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

Forge World Empire Landship – A Review

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When the idea for ‘A Tale of Two Armies’ was first mooted, the understandable wrangling over which armies we would collect ensued with both Phil and I swinging between various options.  The decision to collect an Empire army, and then base it on my Marienburger warband I collected for Mordheim, was swung in the end by a very large and very impressive model – The Empire’s Marienburg Class Landship from Forgeworld.

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When I first laid eyes on it I just knew it would be the centre piece for my Empire army, serving as Ludvig von Bomberg’s (ahem) Flagship.  The character of the army was to include the weird and wonderful – and most expensive pieces a general could ever wish for, and this was a perfect fit.  And I reasoned any Marienburger with the means to own such a mighty machine of war would insist on riding in it personally over a mere horse, or Sigmar forbid, on foot.  Unfortunately the rules don’t allow for it to be used as either a mount or a Chariot (they really should look into that) so he would only ever be present as a decoration. The kit even comes with a suitable character model in the form of the ship’s Captain – along with 5 other crewmen.  All are fantastic sculpts in their own right and represent great value for money if you were to weigh up how much a set of 6 would cost to purchase separately.

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The fine sculpting doesn’t stop with the crew either, the whole model is covered in nice details – like the individually designed shields covering the fo’castle, or the figurehead that’s seen better days.  All these details on a model of this size make it quite daunting to tackle painting wise, the photographs on the Forgeworld website show it in comparison to things like a Giant and a Steam Tank, and it’s no less impressive in the flesh – it’s massive, and will tower over most things.  Thankfully, the hull and boiler are cast together in just two very hefty pieces which helps cut down on the number of parts (of which there are still many), but it does mean a lot of time and effort needs to go into making sure these fit together as perfectly as possible and a lot of dry fitting and test assembly is recommended.  Unfortunately due its size and complexity, the Landship falls firmly into the category of subassemblies, which will need painting separately and then putting together afterwards – which is something I’m always keen to avoid but is understandable on something this size.  For example, the location of the cannon makes the area impossible to paint if the fo’castle is glued in place – and still difficult if not.  And the mast is definitely a piece to leave gluing in until last as it obstructs the whole interior. Ditto the Skaven Doomwheel-esque rear wheels.

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Rules wise, the Landship is not quite the beast I would have expected – especially given its points cost.  Offensively it falls significantly short of the only model you could really compare it to – the Steam Tank.  Its cannon is the lighter Strength 7 version instead of the standard 10, and it doesn’t have the same destructive potential in combat, doing only D6 impact hits compared with the D6 plus D3 per Steam Point expended in moving for the Steam Tank.  It does have the advantage of having Thunderstomp and close combat attacks to win a combat with – but it’s only D6 attacks at a lowly Weapon Skill and Strength of 3.  In comparison to the Steam Tank’s ‘Grind’, which again does D3 automatic hits per Steam Point at its usual Strength of 6, you’d have to say again the Steam Tank is the better.  The Land Ship’s secondary ranged attack of a Fusillade comprising D6 Hand Gun shots is not really something you can compare with the Steam Gun on the Tank as they are very different weapons, but with the premium placed on template weapons in 8th Edition Warhammer, yet again the Steam Tank is looking the winner.  Weapon for weapon, it’s quite easy to see which unit will be doing the most damage on the battlefield.

Defensively it’s a bit more even.  They have the same toughness of 6, and although the Steam Tank has the better Armour save of 1+ to the Landship’s 3+, the Landship has 2 more wounds (for a whopping 12!) and a 6+ Ward Save.  It also doesn’t have to rely on Steam Point generation to carry out its actions and potentially damage itself in the process.

They are of course very similar machines with merely a slightly different focus. The Steam Tank has the sheer brute force and damage potential, whereas the Landship is the more reliable (somehow!) of the two and more likely to see the end of the battle, even if it does have a scarily unforgiving misfire table for when it goes wrong – just pray you don’t roll a double 1 or 6 when charging.

Generally I can see myself using the Landship to proxy a second Steam Tank most of the time and then using it as intended for larger battles or special scenarios.  It’s an effective war machine that will terrify your opponent through its sheer size if not its damage output, but at 300 points it’s a tough decision as to whether it will be worth the points.  It’s certainly a hard task for your opponent to get points out of it and the non-reliance on Steam generation is a definitive advantage – but is it enough to overlook the raw destructive power of the 50 point cheaper Steam Tank (who I’ve just remembered also has an Engineer with another gun)?  If it was based on looks alone it’s an all hands down yes, but as always the choice is yours.

Lee

The Empire Marienburg Class Landship is available from Forgeworld priced £118.50

Freebooter’s Fate – A Review

FF_logo_smallRegular readers will know the following:

1. I’ve reviewed quite a few Freebooter models.

2. I use them in Mordheim warbands because I like them far better than the Games Workshop models I’m supposed to use.

3. I have never played Freebooter’s Fate.

Well I decided that needed to change as it’s all well and good prattling on about how nice a range of models is, but it really should come from a place of understand as to how they work in the game they were intended for. So without further ado I give you Freebooter’s Fate

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You’d be forgiven for thinking that Freebooter’s Fate is just another fantasy skirmish game. And you’d be right in so much as it’s a fantasy skirmish game. Where you’d be wrong though is that Freebooter’s Fate is really quite unique.

