The Covenant’s 5th Fleet – The Night Watch

With my Covenant fleet painted over a 15 day period and finished (for now) here’s the full background for them, as promised, and complete with shiny pictures.

Commissioned in 1860, the 5th Fleet was charged with patrolling the dark waters surrounding the Covenant’s domain. Initially little more than a task force made up of cruisers and frigates, coordinated by the battleship CSS Stalwart, the fleet was forced to spend prolonged periods of time isolated from one another as they plied the vast stretches of waters surrounding the ice floes for raiders or other threats to the Covenant’s sovereignty.

Before the renowned Commodore Aldus Stone took command, the 5th saw little action beyond clashes with the Kingdom of Britannia’s Falklands units that strayed too close to the Covenant’s borders, but these were little more than pot shots. Stone changed all that. A dour man hailing from the home counties of England he made a living as a game keeper in the employ of the Earl of Wessex. A tracker of superlative skill, a master of the silent kill and lethal with an elephant gun. Working for the Earl man and boy it was believed he was destined for great things. However fate had other ideas when the Earl’s eldest son drunk and in a rage with his father accidentally shot and killed Stone’s wife, the Earl’s housekeeper. Were this great tragedy not enough but the Earl utilising his significant influence had the entire matter swept under the carpet. Stone, realising his true place in Britannian society, was a broken man. Tired with toiling for a man whose sole interest was growing fat on the blood and sweat of the people, Stone made the long and dangerous journey South to the Covenant of Antarctica looking for a life with purpose.

Stone was not idle for long, being drafted into the Covenant armed forces in 1862. To his surprise, Stone was assigned to the navy and the 5th fleet rather than the army. His self-sufficiency and innate ability for the silent kill made him perfect for the dangers of patrolling the Covenant’s waters. Initially assigned to the frigate Too Quiet Stone impressed his superiors with his hit and run defence of the Western ice floes against a FSA raiding party. Although his ship was crippled, and eventually sunk, he delayed the FSA long enough that the rest of the 5th fleet was able to surround the FSA and destroy them utterly.

It didn’t take long for Stone to ascend the ranks and find himself at the head of the 5th fleet off the back of a string of daring actions keeping the Covenant’s borders safe. He achieved the rank of Commodore after he led the 5th fleet into the heart of Port Stanley, the Falkland Islands, on an unauthorised but successful rescue of Covenant POWs without a shot being fired in 1867. His first order was to have the fleet painted raven black to reflect the Night Watch moniker the fleet had earned in their many night sorties and defensive actions.

Although a lonely man with a solitary and single-minded command style that sat ill with the Covenant hierarchy, there was no denying that the 5th was clearly wasted as a patrol force and was pressed into front line service as the Covenant’s warmachine took the fight to the rest of the world in 1869. Under Stone’s command the 5th fleet won a score of victories against the great powers of the world,with more and more assets being assigned to the fleet to extent that Stone’s flag now resides aboard the dreadnought CSS History’s Judgement.

Despite the 5th Fleet’s many victories, Stone’s naturally cold nature combined with his unflinching belief in the Covenant’s cause, has seen several instances of excessive force by the vessels under Stone’s command. There have even been reports of executions of enemy sailors stranded at sea. However the fleet seem to reserve their worst brand of violence for the vessels of the Britannic navy. No one knows why this is, not even the crew of the Night Watch itself, but all sailors of the Kingdom of Britannia know that if they spy a black ship on the horizon they should beware. The condemnation of his superiors is never far behind the 5th Fleet but if Commodore Stone cares he gives no sign.

However, Stone’s popularity at home and infamy abroad has made it difficult for any meaningful sanction to be levelled against him or the captains beneath his command. Indeed there are many within the fleet that believe themselves untouchable, and even above the rest of the fleet. To many Stone is a hero. Others see Stone and the 5th as a rogue element that sooner or later will either turn on their own or be brought to task. Which ever the answer be, none can deny that Stone and his fleet of raven black ships are a powerful force both at home and abroad.

The battleships of the 5th fleet share a rivalry that borders on the reckless. The Sword of Truth has a long and illustrious history formerly at the hands of Commodore Stone and now with the firm hand of Captain Jacob Harris. The Shield of Reason however had only just been commissioned 2 years previously. Captain Oscar Ashwind, a native to the Polar South, is determined to see his vessel recorded in the annals of history no matter the cost.

The Sword of Truth was once known as the Stalwart, the flagship of the 5th Fleet prior to the commissioning of the CSS History’s Judgement. A proud ship with an illustrious and bloody history. It was the Stalwart, under Stone’s command, had sailed into Port Stanley during the daring raid to rescue Covenant POWs. When command passed to Captain Jacob Harris there was much pomp and ceremony as few ships in the Covenant navy had seen as much combat as the Stalwart. Captain Harris was one of Stone’s prodigies and was almost as angry and bitter with the world having come up through the ranks listening to Stone’s rhetoric.

Although Harris had every right to be bitter. Hailing from Boston in the FSA and raised Irish Catholic he had a successful fishing business, a well-regarded family and was betrothed to a lady of good standing and better breeding. And all at the age of twenty-two. Harris was a keen boxer and had a weakness for cards although a sixth sense kept him from losing either that often. But his real weakness was the comfort he found in his fiancée. Both were raised as devout Catholics and knew the risks of indulging in carnal desires but neither cared. Until his betrothed fell pregnant.

Buckling under the weight of responsibility, despite the mutual familial support, he fled to the ocean on-board one of his fishing steamers. It didn’t take long for him to realise his cowardice and brought the boat about. However fate intervened and a storm crippled the vessel before it could make port. Set adrift it took a month for Harris to coax the boat home. In his absence his assets had been seized by his fiancée’s family to support her as she was now all but outcast. Ostracised and destitute Harris stole one his former vessels and headed South.

Assigned to the 5th Fleet as a rating his seamanship skills were quickly noticed and quickly ascended the ranks. He saw Stone has a kindred spirit and proof, if any were needed, that a broken man need not stay broken and his could visit his vengeance on those wronged him. Harris was far better at concealing his anger at the world and his promotion to Captain was quickly affirmed. He wasted no time renaming the Stalwart as much to symbolise the passing of a torch as to represent the righteous history the ship had. Her hull black as night, she was a true predator of the oceans and had the kill count to suit.

To list its successes under Stone would take time but arguably longer under Harris’ command. Volunteering the Sword of Truth for any and all covert or surgical strike missions to test the mettle of his ship and crew. The Sword made headlines world-wide for infiltrating and laying waste to the naval yards at both Boston and New York city before slipping off into the night. The attack was condemned by the FSA and her allies for the loss of civilian life and although the Covenant didn’t agree with Harris’ methods, like much of the 5th Fleet, they couldn’t argue with the results.

