with von Strauss at their head, had yet to engage. Perhaps Sigmar had decided it was his time after all…

Then he spotted them, the Demigryph knights that had failed to stop the cavalry charge were left perfectly positioned to attack the rag-tag group of Northmen running towards his own beleaguered unit. And attack they did. The foul tempered Demigryphs stormed into the marauders and butchered them. The knights atop them barely had time to draw their blades before little more than bloody chunks of the tribesman remained.

von Strauss and his unit turned to face the threat but his men knew it was hopeless and some of their numbered dragged him away from the fight, risking mortal wounds at the hands of their lord as he vented his rage, but better death at the hands of their lord than a lifetime of torture at the hands of Khorne for failing him.

von Bomburg stood at the centre of a raging storm of pain and death. His men gave their lives for him, dozens dying to just pull down a single Knight. They would prevail through sheer weight of numbers but the cost would be great. The Demigryphs collided with the warriors atop the daemon creatures and they tore bloody chunks from one another. The brass and metal beasts snorted and snapped as the Demigryphs screeched and flailed, claws of bone and steel crashing in sprays of blood and liquid fire. But already battered and bloodied from prolonged fighting the skullcrushers were driven off as the last of the knights were overwhelmed.

He stood on shaking legs, utterly unharmed with barely a dozen men left alive around him. The rest of his army he already knew were dead, torn asunder by the rest of von Strauss’ force and no doubt the fell beasts that he now knew had lured them from the safety of the mountain city. All around him lay the price of his folly. The broken bodies of his men and the foul corpses of his enemy lay entwined.

As he trudged back up the steep slope towards Middenheim with the survivors in tow he knew that he’d see von Strauss again and that the man would ultimately kill him. He would have no choice but to return to Marienburg shrouded in shame and begin the muster all over again.

***

At the edge of the woods an elegant rider watched the crushed warrior with keen, slate coloured eyes. His hair was long, pale and tinted purple and perfumed with a mixture of oils. Delicate ink work swirled up bare, tightly muscled, arms leading up to a suit of exquisitely crafted silver armour beneath which white robes patterned with pink flames.

‘Come on Ludwig, old boy, chin up.’

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!’

A Tale of Two Armies – 1,000 point lists

TaleOfTwoArmies copy

As we hurtle towards the end of October we’re also fast approaching the next game Lee and I slog out for A Tale of Two Gamers. This month it’s a one thousand point game of fisticuffs. Surprisingly it was me that took the longest to write my army list as although the units I was adding was simple enough – Skullcrushers & Knights – it was the tweaking and jiggling about to get the most out of my army as possible, which primarily revolved around keeping my hero alive. And adding a little juice to make life unpleasant for his Imperial foes.

So, for your reading pleasure Lee & I humbly submit to you our 1,000 point army lists.

Khorne

Exalted Champion – 110 points – von Strauss the Red

Mark of Khorne +10

Enchanted Shield +5

Sword of Battle +20

Hideous Visage +5

Soul Feeder +10

Total 160 points

 

10 Chaos Warriors – 140 points

Mark of Khorne +20

Shields +10

Total 170 points

 

15 Marauders – 90 points

Mark of Khorne + 30

Light Armour +15

Shields +15

Chieftain +10

Standard +10

Total 170 points

 

6 Warhounds – 36 points

Total 36 points

 

5 Knights of Chaos – 200 points

Mark of Khorne +10

Ensorcelled Weapons +15

Total 225 points

 

3 Skullcrushers of Khorne – 225 points

Ensorcelled Weapons +9

Total 234 points

 

Overall Total 995 points

 Empire

Captain – 60 points – Baron Ludwig von Bomburg

Full Plate Armour +6

Sword of Might +20

Enchanted Shield +5

Handgun +5

Total 96 points

 

Battle Wizard – 65 points – Jurgen the Wyrd

Level 2 +35

Total 100 points

 

34 Spearmen – 170 points

Sergeant, Standard Bearer & Musician +30

Total 200

 

10 Halberdiers – 60 points

Total 60 points

 

10 Hand Gunners 90 points

Total 90 points

 

5 Archers – 35 points

Total 35 points

 

5 Knights – 110 points

Inner Circle +15 points

Total 125

 

3 Demigryph Knights – 174 points

Total 174 points

 

Great Cannon – 120 points

Total 120 points

 

Overall Total 1,000 points

Skullcrushers of Khorne – A Review

TaleOfTwoArmies copyAs we’re well into the second month of A Tale of Two Armies I thought it was about time I wrote about one of the units that would make up the next 500 points of my army. The rest being made up of the Chaos Knights that I reviewed at the start of the month. I refer, of course, to the Skullcrushers of Khorne.