A main point of difference is that it’s unashamedly tongue in cheek. The book opens with a fantastic short story very elegantly introducing each of the main factions and why they want to kick each other’s heads in. But more than that it injects a light heartedness that is rarely seen in wargaming but doesn’t take it too far. It doesn’t mock itself or the gamer for that matter. It’s light and has a sense of humour but it’s still all about the kicking of face.

It’s other main point of difference, if two are allowed, is that it doesn’t use dice. At all. Of any kind. In fact the rule books threatens you with a miserable and gruesome death if you so much as look at a dice during play. No really. Freebooter’s Fate uses a deck of cards to determine not only the strength of the attack you unleash but also where you hit. The location, in turn, has a cumulative effect on the stats that part of the body relates to.

This is all rather clever because characters may not be terribly strong and therefore but brilliant at the swashbuckling game and so may take a while to reduce an opponents vitality to zero, however, they may have enough meat on bones to wound and wound reduces effectiveness which means that the character has a fighting chance of felling their opponent before, they too, get their face kicked in.

That’s not to say it’s without its frustrations as, depending on how well the deck is shuffled, you may find that you cave in someone’s skull quite quickly with a rash of high powered hits. However, because you can choose the location you hit and defend it adds an agonisingly tactical, and psychological element to the game as you attempt to second guess how your opponent will act.

What it also means, however, is that characters aren’t killed too quickly which is just as well as games can have a few as half a dozen blokes on the board each. Were it more along the lines of Mordheim it’d be over very quickly indeed. The downside of this, however, is paper work. I’ve always had mixed feelings about having to keep track of things by marking it on a card or paper. And with Freebooter’s Fate it’s made slightly worse because you either have to get card sleeves for all your character cards or, basically, ruin them by drawing all over them.

I have nothing against games in which all the characters are named…well I do actually, but Freebooter’s Fate has enough named tertiary characters that it works, but having to buy items that you wouldn’t normally need to play a wargame does bug me slightly. Dice, tape measures, boards, scenery. These are all things that are generally needed to play a wargame beyond toys and rules. Protective card sleeves and wipe clean pens, not so much. A roster pad, much like the ones available for Battlefleet Gothic, back in the day, or a double page spread that could be photocopied, I think would make things much easier. Granted, not as pretty as using the cards – which are very pretty – but it’ll keep the cards pretty for longer.

That aside, it’s a brilliant game. Characters are restricted to either 2 basic or 1 complex action a turn and the sheer volume of actions that characters can perform is staggering. There are dozens of them. This does mean that there’s quite a lot to remember, but that’s true of many games. Particularly one set in the grim dark distant grim dark future where there’s only grim dark war. Grim. Dark. There’s also a big pile of traits which make the characters unique. Although the mechanic is robust enough that there’s strong stat variation anyway. So coupled with the traits it does make for interesting games.

Although the rules are well written, and there’s handy tips throughout, I do wish that rules for actions is explained earlier on as the various rules mention simple and complex actions throughout but until you get to section 9 of the book you don’t know what any of them are. So I spent much of my time reading the rules slightly confused. And then felt like I had to go back and re-read the book with my finger marking the actions section like a child reading a fighting fantasy novel.

That aside, the game works very well. It’s detailed without being fussy, and quick without wondering why you bothered getting the game set up in the first place. The factions are also nicely presented, interesting and fairly balanced. I’m not sure how big you could take Freebooter’s Fate considering the record keeping involved but that’s fine. It won’t be the end of the world if you only play with half a dozen blokes at a time because the models are ace and the faction lists are varied enough that you can keep yourself amused for game after game whilst working your way through the fairly decent number of scenarios.

Freebooter’s Fate isn’t perfect and it isn’t for everyone. It’s style and sense of humour is a different direction that not everyone will be on board with but I’m not one of them. I think Freebooter’s Fate is a brilliant fun game. I still want rosters, and I still want the rules to have a layout tweak but I’ll live without them. It’ll still be a characterful and fun skirmish game that allows me to swash-buckle, shout avast at my bemused opponents – even when it’s inappropriate to do so – and kick in a respectable amount of face.

Freebooter’s Fate is available from Firestorm Games priced £22.50 and the Freebooter’s Fate deck of cards priced £7.65.

The Freebooter’s Fate core model range is available from Firestorm Games from £7.19.

Heresy Miniatures Review

Whilst at Salute the other week I found myself over at the Heresy Miniatures stand chatting with the thoroughly nice chaps and oggling all the various models in the cabinets, especially the models that most definitely aren’t Delaques that most definitely aren’t for Necromunda.