The Sword of Truth would continue its reign of terror in the Atlantic Ocean both as part of wider fleet actions and on its own attacking supply ships and patrols with impunity, each attack more ruthless than the last as Harris and his crew became every more proficient at their craft until fate once again intervened. The FSA, frustrated with the constant loss of their supply ships laid a trap, arming the supply ships with turrets and concealing torpedo bombers where possible. As the Sword of Truth sailed silently amongst the supply ships all but submerged, it took its first ranging shot. However instead of scattering vessels, the ocean lit up with explosions as turrets responded all around the noble battleship.

In the same moment bombers took to the skies, the air filling with whizzing tracers and the howl of prop engines. Harris, furious at the FSA’s deception ordered all weapons to fire as the battleship fought free of the supply ships that were slowing encircling it. As explosions blossomed in the night sky the bombers dropped their payloads, torpedoes surging towards the Sword, ripping gaping wounds in the ship’s hull. Fires broke out across the Sword as she fought with all her worth to break out. Harris realised he stood at the edge of his undoing and was ready to give the evacuation order when explosions tore through a vessel on the Sword’s port side. A moment later another supply ship blew apart, its hull snapping in two and dropping beneath the waves. In the half-light of burning fuel Harris and his crew could make out the forms of jet black Covenant frigates as they dipped beneath the waves to unleash deadly torpedo salvos.

Seeing his opportunity Harris ordered the Sword to surface and make a break for it however a heavy transport blocked her path, a 36inch cannon mounted on her prow slowly rotating for a killing shot. Harris did not hesitate, ordering the use of the particle cannon. The force of the shot destroyed the transport utterly but the strain on the Sword was almost too much, blowing out systems and relays and all but crippled the ship.

It took 2 months for the frigates to tow the dying ship back to friendly waters, once again giving Harris plenty of time to consider his actions. That was twice his compulsive nature had almost gotten him killed and resolved to do better. Stone saw the change in him and knew he had become the officer that the Covenant needed him to be. It took a further 6 weeks for the Sword of Truth to be fully repaired. Once again a part of the 5th Fleet she has been restored to a position of fear in the hearts of her enemies and pride in those of her allies.

The Shield of Reason although visually identical to the Sword of Truth is the superior ship. All but brand new the Shield has the most sophisticated technology available to it including the type 2 range finders for faster target resolutions as well as the latest IFF device that allows the Covenant to identify its ships in the tumult of battle.

Captain Oscar Ashwind is as new a senior officer as his ship has rolled off the production line. Brought to Antarctica as a child by his South African parents amongst the first wave of travellers seeking a new life, Ashwind is as close to first generation Antarctican as can be. Growing up with his three brothers they were schooled in the discoveries that were being made on almost daily basis. All three excelled at their studies and all were destined for a life at the forefront of Covenant science. That was until the Covenant mobilised for war. Of the three, Oscar was the only one who felt an obligation to serve his adopted people in the coming dark days. Ever the idealist he joined the navy and bade his brothers farewell for what would prove to be the last time.

During his basic training Oscar received word that his two brothers had been killed aboard a science ship that was heading for a small chain of islands South East of the isle of South Georgia by whalers who mistook them for a military vessel. Distraught Ashwind threw himself into his career determined to make his brothers proud despite their misgivings about the armed forces. Oscar Ashwind was bright and eager and his scientific knowledge saw him spend much of his early career in engine rooms or in the R&D division. Ashwind’s potential, however, came to the fore when serving about the Stargazer, a Plato Class cruiser of the 9th fleet, as chief engineer.

Whilst on routine patrol the Stargazer was ambushed by a French flotilla. The initial volley struck just below the bridge, killing the senior staff and sowing disarray through the ship. Realising he was the most senior office on board, Ashwind took command of the vessel. He ordered a general distress call to be sent and then sent the Stargazer all ahead into battle. Through a series of daring scissor actions and hit and run attacks the Stargazer crippled two of its attackers and sunk a third all the while leading the French on a merry chase around the South Atlantic. Ashwind understood the odds all too well but was determined to reap a heavy toll for the craven acts of the French. Ashwind never got his chance as just as the French surrounded the battered Cruiser ready to deliver the killing blow the remainder of the 9th arrived and tore the French to pieces.

Upon his return home he was hailed as a hero and promoted. His actions against the French caught the eye of Commodore Stone and offered him the bridge of the Shield of Reason. The decision rankled his other officers, none more so than Harris of the Sword of Truth. But Stone cared little for their opinions and enjoyed sparking healthy competition as they strove to earn his notice. Stone had chosen Ashwind for his guile and determination under pressure. Not to mention it made an undeniable amount of sense for the most advanced vessel in his fleet to be commanded by a former chief engineer.

Between Harris and Ashwind relations are cordial. Harris loathes the young upstart for his meteoric rise through the ranks and the fame its brought him, not to mention a string of successful naval engagements that will only help his chances of further advancement. Ashwind looks up to Harris and takes his ship into the heart of the fight in the hope of winning his fellow battleship commander’s approval, unknowing that every victory and act of valour drives a great wedge between them.

In contrast the Olympia is one of the oldest ships in the Covenant armada. Of course in reality the Olympia has had just about every component and deck plank replaced for one reason or another by the ships soul remains pure. Before the war broke out the Olympia and all carriers were designed to be exploration vessels, the drones to be used to map vast areas of land, rather than instruments of war. Needless to say the fate of the Olympia took a different path.  The Olympia has been attached to, at one time or another, four different fleets. Prior becoming the only carrier of the 5th fleet it belonged to the 1st fleet. Revered by every serving member of the Covenant military and civilians alike the 1st fleet were at the spear tip of the Covenant warmachine and the Olympia was a grand a proud part of that.

Covenant carriers are tough by the standards of most battleships and the Olympia was no exception. Often found where the fighting was thickest, its drones flinging themselves into the hulls of enemy ships, she had as fearsome reputation as any warship in the warring world. However, one fateful day, during a prolonged and bloody engagement with the Prussians in the mid Atlantic the Olympia was surrounded and set upon by a unit of frigates. With little crew to defend itself the Olympia quickly fell with little crew to defender her.

Beset on all sides the 1st fleet were in danger of being destroyed. Only the timely intervention of a relief force consisting of elements from the 2nd, 5th, 8th and 9th fleets, including the 5th fleet frigate squadron The Coppertails prevented a complete disaster. Lieutenant Sampson Earl of the frigate Clever Girl spotted the Olympia running Prussian colours. Moving the rest of his squadron in position using the rough seas to cover their advance the crews attacked en masse. The Prussians lacked the numbers to make a concerted defence and within minutes the Olympia was once again in Covenant hands.

With the Prussians driven off the 1st fleet was escorted back to Antarctica for refit and repair. The Olympia’s fate however now rested with the 5th as it was Lieutenant Earl that rescued the carrier and was his to command. Being granted a promotion to full Commander, Earl is the most junior officer in Covenant history to command a carrier, but does so with great skill, putting the carriers fearsome weaponry to as great a use as its drones.