Warhammer-logoThere may be those that ask why, in a 1,000 point game of Warhammer would I opt for a unit of Skullcrushers of Khorne. And it’s a perfectly legitimate question. And my response? Because they’re fucking cool. And really, in a hobby like ours, what better reason is there?

SkullcrushersofKhorne

The simple fact of the matter is that Skullcrushers are the models that made me want to collect a Khorne army. Bear in mind that I didn’t have the army book – hell, I didn’t have the rule book at that point – so I didn’t know any of the rules. I just, whilst piecing together A Tale of Two Armies as a project, came across those models and uttered the word that millions of wargamers the world over say to themselves on a regular basis: want. And I did. I mean I really did. Over the last couple of years writing/running/editing this site I’ve seen and reviewed a lot of cool models but reviewing a model as an object and looking at a model as something to own, build, paint and use is very different.  And these I wanted to own, build, and paint and use. Well, I’ve got the first two done…

I must be honest, the name is stupid. Considering the God they worship is partial to his home furnishings to be made from people’s bonces, I’d say he’d be pretty pissed off with the Skullcrushers on account of the fact they keep crushing the skulls rather than handing them over. Perhaps in a gift bag with a little hand written note.

But that aside, the Skullcrushers kit is way cool. Juggernauts have come a long way from the boxy metal model I owned when the first Codex Chaos was released back in 1996. The new ones are also a flobbidy-gillion times more dynamic and detailed than that one too. They strike the perfect balance between a creature that has been forged and one born into existence. The iconography is also a cross between savage and ornate and I love how they tie in with the shield designs. The collars for the juggernauts are also a fantastic touch. Because they’re a separate piece they feel far more ‘real’ and every bit like they are there to restrain the creatures than for decoration or symbolism. And they look it too. They’re big, mean, spiky, and look every bit as savage as one would expect and it all rather points towards their masters barely being able to contain them. And considering who their masters are that’s saying quite a bit.

The riders themselves are equally cool. There’s one too many skulls on a couple of the heads but otherwise they look as brutal as they should and the weapons are fantastic. And because they’re designed the same way as the Chaos Knights the weapons are interchangeable. Which is great news for giving knights a bit of variety. It does mean the legs are bit irritating to stick together but it’s a minor grumble. You also get a couple of extra bodies and heads too so if you’re planning to have a few units of Khorne knights in your army you could do some pretty awesome unit champions.

The kit though is very well thought out and it all goes together seamlessly. The casting is nice and tidy too so the clean up won’t take too long which is just as well as there’s a lot of components. And I mean a lot. And some of the nooks and crannies can be a bit fiddly to get a knife-edge or file into. But otherwise it’s a good kit that you’ll smash out in an evening. Okay, a long evening.

In the game Skullcrushers are as nasty as one would expect. The riders are little more than Chaos Warriors. I say little more, they’ll still kick in just about any other unit type they’ll come across. Chuck in the Mark of Khorne and Ensorcelled weapons (or lances if you think you can guarantee the charge) and they pack quite a wallop. Oh, and like knights, they cause Fear. Although that’s somewhat of a given considering the big bastards between their legs. Wait, did that sound gay…

The Juggernauts are combat monsters with murderous charge, daemonic attacks, and three attacks at strength 5 basic. The initiative of two is their only downside but thanks to the overall durability of the unit it shouldn’t prove too much of a problem. And as they’re weapons skill 5 as well they’re going to kick, bite and generally mangle much face.

The only downside is that Skullcrushers weigh in at 75 points each plus upgrades which means units are expensive. And annoyingly at their best in units of 4. So it’s a big commitment of points and a big target for cannons. You’d also have to buy two boxes. And as you’re buying two you may as well buy three and take two units and use the spare bod for a battle standard-bearer. Chuck in a Lord on Juggernaut and you’ve got two units of 5 running about the place. Which is incredibly nasty.