However my eye was drawn to a fantasy miniature, which is, generally, very unlike me unless I can cram it into Mordheim some how. The model in question is the Barbarian Warlord, first cast back in 2008.

Although not the newest model in the Heresy catalogue I just had to buy him because, quite simply, he looks awesome. I think the thing that really gets me is that he’s not a typical barbarian model. He’s not swinging his axe wildly, nor is he covered in rags, nor chains. However he still looks hard as nails! The casual pose with that massive axe rested on his shoulder screams ‘walk away now and I’ll let you live’. Because you know, when the axe starts swinging it’s only going to end one, very messy, way.

Beyond the pose, the detail does well to convey the skull splitting bad-assery of the model without going overboard. All the armour is down one side which is a nice touch. It indicates that (A) he has status in that he has armour at all and (B) he favours his right hand when fighting so presents his off side to the enemy. However restricting the armour to his left side still gives him mobility, which is key. Although that gauntlet looks like it could bring some serious hurt, and is one of my favourite bits of the model.

I like attention to detail like that. It shows actual thought has gone into the model rather than ‘lets give him a weapon twice his size and give him a huge suit of armour and cover every surface we can with spikes and skulls!’ I’m all for fantasy but it also needs to be possible excluding magic, demons and all that jiggery pokery of course.

The little touches are all evident as well on the model. The throwing knives and coin purse are all competently sculpted so when they’re painted they’ll look the part. Even the cloak has clasps attaching it to the armour which is a silly level of detail that I haven’t seen for a while. And the mentalists have even sculpted muscle definition on the chest. Which is great so now Thor and the Barbarian Warlord can make me feel inadequate together.

Overall it’s a top model. The mould lines were a bit of a sod in places but I can’t dock too many points for that as the casting quality itself is very good. And for £6.50 it’s an absolute bargain. If you haven’t checked out Heresy Miniatures go there right now and grab yourself a little slice of awesome.

Shell Case Short 3 Winner

The winning entry of the Shell Case Shorts 3 may surprise you. It’s not Warhammer or Hordes but The Three Plains by Epic Wargaming. Aside from being a great story it’s really gratifying to see an independent game being written about by fans. And as I was lucky enough to proof read TTP V.2 it’s doubly so.

Anyway, the winner is the thoroughly splendid James Wilson (@JamesMEWilson) and his story entitled Liberation. Signed copies of the first two books in The Crown Trilogy by Gav Thorpe are winging their way to him.

The slave galleon cut through the waves, brushing aside the waters of the ocean with contempt. The icy spray chilled the captain to his core as he looked across the water to the approaching Island. The clear sky did nothing to hold off the cold at this late hour. Casting his gaze upwards he looked at the celestial display lay out before him. There was something new there. As he stared he noticed a new star, it was moving. It had a tail and…yes there was another nearby it. They became more prominent and lit the air around him. The various crew members stopped their work to watch this new phenomenon as the light from the shooting star was joined by a lighthouse in the city of Gallar, albeit briefly. The captain turned to look at his crew in their stupefied wonderment. “Return to your duties. Pretty though this light show is, we are approaching Gallar and this ship needs to be ready to dock.” Heeding the captains words the crew members returned to work. Their occasional glances at the night sky told of their worries. Such displays could only be omens from the Gods. Simple sailors, Elven though they were, could not hope to realise the meaning of such portents. This did not prevent them guessing. Every glance brought a new story to their minds. Ever increasing in the levels of doom they will be stories they will later share over drinks, trying to out-doom one another into the small hours of the night. The lights trailed across the sky for several hours and were noticed by many of the Elves of Herlanceia. They were noticed most keenly in the township of Windidown, where the Comets appeared to soar directly above. The captain returned to his private quarters and removed his helmet, not seeing the lower creature in the corner of the room until it turned from its duties to see that which should never be seen. The gasp the slave gave out betrayed his presence in the room to the Captian, who turned slowly, staring into the horrified face of the human. The Captains golden visage crept into a cruel smirk. Unsheathing a dagger from his side he stepped forward and struck out. As the human sank slowly to the deck, his life blood draining from him, the Captain whispered in his ear, “Such is the punishment for looking upon the face of your Gods, human.”

In the courts and temples many theories were put forth regarding what the omen in the skies might mean. None of them were correct. None of them accounted for the human element. Somewhere on Herlanceia, two boys were born of one mother. The Elven overseer of the house, Sharr, picked up the boy presented to him and moved him so that he could better look through the eyeholes of his helmet at him. “This boy is strong. He will fetch a handsome price. He is called Hadrian.” His matter of fact tone suggested he was speaking of little more than cattle. The mother, still lying on the bed tried to reach for the baby. “Please my Lord, may I be allowed to keep him?” Sharr lifted Hadrian away from her outstretched arm and handed him to one of the hand maidens assisting with the birth. Ignoring the mother he stated “Take him and clean him up. The Arena Masters will be interested in him.” As he spoke the mother cringed in pain and found herself pushing once again. Sharr raised an eyebrow. “A second? truly we are blessed.” he snorted. “Very well, bring fresh water; let us prepare to receive another. At least we will profit better. Identical twins can fetch a handsome price from the Mages.” This elicited a sob from the mother that spoke of more than just physical pain. The first labor had been long and taxing upon her. Sharr doubted she would survive another labor of that nature. The second child was scrawny by comparison. Sharr comforted himself that this runt was a bonus in any case. Any price reached for him would be profit. Lifting him up Sharr looked him over. “Not identical. Nothing impressive. He is called Lysander. Clean him and ready him for the markets. We will go in the morning.” A hand maiden took the child away. There were no protests from the mother this time. Only silence came from her. Sharr looked at her still form and sighed. “Seems we will be purchasing as well as selling tomorrow. I hope they have reasonable breeding stock.” He walked out of the birthing sheds and headed towards his quarters. He was tired and failed to notice that the night sky was brighter than it should have been.