The Olympia is not the only ship to have been absorbed into the 5th fleet. Indeed the Titan, Deimos and Phobos were survivors of the Midway disaster in which elements of the 2nd, 7th and 10th fleets were ambushed by the FSA. Surrounded on all sides the Covenant fought valiantly against a vastly superior force.

The squadron of armoured cruisers moved as one, their co-ordination going far beyond the IFF that the Covenant have blessed their ships of war with. Hunting as a pack they punched holes in the FSA formations allowing their comrades to break out. Ultimately it was for nought and few made it beyond the range of the FSA’s guns. Only the Titan, Deimos and Phobos made it home.

Although officially still attached to the 7th, Stone recognised in their captains and crew the same thirst for revenge that burned in his heart and he gave them that chance. Leaving the Antarctic, Stone took the 5th fleet along the pacific coast of the Americas and, under the cover of darkness destroyed the FSA flotilla at anchor in Pearl Harbour. The destruction wrought by the armoured cruisers’ particle cannons was the stuff of nightmares. Such was the destruction the base was crippled for a full year and even now cannot hold a full battle group within its waters. Branded an act of cowardice by the FSA they placed a bounty on the heads of the captains of the Titan, Deimos and Phobos much to the amusement of them and their newly adopted fleet, earning them the nickname The Wanted.

So fearsome are the ships and crew of the squadron they are rarely found far from History’s Judgement when deployed, lending their strength to hers and leaving nothing but destruction on their wake.

The cruisers of the 5th fleet are its solid, immovable, core. Of all the changes experienced by the fleet, the cruisers of Orion Fornax squadrons have endured them all. Before Stone’s ascension to command the cruisers were the mainstay of the 5th fleet. Indeed when it was first commissioned the fleet was commanded by the cruiser  Galileo of Orion squadron. Superlative sailors to a man, the crews plied the icy waves with the ease of men and women born to it.

It was these mighty cruisers that rescued Stone and his crippled frigate from the clutches of the FSA, the cruisers utterly surrounding the American forces to catch them in a deadly cross fire of turret fire and broadsides. Ever since then the Galileo, Pegasus, Constellation, Ganymede, Griffin & Cassiopeia  have been at the heart of every action the 5th fleet has been apart of, both officially and unofficially.

The captains of these fine warships were at first resentful of Stone’s rise to command. Most of Captain Hendrik Boettcher, the junior of the 6. When Stone was given overall command, prior to the commissioning of the Relentless (Sword of Truth), he was given command of the Constellation, forcing him to take overall command of the frigates. In truth it was the best thing Captain Boettcher could have done. So use to fighting on his own against small raiding parties or single ships it reminded him of the importance and benefits of coordinated attacks at a time when the 5th fleet was beginning fleet sized actions.

After the Relentless had joined the fleet and Stone had moved his flag aboard, Boettcher once again took command of the Constellation, bringing with him a wealth of ideas of how the mainstay of the 5th fleet should operate and although Captain Theodore Bern has overall command, Boettcher’s insight into squadron tactics are invaluable.

Bern is a tough man to impress. Formerly of the Britannic navy and an instructor at the Portsmouth naval academy, Bern resigned his commission in protest over a suicide mission into Russian waters to steal the Whit Navy’s experimental glacia generator technology. His firm hand natural teaching ability has made him the ideal candidate to temper the wilder impulses of commanding officers that have graduated from the Coppertails. Those that don’t heed his lessons either find themselves demoted or killed.

Despite his British noble and naval background Stone respects and trusts Bern completely having proved himself time and time again both defending the Antarctic coast and in the open waters in the thick of the fighting. Indeed since taking command of the 5th, Stone has relied n Bern’s council and has become one of his most valuable and trusted advisors and has been granted the honorary title of master of the armoury. An outmoded idea but a sign of respect between the two men, both of whom were native to England. Bern is a master tactician. Indeed having a defector in your midst can certainly provide advantageous tactics and fleet deployments.

Although not as powerful as the larger capitol ships in the fleet they make up for it in adaptability and possessing shield generators makes them a very tough nut to crack, something that the captains take full advantage of. Indeed it is not uncommon for the vessels of Orion Fornax squadrons to sail into the heart of enemy formations, shields flaring, to unleash the full potential of their broadsides and turrets.

Both squads have served Stone with distinction since he took command taking part in the raid on the Falklands Islands, the Olympia rescue, Auckland schism and battle of the West Sturgeon Straights. They wear their black livery with pride acknowledging the achievements of Stone and the 5th fleet as a whole. Going from coastal patrols to full pitched battles in the open ocean was a gear shift that some of the crew struggled to make.

Up until recently the cohesion within the cruiser squadrons has been second to none. However, after Ashwind’s promotion and assignment to command the Shield of Reason tensions have grown between the senior staff as each captain fancies themselves in with a chance at commanding that mighty battleship. All the Cruiser captains covet the Shield and Sword equally and have begun to keep tallies of their kills and their after action reports submitted to Stone have become increasingly florid.

Fortunately for Stone, when in combat the crews of the Galileo, Pegasus, Constellation, Ganymede, Griffin & Cassiopeia conduct themselves with the utmost discipline. They save the bragging for after.

However few are more blohard than the Coppertails. 

Officially designated 109 squadron, the ‘Coppertails’ represent the light element of the 5th fleet under Commodore Aldous Stone. Made up of 12 Diogenes Class frigates it is rare for a Covenant fleet to favour a particular class of support vessel over others so overwhelmingly. However, the composition of a fleet has as much to do with the commanding officer as it does the Covenants ministry of war and Stone’s history with the vessel makes it a staple choice.

Painted black like all other vessels of the 5th Fleet, the Coppertails earned their moniker because of the copper plating encasing the rear or the ships. This was as much an aesthetic choice on the part of Commodore Stone as to improve the signal broadcast by the Covenant’s rudimentary IFF transmitter. The technology still in its early stages, the 5th fleet rely heavily on it due to their preference for night operations as it allows them to co-ordinate their attacks with unerring accuracy.

The crews of the Coppertails squadron are renowned in the Covenant armed services for their cavalier and bragging behaviour, prone to outrageous boasts and wagers amongst themselves and other personnel. This devil-may-care attitude has been carefully encouraged by Commodore Stone recognising the benefit of war hungry crews on board such small ships. Their bravado is born of those that have a considerably shorter life expectancy than almost any other element of the 5th fleet.

In the water the commanding officers of the Coppertails band together in three flights of 4, operating as a pack and isolating much larger vessels and harrying them to destruction with withering torpedo attacks. And boasting rights to the captain delivering the killing blow. Their boisterous and arrogant nature isolates them from their fellow officers, especially those in the 5th fleet who look upon them with mild shame as all officers in the 5th fleet start their lives as officers in the Coppertails and all were as insufferable as their junior fellow officers.