The Skullcrushers are a great kit, a fantastic centre piece to a small army and lethal en masse. They epitomise the Khorne army and I’m so pleased the kit lived up to my expectations (the aforementioned skull on helmet issue aside).  I can’t wait to get them on to the battlefield and see how they perform. Let’s just hope Lee’s cannon misfires again…

The Skullcrushers of Khorne are available from Firestorm Games priced £31.50.

A Tale of Two Armies – Game 1 Post-Mortem

TaleOfTwoArmies copyWith the first game of this series now under our belts, Lee and I offer up our thoughts on how the game went from our perspectives and our thoughts on how our new armies performed. First up is the defender of the Empire…

Well that was quite easily the closest game of Warhammer I’ve ever played. Only one model left standing at the end and it was a lowly rank and file Chaos Warrior (okay, still pretty tough but you get the point) with both heroes having met their end in differing circumstances. 

von Bomburg performed admirably during the battle – after a somewhat slow start against the Marauders, where he fluffed most of his attack rolls, he redeemed himself fully by laying low the foul Chaos Champion, dispatching most of a unit of Chaos Warriors, and thanks to his ‘hold the line’ rule, keeping the fast disappearing unit of Halberdiers in the fight long enough to take it to the very end.  And I mean very end.  The final round of combat was von Bomburg versus 3 Chaos Warriors in a simultaneous attack.  The Warriors’ 6 attacks were enough to take von Bomburg’s final wound, but he failed – only just – to take down all three warriors in return, with a sole ‘to wound’ roll failing him.  It was dramatic stuff to say the least – and amazingly fun.

Tactically my plan was pretty sound.  I knew I didn’t stand a chance against the Chaos Warriors in a straight fight (let alone against von Stauss).  So I figured I’d lead them on a wild goose chase while I dealt with the rest of the army and hopefully whittle them down to not very many with the Cannon and gang up on what was left.   And it was working – my knights trampled the hounds to get in behind Phil’s lines, swinging round to threaten the Warriors rear/flank. My Cannon had begun taking models off the Warrior unit who were distracted by some dancing archers, and my Halberdiers disposed of the Marauders. But turn three was where it all changed. I had carefully dragged the Warriors into a position where my Cannon could hit them in the flank, but predictably misfired and lost the shot and as well as next turn’s too.  This gave the Warriors time to reform, and they then proceeded to dick on my entire army one unit at time.  My Halberdier unit, along with von Bomburg, was way out of position having run down the Marauders so tried to get back into the fight, but couldn’t save the Knights being beaten in combat and subsequently running off the table.  The Cannon misfired again with its next available shot and duly exploded, which meant it was a straight fight between von Bomburg and von Strauss.  In the challenge that ensued, Bomburg’s hardy armour was the difference enabling him to outlast his opponent, but the Warriors went through the Halberdiers faster than pizza at a weight watchers convention and it was left to von Bomburg to try to save the day before his unit disappeared entirely.  Alas, it was not to be and the forces of Chaos edged it in the epitome of a Pyrrhic victory.

I don’t think I would have changed much if I could replay the battle.  It could be seen as a bit of a gamble taking a Cannon over the Hand Gunners, but I had a plan for it and it worked – until I had to roll the thrice cursed artillery dice.  I misfired with 50% of my rolls which was way above average, and this reinforces my belief that if I played the same game again it would have done enough – with only a single warrior being left the margin of victory was incredibly tight and just one less misfire could have changed everything.

Everything else did its job well.  My equipment choice for Bomburg worked wonders, the Enchanted shield being an absolute must for the 5 points it cost and kept him in the fight long after he should have perished, and the Sword of Might not only enabled me to wound with most of my rolls but also defeat Chaos Armour with ease. Overall he paid for his points at least twice over against the toughest unit in the opposing army and his ‘Hold the Line’ was so effective it has made me question whether I even need a Battle Standard Bearer in my 1000 point list.

Needless to say I’m thoroughly enjoying the thought of the next battle – but not so much facing things like Chaos Knights or Blood Crushers, but I’ll have toys of my own.  I just need another plan.