During the following day Sharr presented the children to the Auction master. “This Hadrian will fetch a good price, there are many Arena Masters present this day Sharr. This Lysander however looks barely strong enough for household cleaning work. He will need to be strengthened up first. This will push his price down further than his slender frame would get him in the first place.” Sharr nodded his agreement. This Lysander was beginning to be a tax on his funds. The loss of the mother meant new breeding stock was required. Lysander would not go far to cover the cost. “You still want to sell him off?” Sharr looked across at the pens that contained the females. “Yes Losai, I must recoup some of the costs he has caused me. Culling him serves no purpose, other than my personal satisfaction. That will have to go to one side for now.” Losai took the child and placed him into the holding pen where a fat female human took over his care along with another in her arms she began to feed him so he would be at peace during the sale. Sharr moved off to the holding pens of the females. He was here early, as those seeking to sell had to be to register their goods, so there were only other sellers present. Some were also interested in purchasing but not many. Sharr was able to examine those for sale with a good degree of thoroughness. Later the crowds began to enter the market area and the various auctions began. Hadrian was indeed sought after by many Arena Masters. All saw the potential in him. Only one Arena Master remained silent, to begin with. As the bidding reached a fever pitch, Coln, fabled Arena Master of Meer, feared by all as a dangerous warrior, shouted above the din offering fully double the price that had been offered thus far. The other voices died down almost immediately. None dared speak. Coln had a habit of getting that which he desired. Those that got in his way had a habit of quickly being removed. Losai looked briefly about the room hoping the bidding would continue, though he was already getting a healthy commission from this sale. “Sold to Arena Master Coln. Next is the brother of the last though it is clear where the strength went. Perhaps his brain is to be desired? Who will start the bidding?” Losai looked about the hall. The various Arena Masters were not interested in this one it was clear and no other appeared to have an interest. He was about to clear the lot when a voice spoke up from a corner of the room. “I, Kai, will start the bidding for this child. 50 silver pieces.” Losai stretched his head to try to get a look at the bidder. The crowd parted to admit a Mage to the front. Losai did not recognise him but welcomed the chance to off-load this detritus. “Sold to, the Mage, Kai.”

The journey for Hadrian was a harsh one. Coln’s slave stock were not exactly careful with the new arrivals. Coln himself treated humans harshly, even by Elven standards. Since his intentions were entirely to toughen the children up and train him to be the best fighters they can be. Hadrian was left with just enough to clothe him to keep him from freezing to death. Just enough food to keep him from starving.  Hadrian was taken to Meer to the Arena pits. His first 3 years were spent struggling to survive as best as possible. He was kept with others of a similar age, fed sporadically throughout the day and made to wield a weapon as soon as he was physically able to. By the time he and the others were 6 years of age they were made to spar with each other. At 8 and a half, Hadrian made his first kill. One of the older slaves, a human male by the name Gerard, managed to make his way to the pens containing Hadrian during the appointed meal time one warm evening. He made his way to where some were eating and started throwing the younger children aside “This food belongs to me now underlings” Gerard set upon the various plates of the younger children with gusto. None stepped forward to challenge him at first. “This food is ours.” A voice stated flatly. “Stop taking it.” Gerard turned slowly to see a semi-circle forming around one of the children. “I am Hadrian. You will stop.” Gerard laughed at him and brandished a short sword at him. “You are going to stop me? I am twice your size. My sword is greater than yours and I am the youngest of Master Coln’s Arena warriors. I have real combat experience and my sword has tasted blood.” he turned away again to cram some more food down his gullet before turning on Hadrian and charging, sword at the ready. Hadrian took his smaller weapon from its sheath. Though it was a sword in his hands, it was nothing more than a large knife to this thug.