Commodore Stone started his career aboard a frigate and won much fame stood on its bridge. As well as some hard lessons. He sees to it that every newly commissioned officer assigned to his fleet serves with the renowned Coppertails. Some see it as a punishment, others as a test. In reality it’s both and about learning some valuable lessons. The crews of the Coppertails are exceptional having survived life aboard a frigate and in the hands of unproven and arrogant officers. The good officers will listen and learn, the bad ones will get themselves killed one way or another.

Despite this Stone does all he can to stir up competition between the officers of the squadron, offering rewards and plum assignments for valour and confirmed kills. But this too is a lesson; to help them understand the difference between arrogance and confidence and command and leadership. Those that fail to learn these lessons either end up dead, along with the men under their command, or spend their careers as boorish sea dogs taking ever greater risks to win glory and their Commodore’s praise although neither are forthcoming. Stone will never put these poor souls out of their misery as he recognises that a driven and reckless officer has its uses.

These disparate personalities can sometimes mean that the squadron lacks cohesion and will often follow their own objectives but this too has its benefits, quickly highlighting to Stone which are able to bring their flight or the squadron under control for the greater good.

This would normally sow confusion amongst the rest of the fleet but Stone’s will is absolute and his officers know to trust his command. And Stone is quite happy for his Coppertails to engage the enemy on their own terms as this only further benefits his plans. If anything their apparently haphazard approach to war can be a boon, their aggression and speed saved the lives of the Sword of Truth following a FSA trap.

The newest element of the 5th fleet is escort groups Skyshield and Sentinel. How they came to be attached to the 5th fleet is most unconventional and speaks of Stone’s strength of will and influence within the Covenant and the wider world.

Following the attack on Pearl Harbour and the bounties placed on the heads of The Wanted Aldus Stone began to receive death threats that indicated an assassin was within the Covenant. The admiralty immediately assigned bodyguards to keep Stone safe however the man was a cult of personality and as such refused to be seen so weak.

The six men charged with his protection were some of the finest marines ever produced by the Covenant but even they struggled to keep track of Stone. They even found themselves left behind after Stone had managed to slip aboard the Judgement and mobilise the fleet without telling a soul.

In a heated exchange with the admiralty he continually refused to acknowledge the need for protection but his superiors would not be dissuaded. In a fit of frustration he was recorded to have bellowed ‘If you want them to watch my arse, give them some escorts and put them to some real use.’ So they did. Each marine was prompted to Commander and charged with the protection of Commodore Stone. Although now a part of his fleet Stone still doesn’t make it easy on his protectors, choosing to assign them to his battleships rather than be chased around the waves by guard dogs.

This isn’t to say the escorts aren’t put to good use. Indeed the crews have flourished under the command of such hardened soldiers, drilling them to peak efficiency. Working seamlessly as squadrons these plucky escorts go after any threat without a second thought, filling the air with walls of lead or harrying ships much bigger than their own with weapons fire. How they have survived every without loss or serious damage after all this time is miraculous.

The final element of the 5th fleet is the 82nd bomber squadron the Night Furies. In truth Stone dislikes the use of aerial elements but can’t deny their effectiveness in battle. Especially with their extraordinary manoeuvrability allows them to strike and then withdraw with almost supernatural speed.

The 5th fleet’s penchant for night operations combined with their black colour scheme not only gives the Night Furies a tremendous advantage not only when making their attack runs but also their survivability quite at odds with the average life expectancy of similar squadrons in both the covenant and the wider world.

Despite this fact Stone generally prefers to leave the Night Furies in reserve seeing them as a liability due to their relatively limited range. One he commits to the hunt he is relentless and having to hold on station and await refuel for his bombers rankled him and has left them behind on more than one occasion.

For all their kills and valour in combat they remain an all but unused element of the 5th fleet but even Stone admits this must change with his foes relying on air elements more and more and has even requested a Daedalus class to be permanently attached to the fleet to bolster his air arm for when he inevitably needs it.

Coppertails

Continuing on from my other fluff posts chronicling the units and crew of the Covenant of Antarctica 5th Fleet I give you the Frigate squadron known as the Coppertails.

Officially designated 109 squadron, the ‘Coppertails’ represent the light element of the 5th fleet under Commodore Aldous Stone. Made up of 12 Diogenes Class frigates it is rare for a Covenant fleet to favour a particular class of support vessel over others so overwhelmingly. However, the composition of a fleet has as much to do with the commanding officer as it does the Covenants ministry of war and Stone’s history with the vessel makes it a staple choice.

Painted black like all other vessels of the 5th Fleet, the Coppertails earned their moniker because of the copper plating encasing the rear or the ships. This was as much an aesthetic choice on the part of Commodore Stone as to improve the signal broadcast by the Covenant’s rudimentary IFF transmitter. The technology still in its early stages, the 5th fleet rely heavily on it due to their preference for night operations as it allows them to co-ordinate their attacks with unerring accuracy.

The crews of the Coppertails squadron are renowned in the Covenant armed services for their cavalier and bragging behaviour, prone to outrageous boasts and wagers amongst themselves and other personnel. This devil-may-care attitude has been carefully encouraged by Commodore Stone recognising the benefit of war hungry crews on board such small ships. Their bravado is born of those that have a considerably shorter life expectancy than almost any other element of the 5th fleet.

In the water the commanding officers of the Coppertails band together in three flights of 4, operating as a pack and isolating much larger vessels and harrying them to destruction with withering torpedo attacks. And boasting rights to the captain delivering the killing blow. Their boisterous and arrogant nature isolates them from their fellow officers, especially those in the 5th fleet who look upon them with mild shame as all officers in the 5th fleet start their lives as officers in the Coppertails and all were as insufferable as their junior fellow officers.

Commodore Stone started his career aboard a frigate and won much fame stood on its bridge. As well as some hard lessons. He sees to it that every newly commissioned officer assigned to his fleet serves with the renowned Coppertails. Some see it as a punishment, others as a test. In reality it’s both and about learning some valuable lessons. The crews of the Coppertails are exceptional having survived life aboard a frigate and in the hands of unproven and arrogant officers. The good officers will listen and learn, the bad ones will get themselves killed one way or another.

Despite this Stone does all he can to stir up competition between the officers of the squadron, offering rewards and plum assignments for valour and confirmed kills. But this too is a lesson; to help them understand the difference between arrogance and confidence and command and leadership. Those that fail to learn these lessons either end up dead, along with the men under their command, or spend their careers as boorish sea dogs taking ever greater risks to win glory and their Commodore’s praise although neither are forthcoming. Stone will never put these poor souls out of their misery as he recognises that a driven and reckless officer has its uses.