And now a few words (read many) from me…

It was, as Lee said, a fucking close game. And I learned a few lessons. The first being that deployment is everything. I knew that already, especially for a Khorne army – even with the subtle change to the frenzy rule – but by getting the angel of my warhounds wrong it meant that Lee could run his knights right past the Marauders and straight into them. The result was that instead of having a unit to take the charge and a second to counter attack, one got wiped out and the other was forced to continue alone.

The other is that although my army is hard my units are neither invulnerable nor unstoppable. I deployed my Chaos Warriors with the intention of engaging with the halberdiers containing von Bomburg as quickly as possible. This meant running the gauntlet with the cannon. I decided it was a calculated risk as sooner or later I figured the cannon would go boom. Which it did. Plus sooner or later the unit would make it into combat which would prevent them being a target.

This worked to a certain degree. Although I sustained casualties from the cannon I still had more than enough warriors (bearing in mind I only started with 10 and no command) to deal with the bowmen and the knights, with the help of von Strauss (my exalted champion). But the knights were far tougher to beat than I expected, assuming that the extra attacks at my disposal would be enough to beat the armour. It didn’t.

I was also over-confident with von Strauss. At least in part. I was certain of his ability to kick face but I underestimated how vulnerable he’d be without any magic items or mutations to juice his save. I lacked the points so all he got extra was a pointy stick putting my trust in killing everything that could hurt him. And that was really his downfall. Some less than awesome rolls against von Bomburg when they finally met coupled with Lee’s inspired choice in magic items meant that he struggled to inflict damage and was incredibly vulnerable to the return attacks.

I was disappointed with the marauders. Although they were caught flat-footed by own shonky deployment and the resulting attack from Lee, they didn’t hit as hard as I expected when they fought the Halberdiers. The fact is that 15 marauders with shields, armour and the mark of Khorne and a chieftain is the same as 10 Chaos Warriors with the same upgrades, minus the unit champion. And I know which of the two carved their way through most of the Empire army. That said, it didn’t help we got a rule wrong and they were run down when they probably shouldn’t have been.

Were the game played over, I wouldn’t do much different. I’d sack off the light armour of my marauders because it wasn’t much use in the first place and I’d put those points into augmenting my champion to give him some durability. And possibly cause fear. Because I can. I’d also make sure I got my deployment right. Had I been able to hold up or even route the knights using my warhounds and marauders it would have made a massive difference to the game. But hindsight has 20:20 vision.

I’ll do some jiggling about for the next game as I’m not convinced about marauders in smaller games. My unit of Chaos Warriors and von Strauss munched, kicked and manged much face and so it begs the question; is it worth taking a second unit over the marauders? I also need to find some points to toughen up von Strauss. Or at least make him harder to kill.

I’ve come away from the game with a better idea of actually just how hard a Warriors of Chaos army is to use in smaller games as the points aren’t there to take the heavy hitting stuff or to augment what you can take in any real way. That’s not to say they don’t bring the hurt as the Empire Halberdiers were slaughtered with surprising ease but the array of things that can make life unpleasant for Chaos increases quite suddenly with every 500 points. I’m not sure what my plan will be for the next game but I suspect it’ll have something to do with faces. And kicking.

A Tale of Two Armies – Chapter 1

TaleOfTwoArmies copyLee and I finally got around to playing the first game of A Tale of Two Armies. 500 points a piece for a bit of Fantasy Battle fisty-cuffs. To say it was a blood bath is a bit like saying Khorne quite likes skulls. Rather than write battle reports we’ll be writing an expanding narrative chronicling the exploits of von Bomburg and his nemesis, von Strauss the Red. The prologue can be read here.

The city gates of Middenheim ground open just wide enough for Ludwig and the other household guard to carry through the body borne aloft on an oversized shield. City guard hurried down steps and from their posts at the towering city walls. Some ran to help carry the body, others to alert the city’s apothecary and surgeon. The captain of the watch approached, unhelming his head and letting ropes of plaited hair tumble free. Viktor nodded in respect to the man, he knew better than to let the barbaric appearance of Middenheimers deceive him. They were, to a man disciplined and brutal warriors. Sweat beaded Viktor’s brow as he struggled with his burden: it had been a long walk up to the mountain keep’s great gates and he wanted nothing more than to see his charge in expert hands of the city’s medicine men.

‘What happened?’ The Captain demanded.