The fight was a surprisingly brief one. Hadrian stepped to the side and under the brash charging swing of Gerard, putting him off-balance. Hadrian then lashed out with his leg, catching Gerards shin and sending him sprawling across the floor. Before he had time to recover Hadrian was upon him, jumping on his back he immediately, and without remorse, plunged his small-sword into Gerards spine, severing his brain from the rest of his body, killing him instantly. A cheer rose from the other inhabitants of the pen but was cut short as one of Coln’s trainers entered the room. He looked through the visor of his helmet upon the corpse on the floor. “Who is responsible for this?”  The scared eyes of the children all turned to Hadrian, his small-sword still dripping with Gerards blood. Hadrian maintained a stoic expression, such as can be achieved by a child. “He himself is responsible.” he said suddenly, “He sought to steal from those weaker than himself. He was a coward. I gave him a coward’s death.” Hadrians words rang around the room as all the other children stared at him incredulously. Killing another child and speaking in such a way to the trainers could not end well for him. The trainer’s eyes betrayed that this insult was noted. A moment later those eyes narrowed under the trainers golden helm and he gestured at Hadrian to move to him. “Come with me boy-child. Coln would hear of this.” Hadrian walked through the doorway and ahead of the Trainer, heading down the corridor to where the Arena Master was disciplining another of the older slaves. As they approached Hadrain could hear the sound of whippings being administered. From Coln’s words as he dealt out this punishment Hadrian discovered he had been found wandering around the corridors, as Gerard had before he found his way into Hadrian’s pen. “Master Coln, I have found Gerard. He was in this boy’s pen.” He shoved Hadrian forward before the Arena Master. “Tell him that which you spoke to me, boy.” Coln stepped towards him, curiosity getting the better of the joy of the thrashing. “My name is Hadrian.” The boy-slave’s voice rang around the room for a moment. The stunned silence at this slave’s defiance and at such a young age suggested that none of the Elven Arena Trainers had believed what they had heard. Coln started to laugh a mirthless laugh. “This boy has spirit.” His tone dropped suddenly and he struck Hadrian to the floor, “You will be called boy until the day you earn your name, by making your first kill.” Hadrian looked up at his oppressor, the oppressor of his people, anger burning in his eyes “Then by your own standards Master call me Hadrian, I have slain the coward Gerard.” Coln gave him a long calculating stare; he had spat the word Master with much venom for one so young. He turned and walked towards the door Hadrian had entered through. As he reached it he stared, apparently to the room in general, “Move Hadrian into Gerards pen. He will be entering the Arenas early.” He then indicated to the other slave. “Put Garvin there, in the younglings pit. Such will be his punishment. Be sure he does not get to see this Hadrian again.” The two slaves looked upon one another, Hadrian bore no ill will but Garvin’s eyes burned with a hatred Hadrian assumed was for their Elven overseers.

Lysander’s travel was considerably more comfortable. Kai’s slaves took him, with great care, to their caravan readying for their long journey to Gallar. Kai had never intended to attend the slave markets. He had never meant to make a purchase. He had heard the child call out for help. It was an incredible act of mental strength in one so young. It was truly the will of Winsil for him to have been passing when he did. Impressive though the child’s brain was, it was still weak, unrefined. But this was to change. Kai would mould him into the perfect Mage Hand. His own powers would benefit greatly. Kai had to purchase a milking cow for Lysander to feed from, so an ugly milk bearing human female was added to his stock. It had been a far from cheap purchase but would be worth it in the long run. Lysander was kept warm and well fed by the woman he was to now think of as his mother. His journey was warm and cozy and uneventful. He was well fed. As he grew so did his mental and magical ability. At the age of 3 years he manifested a fireball and burned his room to a charred ruin. Kai could hardly believe the rate at which his ability was growing. He had never taught Lysander destructive magics, yet he learned them, instinctively. By the age of 6 he was fluent in many languages, including Elvish. Though he did not let any others know of this as it is forbidden for a human to speak the language of these so-called Gods. At the age of 8 Lysander found he was able to connect to the mind of an Arena Slave. He could hear this slave’s thoughts, could sense the tension in his mental companions feelings. “My name is Hadrian.” Lysander suddenly caught himself saying. The words of the slave boy were so clear to Lysander he had spoken them aloud himself, the connection could be strong enough that should he lose concentration, while in his mind, they would speak as one person. Why this particular boy he did not know. Despite his best efforts he could not make this connection with any other. He spent a great deal of time nurturing this but never spoke of it to Kai or any of the other Elves. Even his mother did not know. He found he felt affection for this Hadrian. Lysander could feel the burning sense of righteousness in his heart and felt compelled by it. Though he was never able to actively control Hadrian’s actions he found he could make suggestions to him – to act as a kind of sixth sense for him, to warn him of nearby danger. Lysander did not know if Hadrian was aware of him until they both reached the age of 16. Hadrian’s treatment had become especially harsh since he had shown ability and defiance. He was trained harder and quickly became skilled with many weapons. Though he had been pitted against others in training to ready himself and he had been forced to take many lives, he was being placed in his first true Arena match sooner than any other his age.