These disparate personalities can sometimes mean that the squadron lacks cohesion and will often follow their own objectives but this too has its benefits, quickly highlighting to Stone which are able to bring their flight or the squadron under control for the greater good.

This would normally sow confusion amongst the rest of the fleet but Stone’s will is absolute and his officers know to trust his command. And Stone is quite happy for his Coppertails to engage the enemy on their own terms as this only further benefits his plans. If anything their apparently haphazard approach to war can be a boon, their aggression and speed saved the lives of the Sword of Truth following a FSA trap.

Sword of Truth

Following on from my post about the Covenant of Antarctica’s 5th Fleet I thought I’d write some fluff surrounding the Sword of Truth, the battleship I painted over the weekend.

The Sword of Truth was once known as the Stalwart, the flagship of the 5th Fleet, prior to the commissioning of the CSS History’s Judgement. A proud ship with an illustrious and bloody history. It was the Stalwart, under Stone’s command, that sailed into Port Stanley, during the daring raid to rescue Covenant POWs. When command passed to Captain Jacob Harris there was much pomp and ceremony as few ships in the Covenant navy had seen as much combat as the Stalwart. Captain Harris was one of Stone’s prodigies and was almost as angry and bitter with the word having come up through the ranks listening to Stone’s rhetoric.

Although Harris had every right to be bitter. Hailing from Boston in the FSA and raised Irish Catholic he had a successful fishing business, a well-regarded family and was betrothed to a lady of good standing and better breeding. And all at the age of twenty-two. Harris was a keen boxer and had a weakness for cards although a sixth sense kept him from losing either that often. But his real weakness was the comfort he found in his fiancée. Both were raised as devout Catholics and knew the risks of indulging in carnal desires but neither cared. Until his betrothed fell pregnant.

Buckling under the weight of responsibility, despite the mutual familial support, he fled to the ocean on-board one of his fishing steamers. It didn’t take long for him to realise his cowardice and brought the boat about. However fate intervened and a storm crippled the vessel before it could make port. Set adrift it took a month for Harris to coax the boat home. In his absence his assets had been ceased by his fiancée’s family to support her as she was now all but outcast. Ostracised and destitute Harris stole one his former vessels and headed South.

Assigned to the 5th Fleet as a rating his seamanship skills were quickly noticed and quickly ascended the ranks. He saw Stone has a kindred spirit and proof, if any were needed, that a broken man need not stay broken and his could visit his vengeance on those wronged him. Harris was far better at concealing his anger at the world and his promotion to Captain was quickly affirmed. He wasted no time renaming the Stalwart as much to symbolise the passing of a torch as to represent the righteous history the ship had. Her hull black as night, she was a true predator of the oceans and had the kill count to suit.

To list its successes under Stone would take time but arguably longer under Harris’ command. Volunteering the Sword of Truth for any and all covert or surgical strike missions to test the mettle of his ship and crew. The Sword made headlines world-wide for infiltrating and laying waste to the naval yards at both Boston and New York city before slipping off into the night. The attack was condemned by the FSA and her allies for the loss of civilian life and although the Covenant didn’t agree with Harris’ methods, like much of the 5th Fleet, they couldn’t argue with the results.

The Sword of Truth would continue its reign of terror in the Atlantic Ocean both as part of wider fleet actions and on its own attacking supply ships and patrols with impunity, each attack more ruthless than the last as Harris and his crew became every more proficient at their craft until fate once again intervened. The FSA, frustrated with the constant loss of their supply ships laid a trap, arming the supply ships with turrets and concealing torpedo bombers where possible. As the Sword of Truth sailed silently amongst the supply ships all but submerged, it took its first ranging shot. However instead of scattering vessels, the ocean lit up with explosions as turrets responded all around the noble battleship.

In the same moment bombers took to the skies, the air filling with whizzing tracers and the howl of prop engines. Harris, furious at the FSA’s deception ordered all weapons to fire as the battleship fought free of the supply ships that were slowing encircling it. As explosions blossomed in the night sky the bombers dropped their payloads, torpedoes surging towards the Sword, ripping gaping wounds in the ships hull. As fires broke out across the Sword as she fought with all he worth to break out. As Harris realised he stood at the edge of his undoing explosions tore through a vessel on the Sword’s port side. A moment later another supply ship burst blew apart, its hull snapping in two and dropping beneath the waves. In the half-light of burning fuel Harris and his crew could make out the forms of jet black Covenant frigates as they dipped beneath the waves to unleash deadly torpedo salvos of their own.

Seeing his opportunity Harris ordered the Sword to surface and make a break for it however a heavy transport blocked her path, a 36inch cannon mounted on her prow slowly rotating for a killing shot. Harris did not hesitate, ordering the use of the particle cannon. The force of the shot destroyed the transport utterly but the strain on the Sword was almost too much, blowing out systems and relays and all but crippled the ship.

It took a month for the frigates to tow the dying ship back to friendly waters, once again giving Harris plenty of time to consider his actions. That was twice his compulsive nature had almost gotten him killed and resolved to do better. Stone saw the change in him and knew he had become the officer that the Covenant needed him to be. It took 3 months for the Sword of Truth to be fully repaired. Once again a part of the 5th Fleet she has been restored to a position of fear in the hearts of her enemies and pride in those of her allies.

Starting from Scratch

I threw the topic of this post open to the community on Twitter and amongst the suggestions were three very worthy topics;

Advice on starting a new army

Fluff armies vs Wanky armies

Painted armies vs Unpainted armies

The more I thought about it the more I realised that all three were inexorably linked together as usually one will beget the others.

So here’s my thoughts on collecting an army be it your first time with a new system or you’re a seasoned gamer and just want a new challenge.

Step 1 – Choosing an Army

This seems a tad obvious but over the years I have seen more than a few gamers start collecting something because;

A) Their mates collect them

B) They’re the models that came in the boxset

C) That’s the army the guy in the shop told them to collect

There are no doubt dozens of other reasons but those are the three I’ve heard the most over my 23 years of gaming. All I can say is ignore everyone but what your guy tells you. The best piece of advice I can give you is choose the army that excites you. This has to be  both the models and, to a degree, the background.

So many people underestimate the fluff at this embryonic stage of collecting a hobby. Understanding why we fight is crucial to you embracing the army as well as understanding why units are or are not available. It doesn’t matter if you don’t buy into the fluff as much as I do or if you’re strictly a tournament gamer, I challenge anyone to get any real enjoyment out of a game purely by reading the core rules and the army list.

There has to be a degree of union between the models and the fluff. I love the Tyranid models but I just can’t get excited about being an army that wants to exterminate all life. The part of my inner child that wants to grow up to be a space marine or a Spartan just won’t allow it. And I’ve tried twice.