‘An ambush. Warriors from the distant North.’ Viktor muttered through gritted teeth. ‘We arrived in time to drive off the remnants of their force.’

The Captain cursed under his breath. He pointed a gauntletted hand at the prostrate form as a group of guards finally took the burden from Viktor’s failing grip. ‘And he was the only survivor?’ Asked the Captain.

Viktor worked his quivering, aching limbs and nodded. ‘He is a Baron of Middenheim. And he made damn sure the whoresons of the fell Gods faired no better Captain, be made sure of that.’

***

6 Hours Earlier:

‘Where the bloody hell is Viktor?’ von Bomburg bellowed throwing his helmet at Sergeant Helmut. The grizzled veteran caught the helmet deftly and said nothing, letting the Baron vent his frustrations. ‘I mean how hard can it be to follow our trail? The sodding cannon crew managed it! A cannon, Helmut! What do you have to say to that?’

von Bomburg scooped up a stone from the damp, grassy, ground and hurled it through the window of the abandoned cottage with a satisfying crass of glass. von Bomburg paced the clearing between the cottage and the old broken down watch tower whilst those few men that had kept pace with him stood at uneasy attention. Boettcher and his knights all but ignored the ranting Baron: if he’d dealt with one spoilt noble he’d dealt with them all. Behind them the cannon crew unlatched the gun carriage from their horses and stood nervously, at a loss as to what to do.

Only the Halbediers and their nonplussed sergeant seemed to be paying their employer any notice what so ever. 

‘I believe they had horses sir.’ Helmut said flatly.

von Bomburg turned and wagged a finger at Helmut, the plated digit so close it disturbed the sergeant’s impeccably waxed moustache. ‘Don’t get clever with me sergeant. Whether they had horses or not they and Boettcher’s lot managed to keep up. And here we are at the feet of Middenheim without the army I promised Baron Heidegger.’

‘With due respect, lord, they are less than half a day behind us.’

‘Oh well, that’s all right then, Helmut,’ von Bomburg stormed. ‘That’s okay then. Well done Helmut! Well bloody done! I’ll tell old Heidegger that I’ll fulfil the debt my family owes his tomorrow morning shall I?’

Helmut couldn’t help but rolls his eyes. The year Baron von Bomburg had not been kind to him. A man of action forced into activity was as cruel as cutting the legs off a horse and giving it a field with which to gallop. He had tried everything he could to convince the Burgermeisters to ignore the edict from Altdorf but even with the civil war it did little good to provoke the Empire’s largest city. However when the Northern house of Heidegger summoned von Bomburg at the head of an army to fulfil a debt of honour not even the Burgermeisters could argue. It was one of the law ancient laws passed down by Sigmar that still held sway, especially in such mad times that the Empire now found itself in. Thanks to von Bomburg’s vast wealth he had an army raised within days and Helmut, charged with making sure the Baron stayed within the walls of his estate, saw it a logical extension of his duties and took commission to fight at the Baron’s side.

Helmut snapped out of his reminiscence as von Bomburg finished his long and colourful rant and stormed back towards the cannon, bellowing at them to make themselves useful and ready the gun for test firing. Helmut sighed, and returned to his regiment of halberdiers about to order them to forage amongst the wooded outcroppings for fruits and other food stuffs, when the small unit of archers acting as scouts came into view running as hard as they could.

***

von Strauss flinched as he felt the air displace around him. A second later the man next to him disappeared in a shower of blood, meat and shattered armour. He laughed as much from the violence of the warriors demise as his narrow escape from the cannon-shot. In the distance he could already see the crew frantically reloading, the muzzle pouring white smoke. It was a good opening volley and he did so prefer his opponents to make good sport. Though Khorne demanded blood and skulls, von Strauss demanded a challenge and as the latter begot the former his God was happy. It also kept the blood lust from clouding his mind fully. The blood God granted him just enough clarity of thought that he could at least attempt to direct his forces although he knew all too well that Khorne gave no such dispensation von Strauss’ followers.