Lysander could feel the fear of Hadrian as he waited his turn to fight before the jeering crowds. “Lysander! You are not paying attention! What ails you boy?” Kai’s irritated voice cut through Lysander’s feelings and brought him back to his lessons suddenly. Hadrian jumped, though he had heard nothing. Looking about the empty cell for something that could have caused this he eventually turned his attention back to the Arena before him. Just a couple of guards outside a gate kept him from the Arena floor itself. Nothing had happened out there that could have surprised him. Presently the corpse of one of the warriors from the last fight was being cleared. Clearly he was more nervous than he had realised, though all fear seemed to have passed with the jolt of surprise. An announcer stood before the crowds now and spoke loudly. “Now, for your enjoyment, I present the savage human young. One of them you have seen before, though he has long been absent! Alongside his brother he has slain many. 8 years ago his brother was put down by a youngling. Since then we have fed his hatred of the boy who slew his brother. Garvin has festered amongst younglings for two long years while his brother’s killer, now 18 seasons old, has had the luxury of Gerards pen…” Hadrian’s mouth had dropped open as the announcer had spoken. He did not realise Gerard had a brother. “…Now they will meet here for your pleasure…” As he continued Garvin walked from the opposite side of the Arena, he was armed with a sword and a dagger but wore little in the way of armour. Hadrian recognised him from the look he had received the night he had slain Gerard. None of the other older slaves had spoken with him since he had been put there and the trainers made sure they had obeyed Coln’s words. Though he had wondered why this boy was to be kept away from him at the time it had passed from Hadrian’s mind. Now it was clear. Coln had seen an opportunity for a show. A chance to further increase the popularity of his Arena over others. Hadrian burned with hatred of his own. His was for Coln and all other Elves. Those supposed Gods that toyed with human life. That kept them as cattle and treated them little better. Now he was to be pitted against Garvin for sport. He was skilled but Garvin had greater strength and experience.

Lysander raised his arm in defence now as Kai administered a beating to him. “Perhaps this will teach you to pay attention!” Kai’s words and actions and Hadrian’s burning hatred for the Elven kind stirred something within him. Lysander shared in his brother’s hatred. It burned within him like a white-hot star of rage. Kai noticed the change in him and hesitated for a moment. Lysander took the opportunity and struck out with his mind. Kai was unprepared for such power being unleashed at him by a lesser creature. He clutched at his helmet, always worn in the presence of the lesser races, as it turned white-hot suddenly. His screams brought others, Elf and human alike, to the chamber of learning to witness what was happening. Kai made use of his formidable power to reign in the heat of his helmet as well as soothe the burning, though he would never again be able to remove it as it had become fused to his flesh. His hands too were withered and charred. All thought of this boy as a Mage Hand was gone now. Anger was Kai’s motivation and would remain such. Kai’s power gripped Lysander and hurled him face first to a wall pinning him there. Lysander’s jaw snapped on impact. As he was helped away he screamed his rage at those around him. “TAKE HIM TO A CELL! SLAY ALL OTHER HUMANS IN THIS HOUSE! I WILL DEAL WITH LYSANDER MYSELF!” As he shouted the words he wrenched himself free from the arms of a female slave, pushed her away and summoned great power to consume her body in fire. She had not the time to scream as she burst into flame from the inside. Lysander’s anger had not been subdued by Kai’s power. As the screams of human slaves began to be heard around the house of Kai, Lysander let loose a roar. A low rumble resounded through the walls as Lysander forced the power of Kai back from him and turned around to face him. Kai turned to him in horror. “Impossible! How can you resist my power? You are nothing but a low-born creature of dirt.” Lysander’s anger struck out again but Kai was prepared this time. A fireball was deflected away from Kai and hit one of the now fleeing slaves, consuming him and adding his screams to those of others around the house. Each death fuelled Lysander’s rage and the rumble grew into a fierce earthquake that shook the walls and unbalanced all but Kai and Lysander. Kai responded with a fireball of his own that struck home. The righteous look of victory on Kai’s face was short-lived as Lysander, unscathed, drew in the power of the spell and used it to augment his own. A flame wreathed sword crackled into existence in one hand and a shield of energy appeared with a hum in the other and he charged at Kai, flaming sword raised above his head as the house crumbled around them.