This principle, I swear, will serve you in good stead for whatever game you’re collecting. Certainly some games will have more fluff than others and so in those cases the decision will be more dictated by the models but that’s okay too. Take Firestorm Armada, for example. I love the Directorate models. I also love the Sorylians. There wasn’t a massive amount of fluff to go on so it was down to, when I really looked at them, which models do I like the most?

Now, at this point I have to acknowledge that the way a force plays has to be considered but I find that if you’re into the army and into the models you’ll quickly adapt how they work because you’ll want to play with them. There are, of course, exceptions, but generally speaking I’ve found this to be the case.

Step 2 – Read and Understand the Army & Army Lists

Again it seems pretty obvious but as mentioned it’s important to helping you understand not only how an army plays but the kind of army you want to collect. Understanding the army from a background point of view will really help you select the units that reflect that character, or facet of the character you like in the army, as well as what colour schemes you like and would be comfortable painting. Sometimes the character and colour scheme are linked – such as Space Marine chapters. Liking a background but not feeling comfortable painting the models is a tough decision but ultimately you have to focus on the end result and seek as much help as you can. Hobby stores, the community on Twitter, You Tube, hell even emailing me. There’s help out there.

I talked above about fluff armies vs wanky armies. Everyone knows a wanky gamer. They’re the ones who hang out in a hobby store, of any stripe, a little more than is healthy. They’re often unemployed. They almost always of dubious personal hygiene. And they all take a perverse delight in simultaneously tearing the hobby down and spending huge amounts of time and money trying to develop the wankiest, codex/army list breaking army possible.

A wanky army is the army you go up against in local gaming club tournements. It’s an entire army of Slave Rats with a few Plague Monks thrown in so you can infect your own forces and then charge them in. It’s taking 15 Land Raiders as dedicated Transports in a Blood Angels army. There are countless examples of wanky armies. But sadly far too common. As games develop and new rules and units come out to try to make games more cinematic it opens up rules to abuse. The wanky gamer is the person that does the abusing.

My problem with wanky armies isn’t the army, but the person using it because they’ve not cultivated the army to be strategically brilliant or because they love this the army. They seize upon the army because of a loop-hole. They take pleasure from crushing their opponent for the sake of doing so. Not to have a good game. Their pleasure is found in making their opponent feel crap. In an undeserving sense of superiority because they took the time to ruin what should have been a fun couple of hours for their opponent.

Some gamers play solely tournaments and that’s fine and are usually the other side to the fluff gamer. I can’t stand the bloody things personally. Far too competitive, the spirit of the game often doesn’t get an invite and it can be a breeding ground for wanky gamers but you know what? Each to their own. Tournament armies are very impressive if for no reason than the careful consideration that goes into them. Tournament gamers go to a huge amount of trouble to make sure their force/s are balanced and every tactical situation is covered. Which is real skill in its own right.

Sharing your hobby with a Tournament Gamer is extremely worthwhile because they will have an abundance of tactical knowledge to share. And equally you can get them psyched about the fluff which they can neglect in their mission to get the right force worked out. They will give you some valuable pointers about army selection and tactics. It’s a rare thing to find a Tournament Gamer who is just as passionate about the fluff. I’ve only met one and, aside from being a bit fanatical, was very enjoyable to talk to and it was very enlightening.

Fluff armies are the exact opposite of wankey armies. They are dogmatically themed around the background or a specific event in the background. Fluff Gamers deny themselves certain units and/or heavily overdose on others. This can often make them appear a little wanky in their own right but it comes with such significant handicaps that any beardyness is quickly outweighed by the staggering tactical disadvantages. Take the fluff-tastic Space Wolves army I briefly had.

Logan Grimnar

Arjac Rockfits with 7 Wolf Guard in Terminator Armour in a Land Raider Crusader

7 Wolf Guard in Terminator Armour in a Land Raider Crusader

1 Venerable Dreadnought

10 Wolf Guard in a Land Raider

10 Wolf Guard in power armour in a Rhino

10 Wolf Guard in power armour in a Rhino

10 Wolf Guard in power armour in a Rhino

That’s 3,000 of Logan Grimnar, Master of the Space Wolves, and his personal retinue. On the surface beardy in reality a do or die army that would lose just as often as it would win. Very thematic, very specialist, very expensive (in points and coin) and far too elite. It was a lot of points tied up in very few models and every loss was a significant impact on performance. But it was fun. Fun to collect, fun to build, fun to play and fun to play against. Most of the time.

Reading and understand the army you’re collecting is vital to not only making the right unit choices for the game but for you as a gamer. Don’t by a Land Raider because they’re cool. £40 is a lot of money to waste on a model that you hardly use. And I should know, I’ve had 11 over the years.

In reality gamers should try to find the middle ground between fluff and wankiness. Often the more bonkers rules are left in on purpose to counteract a heinous rule in another army list. Sometimes it’s just cool to do. Other times it’s a mistake but you’re well within your rights to exploit it. But whatever you choose for the army, the question should always be; ‘does this fit with the style and feel of my army?’ If you have to grudgingly admit; no, then you should leave it out. You may have to change how you play but that’s all part of the challenge.

Step 3 – Collect at a Steady Pace

This is the pot calling the kettle black because I am the worst for buying in bulk, undercoating and then not doing anything more than that. But that kinda gives me the right to say this. The one and only time I have ‘finished’ an army (because we all know they’re never really finished) was back when my Ultramarines was a meagre 3,000 points. And this was entirely down to the fact that I had very little free cash when I started collecting it so I had plenty of time to build and paint the units when I was able to buy them.

The other advantage is that as your force hits landmark point sizes and you start to game with them you can see what units work for you and which don’t. This allows you to tweak your army list and therefore purchase different units. Buying and building in bulk eliminates that choice altogether.

Plus, from a GW point of view, be wary of Battle Force and Battalion boxes. Yes they save you money but only if you actually wanted all of the contents to begin with. Otherwise you’ll spend the money you saved on buying the extra bits. And let’s be honest, we don’t do this hobby because it’s cheap so accept it’s going to cost you a fucking fortune and just buy what you want.

This brings me on to the third point. Painted vs unpainted. This is often a real point of contention between gamers. There are those that will only field painted armies. There are those that have no interest in painting at all and are quite happy pushing grey plastic and pewter around a board. And you know what? Both ways of thinking are absolutely fine. As long as they’re willing to play each other. Sadly that’s not always the case though. Often the ‘must paint everything’ hobbyist won’t play the ‘fuck off and let me play my game’ hobbyist. This is usually associated with the misplaced sense of entitlement we as gamers can develop over time. It’s the thinking of ‘I’ve gone to the effort of painting my army so they should too’. It’s a reasonable point but misguided and far too simplistic.