It had proved thus as Chief Kaldrago had surged forward as soon as the order to advance had been given. He and his motley band of Marauders of the Red Hand had charged forward, picks and axes waving wildly in their air. Thick muscles, heavily marked in crimson, pumped furiously as they were driven mad by their need to kill. Their mangy pack of dogs bounded after them, baying and snapping their distended jaws at the air. von Strauss had to give credit to von Bomburg, he not only rallied his men quickly but commanded them well. Kaldrago and his marauders were currently being torn apart by von Bomburg and his unit of halberdiers. But that made no odds, the savage and his kinsman were there to die and little more. No, von Strauss had to fight the temptation to join the fray and deal with the cannon first. Then he’d have to do something about the knights that were fast approaching from the rear having butchered the hounds, albeit at the cost of one of their number.

The mighty cannon fired again. Another one of his warriors disappeared in an explosion of vital fluids. Smoke, dirtier than the last time, billowed from the barrel and the crew started paling water over the war machine in a frantic effort to cool it ahead of firing again. von Strauss smiled to himself. The pace of his men’s advance was forcing the crew to reload and fire far faster than was safe – out of fear presumably.

A growl rumbled from his throat as he felt the blood lust emanate from his men. They tasted the cannon crew’s fear and they wanted blood. As his lips parted to give the order to charge a whickering volley of arrows clattered against their armour. The scouts von Strauss had chased back to von Bomburg’s encampment had broken cover, feebly attempting to defend their comrades. Much to von Strauss’ irritation it only succeeded in sending his warriors into a frenzy. The unit surged forwards and descended on the bowmen. von Strauss butchered them all with a single sweep of his blade as much to demonstrate his dominance to his men as to vent his frustrations. The move had exposed the flank of his diminishing unit to the cannon. He glowered at the crew who frantically adjusted the position of the gun and he offered up a prayer to Khorne. A risky move as the lord of war was as likely to punish him for asking for aide as he was to grant it.

As von Strauss and his men came about to face the oncoming knights he risked a glance over his shoulder at the cannon. There was nothing he could do about the war machine now, the bowmen had delayed them enough that now their only hope would be to engage the Imperial knights and hope the cannon crew wouldn’t be fool enough to risk firing at their betters. The taper dropped and the cannon bucked and instead of the crack, boom and whoosh of a cannon ball, and the inevitable explosion of body parts there was the shriek of tortured metal and a rolling cloud of black smoke and flame.

von Strauss allowed himself a cruel smile. The cannon had misfired and with it the fate of the Empire soldiers had been sealed. von Strauss drew his sword once more and bellowed a challenge at the charging knights. His warriors surged forward with him clashing with the knights with a thunderous crack of blades on armour. Another of his warriors fell, his head split asunder by the heavy blade of a knight but the ferocity of the warriors was too much even for the Empire’s bravest and they turned tail and fled.

As the knights broke a explosion erupted behind the warriors. von Strauss turned in time to see the brass barrel of the great cannon come apart as it tore itself and its crew to pieces as the powder cooked off in the barrel, too eager were the crew to clear the jam and fire on their foes.

The champion of Khorne let his warriors chase after the knights, knowing they’d never catch them but letting their fury carry them South, back past the ruined, broken-down cottage and straight into the bearly reformed and battle weary halberdiers. von Strauss’ blood sang with the joyful fury of battle as ran at the halberdiers who frantically tried to close ranks around their leader, but he would not be denied his revenge.

He bellowed von Bomburg’s name as he swung his blades on a criss crossing motion ready to dismember the Imperial noble that had cost him his house, his lands and his family.

von Bomburg stared down the rampaging Chaos lord impressed and horrified by the power of the man-monster. He reacted instinctively, pulling his blade free and holding it out, arms rigid, lets braced. The Chaos champion was moving too fast to halt his charge and slammed bodily into the sword tip, the enchanted weapon easily piercing the warriors armour and impaling him fully. The weight of the man yanked the blade free from von Bomburg’s hands making him stumble. His fall was halted as a body fell into him. The halberdier crumpled to the ground the sword that had murdered him pulling free with set, sucking, sound.

All around him his men were butchered. Just six warriors had engaged fifteen of his own and they were killing each other with startling efficiency  In moments it was over: his men were burst and broken on the long grasses that had grown wild between the watch tower and it’s broken down cottage and amongst three grotesque and oversized warriors of the North. Before him stood three hulking men, their armour doused in blood, their blades dripping and notched. Behind them the champion tried to rise, von Bomburg’s blade still buried in his chest, but his strength was fleeing as quickly as his vital fluids.

von Bomburg nodded to the warriors in understanding and bent to pick up the sword that had belonged to Sergeant Helmut. The man had died badly, his arms had been severed and his face split open by a brutal axe blow. He raised the sword in mock salute.