Hadrian walked from the cell into the light of the Arena, sword in hand. Garvin sneered as he approached. For all intents and purposes he was an animal. Nothing more than what his Elven keepers had made him. The announcer had retreated now and Hadrian saw watching from above, Coln, his hated enemy, and thousands of Elves, the enemies of his people. Garvin charged towards him and the fight began. Garvin was a towering windmill of rage as he swung his sword and knife about him. He foamed at the mouth as the last of his sanity played out for the amusement of the Elven crowds. This was not to be the fight the people wanted. Garvin was a skilled fighter but in the presence of his most hated foe, he had lost all sense. His swings were wild and uncontrolled and Hadrian could avoid them with ease. Garvin tired quickly and Hadrian was able to make very short work of him. The displeasure of the crowds was evident and Coln shuffled his feet uneasily, the mob grew restless and not even he could withstand that. His mind was racing for something to appease the hostility gathering around him when Hadrian offered something that pleased and surprised baying crowds immensely. Looking directly at him, Hadrian called Coln out. “Arena Master Coln. You have created a poor animal for me to put down. Your cruelty and countless murders of my people will end today! I challenge you to single combat!” For a moment the crowd were in a stunned silence. This was unexpected entertainment indeed! A Master of the Arenas called out to fight one of his own vassals! A cheer rose from the crowds as Coln leapt from the viewing gantry landing lightly a short distance before him. A low rumble could be heard but nobody seemed concerned with this. All eyes were on the spectacle before them. Coln and Hadrian circled each other cautiously seeking a gap to strike through. Hadrian felt a roar of rage rise through him as he suddenly felt anger at the deaths and injustices his people had endured from these so-called gods of his people. Coln betrayed his impatience with a sudden and extremely swift sword strike, Hadrian was barely equal to it and Coln pressed the advantage. Hadrian found himself backing away desperately trying to fend off the strikes. Coln, not finding the gap he had hoped to, backed off and began circling once more. The roar of the crowds drowned out by the roaring rage in his heart, Hadrian took a turn to strike out. Coln was easily the equal to his attacks however. It became apparent that Hadrian may not be the equal to Coln. The crowds could see a disappointing end to this fight looming quickly. Coln could see the end approaching as well. Hadrian smiled a grim smile. Switching his sword to his other hand he renewed his attack. With his sword in his strong hand he pressed Coln hard. Caught off guard Coln had to back away, this renewed attack caught him off guard and his previous confidence quickly left him. As he fought Hadrian’s rage increased and he felt a power surge through him. To the surprise of everyone there Hadrian’s sword burst into flame. Hadrian betrayed no surprise, though he certainly felt, all that mattered was his vengeance.

The racial rage of the twins was fierce to behold. Lysander’s magical potential was unleashed that day. The house of Kai crumbled to dust around him and Kai was not able to withstand the magical melee. Lysander had borrowed from his brother’s ability to put down the mage with the magical blade. In turn Hadrian had unknowingly borrowed from Lysander’s abilities to sheath his own blade in magical power. Coln had become fearful and desperate and his rage was palpable right up until Hadrian separated his head from his shoulders. Amongst the silence that followed the rage subsided. The Twins were seized and thrown into new cells. Neither spoke, even under torture. It was decreed that they should both be put to death. By coincidence this was to happen on the same day. They were to be made an example of. In Meer, Hadrian was to be beheaded in the city square. In Gallar Lysander was to be burned at the stake. Lysander and Hadrian both brooded in their separate cells. Their thoughts were not for themselves entirely. Though Lysander was still a little in awe of himself his main thoughts were of the rest of his kind. He pondered about Hadrian more specifically. He had clearly used the connection between them but did not seem to have realised this. Hadrian was pleased that Coln was slain and by his own hand no less. Many Elves feared Coln’s prowess. Now they would fear his. The so-called Gods now feared the prowess of a lowly human. “Hello, Hadrian.” Hadrian was not startled by the voice that appeared to come from his own head. He had sensed a kind of connection for many years. The unaccountable rage and inexplicable flaming sword that helped him vanquish his hated foe served as evidence of this connection. He certainly couldn’t have done that himself. He concentrated and responded in his mind. “Hello. I do not know your name but I feel that you have watched over me these past years. Are you a messenger of Ronnic?” Lysander had to withhold a laugh at this. “No, Hadrian. No messenger. My name is Lysander. I believe we are twin brothers. It is said that twins often have an inexplicable connection, which we seem to have.” Hadrian considered this for a moment. It had a ring of truth to it. Though he had never known he had a brother, this did lift his heart and felt right. “You have the same predicament as I Lysander?” The hour was late and an escape plan would have to be formulated quickly. Lysander looked at his hands. “Aye, brother; I too am shackled within a cell. I am in Gallar, to the East of Meer. Though I can release myself I do not know if I can get you free. Even if I can, what would we do then?” Hadrian remained silent for a moment before he came to a decision. “We will liberate our people brother.”

Next on the Shell Case Shorts…

With nine days to go until the second Shell Case Shorts competition closes I thought I’d let you know what was coming for the next competitions running over March & April.

March will be a Fantasy based competition. Like February’s it’ll be 5,000 words all based on Fantasy wargaming IP. This story will make up the last story of the Shell Case Shorts anthology. The prize will be two, yes two signed books from none other than Gav Thorpe.

April is all about Origins. 3,000 words on the history of a Space Marine chapter, military regiment, faction etc, created by you for an existing wargaming IP. It can be Sci-fi, fantasy, steampunk, anything you like. But it must be an origins piece, not a story about them specifically. Consider homeworld/nation, doctrine, organisation, battle cry etc.

The prize for this hasn’t been confirmed yet but I’m on the case.

I won’t list Ts & Cs here but keep you eyes peeled for these posts, they’ll be going up on the 1st March & 1st April respectively.

The Three Plains V2 – A Review

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This is going out a little later than planned, but that’s more me not being able to organise myself out of paper bag than anything else. But rejoice because it’s finally here; my review of The Three Plains, version 2, by Epic Wargaming. This was originally slated for before Christmas but as 2nd edition was close to completion Dave asked me to hang fire.