I like painting my models. I like gaming. I like writing games. I like writing campaign packs. I like writing this blog. I like spending time with my wife. I like spending time with friends and family. I like eating, going to the cinema, sitting in the garden on a sunny day with a cold beer, and walking to the river 10 minutes from my house and watching the sunset on the boats. Out of all of those things, and many more interests and obligations I have in my life, like working to pay for my plastic crack habit, there is, realistically only one of things that can be neglected that won’t directly impact on the others. And that, is, sadly, painting. I don’t need a painted army or fleet. It’s awesome to have a fully painted force and I get a real sense of achievement every time I finish a well painted unit but I rarely have the time.

But you know what? It’s fine. Don’t put pressure on yourself because it’s supposed to be fun, and busting your apple bag because some bell end at the local club is giving you a hard time about your tin army isn’t fun. It’s shit. So pace your army collection and make sure you only paint when you feel like it.

Step 4 – Enjoy Yourself

That’s really the point at the end of the day. You could have disagreed with half of this 2,000+ word rant but hopefully the important thing to take away is that however you like to collect your army that you enjoy doing it. Don’t let others push you into doing something or buying something that isn’t right for you. Avoid the members of the community that aren’t supportive or just want to make your hobbying a miserable, soul crushing defeat.

Love the toys, embrace the community and roll fist fulls of dice.

Covenant of Antarctica 5th Fleet

As I should have had a game of Dystopian Wars with Lee of The Chaps today but instead had to look after my poorly wife and strip wallpaper, I thought I’d share the fluff I’d been dreaming up for my CoA fleet. So I give you the Covenant of Antarctica’s 5th Fleet; the Night Watch.

Commissioned in 1860, the 5th Fleet was charged with patrolling the dark waters surrounding the Covenant’s domain. Initially little more than a task force made up of cruisers and frigates, coordinated by the battleship CSS Stalwart, the fleet was forced to spend prolonged periods of time isolated from one another as they plied the vast stretches of waters surrounding the ice floes for raiders or other threats to the Covenant’s sovereignty.

Before the renowned Commodore Aldus Stone took command, the 5th saw little action beyond clashes with the Kingdom of Britannia’s Falklands units that strayed too close to the Covenant’s borders, but these were little more than pot shots. Stone changed all that. A dour man hailing from the home counties of England he made a living as a game keeper in the employ of the Earl of Wessex. A tracker of superlative skill, a master of the silent kill and lethal with an elephant gun. Working for the Earl man and boy it was believed he was destined for great things. However fate had other ideas when the Earl’s eldest son drunk and in a rage with his father accidentally shot and killed Stone’s wife, the Earl’s housekeeper. Were this great tragedy not enough but the Earl utilising his significant influence had the entire matter swept under the carpet. Stone, realising his true place in Britannian society, was a broken man. Tired with toiling for a man whose sole interest was growing fat on the blood and sweat of the people, Stone made the long and dangerous journey South to the Covenant of Antarctica looking for a life with purpose.

Stone was not idle for long, being drafted into the Covenant armed forces in 1862. To his surprise, Stone was assigned to the navy and the 5th fleet rather than the army. His self-sufficiency and innate ability for the silent kill made him perfect for the dangers of patrolling the Covenant’s waters. Initially assigned to the frigate Too Quiet Stone impressed his superiors with his hit and run defence of the Western ice floes against a FSA raiding party. Although his ship was crippled, and eventually sunk, he delayed the FSA long enough that the rest of the 5th fleet was able to surround the FSA and destroy them utterly.

It didn’t take long for Stone to ascend the ranks and find himself at the head of the 5th fleet off the back of a string of daring actions keeping the Covenant’s borders safe. He achieved the rank of Commodore after he led the 5th fleet into the heart of Port Stanley, the Falkland Islands, on an unauthorised but successful rescue of Covenant POWs without a shot being fired in 1867. His first order was to have the fleet painted raven black to reflect the Night Watch moniker the fleet had earned in their many night sorties and defensive actions.

Although a lonely man with a solitary and single-minded command style that sat ill with the Covenant hierarchy, there was no denying that the 5th was clearly wasted as a patrol force and was pressed into front line service as the Covenant’s warmachine took the fight to the rest of the world in 1869. Under Stone’s command the 5th fleet won a score of victories against the great powers of the world,with more and more assets being assigned to the fleet to extent that Stone’s flag now resides aboard the dreadnought CSS History’s Judgement.

Despite the 5th Fleet’s many victories, Stone’s naturally cold nature combined with his unflinching belief in the Covenant’s cause, has seen several instances of excessive force by the ships under Stone’s command. There have even been reports of executions of enemy sailors stranded at sea. However the fleet seem to reserve their worst brand of violence for the vessels of the Britannic navy. No one knows why this is, not even the crew of the Night Watch itself, but all sailors of the Kingdom of Britannia know that if they spy a black ship on the horizon they should beware. The condemnation of his superiors is never far behind the 5th Fleet but if Commodore Stone cares he gives no sign.

However, Stone’s popularity at home and infamy abroad has made it difficult for any meaningful sanction to be levelled against him or the captains beneath his command. Indeed there are many within the fleet that believe themselves untouchable, and even above the rest of the fleet. To many Stone is a hero. Others see Stone and the 5th as a rogue element that sooner or later will either turn on their own or be brought to task. Which ever the answer be, none can deny that Stone and his fleet of raven black ships are a powerful force both at home and abroad.

Dramatis Personae

I’ve decided, as I can’t collect my Middenheim warband quite as quickly as I’d like, I’d write a dramatis personae for the heroes to keep the plastic-crack itch at bay, but mainly because it’d be fun and kinda nice to have that background to work with once I do get my grubby little mits on the toys in question. And so I give you…The von Braun Irregulars.

Count Kaiser von Braun

Count Kaiser von Braun was once one of Middenland’s most renowned generals. Raised in the town of Grossfurre at the edge of the Mirror Moors, von Braun ventured to the City of the White Wolf in search of a life of meaning in the ranks of the Imperial Army. A natural leader and master tactician, it didn’t take long for his prowess on the battlefield to catch the attention of the Swords of Ulric and although was inducted into their ranks he found their savagery on the battlefield distasteful. He remains the only person to leave their ranks by any means other than death on the battlefield or old age. But it was this decision that would see von Braun’s meteoric ascension through the ranks catching the eye of his liege lord, the Elector Count of Middenheim. Attached to the Elector Count’s personal guard he quickly found himself at the forefront of countless battles and attending councils of war that would otherwise be closed to him. The bold nature that saw him travel through the perils of the Drakwald alone as a youth and to leave the ranks of the Swords drove him to interject a number of times during such councils. Were it not for the merit of his strategies he’d have been flogged a dozen times over.
Such was the Elector Count’s faith in von Braun’s abilities, when he became the youngest General in Middenland’s history, he was not only given his own regiment but often given operational command of the Northern armies, heading councils of war and winning countless victories. But that’s not to say that von Braun was not a man of action. Indeed once battle was joined, he was oft found where the fighting was thickest, at the head of his regiment – the von Braun Irregulars – striking down his foes with a mighty warhammer.

von Braun’s prowess on the battlefield earned him the nickname Ironhide as nothing could seemingly fell the giant man despite sustaining a score of wounds over the years, many of which were dealt saving the Elector Count’s life. However all men’s luck eventually runs out and that was no less so than with von Braun. Taking command at the great gates of Middenheim during a Chaos incursion, into the lands of the Empire, von Braun was wounded by a deamonblade almost unto death. Only his iron will kept his body alive whilst other men’s souls would have fled instantly.