‘Shall we?’ He said with a smile.

They came at him all at once, weapons raised and wordless roars blaring from their horned helms. von Bomburg blocked the flurry of attacks, briefly marvelling at the speed and ferocity with which they were dealt. Only his years of sword art saved his life. At least initially. The first blow that made it through his guard caught his vambrace and he felt his arm break. He howled in pain, backing off, defending furiously fighting for some breathing room.

He gained half a heartbeat but it was enough for him to duck below the guard of one of the warriors and lunge forward, thrusting his sword through the vision slit of another warrior’s helm. There was a gurgle and the warrior dropped. The remaining two renewed their attack. Blades flashed and another warrior fell, his throat spilling blood in squirt flurry of crimson just as an axe blade bit deep into von Bomburg’s side. He cried out in pain and dropped to the floor, a gauntleted hand stained red as he tried to stem the flow of blood.

He rolled onto his back as the last warrior loomed over him, axe held high. Around them dozens of bodies littered the floor, the soil already sodden with blood. He sighed and closed his eyes. ‘Come on you bastard,’ He muttered, ‘Get it over with.’

‘von Strauss is avenged.’ The warrior growled.

***

von Bomburg’s eyes snapped open pain flooding his body a moment later. He screamed in pain and anguish. Hands were upon him, pinning him to the operating table. His arm exploded in pain as he was restrained, and he instinctively went limp.

‘Lord, be calm!’

Viktor’s voice cut through the pain, von Bomburg grabbin his purple and grey tunic and pulling him close.

‘Viktor! Viktor!’ He babbled, he could feel hysteria gripping him. ‘von Strauss…’

‘He’s been exiled lord. To the far North.’ Viktor struggled in von Bomburg’s grip despite his weakened state.

‘No, no, you don’t understand.’ von Bomburg released his grip and wiped a shaking hand over his face. ‘von Strauss has returned.’

Chaos Knights – A Review

TaleOfTwoArmies copyThe final part of the Warriors of Chaos Battalion box reviews comes in the form of the Chaos Knights. Saving if not the best, then certainly the spikiest, until last.

Warhammer-logoThis set of Chaos Knights makes the third version I’ve owned since starting a Chaos army all those years ago. To put a chronology, and a bit of history, to it, I bought the Chaos army book, and possibly some unbuilt models, off my brother because he, having read the book, decided he didn’t particularly like Chaos.

Me, at 15/16, being crap with money, always on the look for a bargain and deeply covetous of the army book and models snapped up the offer. I read the book and then did…feck all with the models. They just sat there on a shelf directly below my TV mocking me because (A) I was quite lazy with hobby projects – and before I get awash with comments, I’m not lazy now, I just have no time – and (B) I had no one to play against.

And then I met Ian of The Chaps. He was returning to wargaming and was collecting an Orc and Goblin army. Seeing this as a sign, perhaps even from God, I sprang into action, frantically building my smallish Chaos army and slapping paint on it so Ian and I could get a game in. And from that game a friendship was forged that has last almost half my life. So understandably I remember those old Chaos Knight models, that were the pride of place in my army back then, with some fondness. Despite the fact they were rubbish. And my paint job was pretty terrible too.

They served a purpose but when the second lot of Chaos Knights came out, about 3 years later, I jumped at the chance to not only replace the, by now, fairly tatty and shit looking ones I already had, but expanded the army further. In so much as I bought 40 of them. Because I was stuff. And because it was cheap. And because I may have been a bit mental. Still, seeing your opponents face when deployed an entirely mounted Chaos army was priceless.

Those that have kept up with the AToTA articles thus far will know that I stopped playing shortly after so I return to the hobby to find yet another range of Chaos Knights. Obviously I was aware of the models but I’d never really bothered to give them any attention. And on reflection that was rather silly. Because they’re awesome.