Then, as it turned out, I ended up proof reading the core rules and The Shell Case got a special mention at the back of the book. So it turned out for the best.

But on to the review.

For those that have never heard of Epic Wargaming or The Three Plains, it is a fantasy game set in the realm of Many so-called because the various species that inhabit the world can’t agree on a name which, as a concept I just think is ace.

The world of Many exists on the second plain, the first being order, the third being chaos. So mortals sandwiched between the fantasy version of the Vorlons and the Shadows. Which isn’t a complaint, just an observation.

The other thing that you should know about The Three Plains is that it’s completely free. The rules and the armies are all available to download for nowt. And no I haven’t been drinking anti-freeze, the armies are free too because the creator, Dave, designed the armies so they are cut and fold. This means the size of your games are limited only by the number of trips you can stand making to your local branch of Staples.

In a way this almost counts against TTP because part of the appeal to wargaming is building and painting huge armies. But the more I thought about it the more I realised that I was not only being hideously judgemental as out of the hundreds of models I own only a fraction are painted. This isn’t to say that I don’t like painting, because I do, but it’s a time issue. What hobby time I do have I usually spend gaming or building samples or the odd purchase.

What TTP allows us as gamers to do is not only get a game for nothing but to also build armies relatively quickly without any of the pressure to paint them, because it’s already done. Plus if anything gets damaged the resulting repair work is limited to printing off a new sheet of blokes.

And I’d also urge you to take a look at the images below of the models because, although hand drawn they are actually quite cool and embody the fantasy regiment ethos very well. Which is faceless hordes but with a few tasty details thrown in.

On to the game.

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The Three Plains is, like so many games created by independents, and even like my own Project Awesome, a labour of love. You can see it in every page and every rule that was written. What makes TTP interesting is that it’s a proper hardcore strategy game.

What I mean by that is; as I read through, I was continually surprised by the number of rules crammed in to the game. There’s bloody loads of them. Don’t think this is a bad thing because it isn’t because it’s a proper hardcore wargame. It’s all the traits of some of the most ambitious wargames I’ve read rules for, or played, all rolled into one. And what that means is that it outstrips the likes of Warhammer because it’s about the tactics. It’s about using the right units for the right job rather than having mental models that don’t belong on a gaming board. It’s, for want of a better term, a purestrain.

What that means is a fantasy games that offers you a plethora of unit choices from infantry to chuffing massive beasties with rules from everything from magic to said beasties losing their shit and rampaging about the place. It does mean that for the first few games there may be a fair bit of rule checking. If I’m honest, for me, I could do with something a little simpler as the only things, in my book, that should stop play is toilet breaks, trips to the kitchen for more beer/soft drinks/snacks or to take the piss out of someone who just got curb stomped. That said my comfort zone, at the moment, is the likes of 40k and skirmish games and even then I rarely venture into the realms of fantasy as lose patients when it comes to moving large blocks of infantry.

But that’s just me and my slightly childish approach to gaming (I require power armoured super humans, big guns and large explosions). Rule flicking aside, the game is methodical, well-reasoned and well written. I think there was maybe two occasions in the entire book I had to re-read a rule because I didn’t understand it. And considering the game allows you to pretty much represent any set of battle conditions and scenario for using block infantry it deserves its place amongst the more common fantasy games.

There’s also a couple of rules in there that are actually quite inspired. The first being Sense. This isn’t so much line of sight as it is situational awareness. The power of sight means that, yes you are more aware of things happening in front of you and therefore are far more likely to react to them. And, as such, you’re far less likely to react to the sneaky bastard about to stab you in the back. It’s a tidy enough rule that you shouldn’t need to faff about checking every time you want to do something which is an indication about the standard of writing in The Three Plains.

The other is Battle Stress & Fatigue. This is similar to fatigue rule in Saga. Essentially the horrors and exertions of war put a strain on your troops making them less combat effective. I really like rules like this and it’s pleasing to see them cropping up more often now. I think it makes games far more tactical as whenever I use to play Warhammer it was often a case of ‘if I can make that unit break…’. In TTP it’s a lot harder to do as you have to properly break the unit’s resolve to achieve that.

I think the all important clue is in the publisher name. Epicwargaming. TTP is an epic wargame. It’s scale is epic. It’s rules are epic. The fact that you can print off, in theory, limitless numbers of figures means the games are epic. It is, simply, epic.

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My first thought was that TTP would really appeal to historical and fantasy gamers, and although that’s true, I think I’d be selling the game short because it is actually really very good. It’s background is rich and will only get better as Dave works on it over the iterations. The rules make sense and the volume of them isn’t really a problem, I’m just lazy. The armies are diverse, and the range of units broad. Combined with the fact that it’s free to make more means that you can have some absolutely mental games.

As I say, The Three Plains is an epic game. In scope, scale, ambition and passion. Everyone go to the Epicwargaming and download it, play it and love it.