WoCChaosKnightsMain_873x627

The first thing is, as with most regiments these days, is that they’re all plastic. And they’re only £20 RRP. That seems rather decent value for Games Workshop considering 12 warriors is the same and there’s roughly the same amount of plastic. Granted you need two boxes to get a full regiment but I’m sure the old metal/plastic kits before this iteration of knights was the same money.

Plus the hybrid metal/plastic kits never really worked. Granted working with metal is far more satisfying than working with plastic, resin or Finecast but plastic and metal make uneasy bedfellows and require superglue to keep them together, look a dog-eared book of sexual positions. But ultimately we know what’s going to happen. I don’t know a single gamer who hasn’t had to rebuild at least one metal/plastic model. Hell, even an all metal one.

So the move to plastic, for me, was a welcome one. If for no other reason than it means no longer working with those fucking awful old barded steeds and trying to glue metal heads and tails on to them which weren’t very well cast and so never properly fit. Those days, however are long gone. The casting quality was superb and any cleaning up was from clipping the models off the sprues. It meant that I had all 5 clipped, filed, glued and sanded in an evening. That isn’t bad going at all.

So, the horsies are all plastic, and massive, and covered in spikes. And did I mention massive? They actually feel like corrupted versions of the warsteeds bred in the days of Sigmar. Only the likes of Kurt Helborg Ludwig Schwartzhelm can match them in stature. And the nice thing is that the barding feels both worn and apart of the steed’s body, which is exactly as it should be. Some of the best Chaos models are those that walk the fine line between the man-made and the organic. The only downside is that the horsie heads don’t fit on all the horsie bodies and the wrong combination will stop the steeds from ranking up properly which is a pain and reduces the variety in the models, especially if you’re planning to have a couple of big-ish units.

The Knights themselves, as one would expect, are beefier, pointier and scarier versions of the Chaos Warriors. The helmets are arguably a tad over the top in places but nothing the careful application of clippers couldn’t fix. I’m not entirely sure of the logic of casting the legs in two halves as it’s just one more thing to stick and mixing and matching the leg halves isn’t really an option as they’ve been sculpted very distinctly. I suspect it’s entirely down to keeping the size of the sprues down as single piece legs stick out and would mean either more cardboard or less stuff in the box overall.

They’re also designed to tie in with the rider’s torsos, shoulder guards and, to a lesser extent, the steed but there’s enough deviation that you can mix or match depending on how you want your units to look. Its subtle but when presented overall as a finished piece it does work very well.

What’s also clever is the body and arms are a ball and socket joint which means quite a lot of freedom to pose the model. A raised arm and a turned head suddenly tells a very different story. Plus the way cool shoulder pads are separate pieces so you can stick them over the joint once you’re happy. Again, the downside is that without proper planning you can end up with some freaking awesome looking Chaos Knights…that don’t rank up.

The weapons are awesome though and because of the look and feel of the unit mixing lances with hand weapons wouldn’t look out-of-place: just make sure your opponent knows what you’re taking. It just adds to that narrative that each knight has his preferred fighting style and chosen weapon and little would persuade them to change.

Knights on the game board are nasty. Obviously. They’re Chaos Warriors on steeds, there’s nothing not to like about them. Although where it gets tasty is that they cause fear – which is so close to broken its untrue – and they get to choose between lances at +2 strength on the turn they charge or Ensorcelled Weapons at +1 Strength every turn. Strength 6 knights is tempting but strength 5 with 2 attacks, 3 for the champion, or in my case 3 and 4 attacks a piece for the mark of Khorne, basically makes them the heavy bolters of Warhammer World.

Throw in the barded steed, the Chaos Armour and the shield and Chaos Knights are pretty much the tanks of the Warhammer World too. Chaos Knights are absolutely nails but for 40 points a model one would hope so. Although for their potential they’re not badly pointed really considering Knights get everything for free and lances or Ensorcelled Weapons are only 2 & 3 points repsectively. And no you can’t take both upgrades. Throw in fear as well and Chaos Knights are one of the nastiest units in the entire game.

It rather goes without saying the Chaos Knights are a must in any Warriors of Chaos army. The only thing you’d ever debate is how many to take as it will mean sacrificing other things. But for the hitting power it’d be a tough sell to convince me not to take two units of ten. They’re just far too good. High in points, but good.

Warriors of Chaos Knights are available from Firestorm Games priced £18.00.