Although von Braun eventually recovered he was weakened and the world had moved on without him. An upstart general had taken command of his Irregulars in his absence and wasted their lives terribly. Determined to rebuild their number and regain his strength, his liege had other ideas, deciding that von Braun had served the Empire with courage and honour and deserved to live out the remainder of his days in peace. Although von Braun argued passionately that he was still a worthy member of the Imperial army, his liege would hear none of it and decreed that von Braun would be elevated to the position of Count and be returned to Grossfurre as it’s master and protector.

Upon arrival home, von Braun discovered a town at the mercy of Beastmen raiding parties, crops that could barely feed its people and tradesmen struggling to make coin.
With members of the, now, disbanded von Braun Irregulars gravitating towards Grossfurre in search of life with renewed purpose, von Braun immediately founded the Grossfurre Militia and set them upon the Beastmen lurking within the Drakwald. It took two years for the surrounding forests to finally be rid of the vile creatures and as the raids became less the town began to prosper. Forest was felled and more land made available for farms and businesses and with it the town’s coffers swelled and tithes began to flow to Middenheim along with a parade of fit and healthy young men schooled at the training ground that now serviced the entire Mirror Moors region.

However, von Braun was a man of action and peace sat ill with him. A life of mediating petty squabbles of his townspeople and tax collection bored him and he gradually took to drink to ease the passing of days spent in an office. So when word reached Grossfurre of the calamity that befell Mordheim and the tales of glory and riches that awaited all those brave enough to sally forth  into the ruins, von Braun knew that his chance to bring glory once more to Middenheim had arrived. Gathering together his finest warriors, he set off with barely a backwards glance.

Helmut Gruber

A hulking bear of a man, Helmut Gruber was a career soldier and in the first intake of men into von Braun’s Irregulars. Indeed, it was these first few fighting men who determined the regiments name as von Braun initially refused to take fresh recruits, choosing men only from regiments that were on the verge of disbanding due to casualties. As such every man jack of them were seasoned veterans from all over Middenhim, each with their combat experience and fighting style. The result on the field was devastating as no opposing general could accurately predict how the enemy units before him would respond to a charge. Helmut Gruber was one such veteran. Skilled with a bolas, Gruber was able to collapse enemy charges by felling unit champions and thus tripping those behind them, allowing Gruber to dispatch his foes with mighty swings of his ancient warhammer. A gift from his father and his father before, all the way back to an ancient ancestor who was honoured to a part of the White Wolf bodyguard for the Warrior God Sigmar. So the story goes, Sigmar forged hammers for each of his bodyguard as a symbol of the trust he shared with them.

It seems that protecting others is in the blood as von Braun’s predisposition for getting himself into some close scrapes lead to Helmut Gruber saving his general from many a grizzly death with a tell timed throw of his bolas or swing of his hammer. Although merely a sergeant, Gruber found himself forming a firm friendship with his commanding officer and was elevated to be his personal bodyguard. An imposing figure, it would only take a stern glance from Gruber to quell any agitator from saying the wrong thing or straying too close to von Braun. And if that didn’t work, hefting his gold capped warhammer usually did.

Much like von Braun, Helmut Gruber spent his entire life at war and was with von Braun at the gates of Middenheim when he was dealt the fateful blow. An injury that would lead to von Braun retirement and the Irregulars put in the hands of a fool. Gruber places the blame squarely on his own shoulders as he believes he failed in his duty to protect the General, despite being overrun himself with foul creatures of Chaos. The fact that either of them escaped alive from that section of the wall was surely only through the blessings of Ulric.

Following the von Braun Irregular’s disbanding, after the Disaster at Hangman’s Wood in Nordland, Gruber was unable to settle into civilian life despite being reunited with his wife and children after years apart. Vowing to make amends for the ill fate that he had brought upon the Irregulars and their former commander, he left his family and headed South for Grossefurre. Ulric, it seemed, had touched the souls of others as, as he journeyed South, he stumbled across former comrades also heading South for Grossefurre eager to have purpose in their lives once more.

When the rag-tag group of warriors entered the towns walls von Braun met them all as brothers and immediately formed them into the towns militia with Helmut Gruber at its head. Although deeply humbled by the honour, he accepted the position but none of the trappings that came with the title. Accepting only simple lodgings and food to sustain him, Gruber was determined to make amends for his failing by any means.

It was no surprise, then, when word reached Grossefurre of Mordheim’s fate that he immediately volunteered to accompany von Braun on his adventure, hoping to seek a glorious death in defence of his friend and master as only then will honour and Ulric would be satisfied.

Heidi von Braun

Kaiser von Braun fathered Heidi with a young widow of a Northern land baron, during a rare stint of leave. Although overjoyed when news reached von Braun he was to be a father, he made it clear that he would not play a part in his child’s life. He was a solider and duty left little room for family not to mention the fact that death was an ever-present companion and peril. He vowed to send a portion of his pay to the child’s mother so they need never be without, and with it letters detailing his adventures across the Empire and beyond so although they may never meet his child would know that he was a good man and his absence was for a noble reason.

As a result, Heidi von Braun grew up with a head full of adventures. Her father’s money was wasted as she consistently failed to attend her tutorials with private scholars, far happier to wander into the wilderness armed with a home-made spear and short bow. Countless times she was returned to her mother’s bosom at the hands of an Imperial patrol who had found her attempting to, and in most cases succeeding, slay a goblin or ungor. By the time she reached her teenage years, Heidi was a skilled hunter, an expert marksmen and adept with a blade. Helped in no small part by using her feminine charms on a number of local free company.

When her mother passed away suddenly of pneumonia she sought out her father in the hope of living the life of adventure she’d always dreamed. The reality was quite different. Granted an audience with von Braun she was horrified to discover the powerful man she’d always imagined, was now a drunk who had all but lost all zest for life. With nowhere else to go she resigned herself to honing her skills in the Drakwalds before travelling to Marienburg to sell her services as a mercenary.

In many ways, Heidi’s arrival brought von Braun back from the edge of the abyss as more and more of his time was taken up either attempting to school her and when she failed to turn up, seeking her out in the darkest parts of the Drakwalds. Heidi was also forced to re-evaluate her father when he single-handedly saved her as she fought for her life against three bestigors who had ambushed her whilst on a hunt. There was no denying that the overweight man was still a powerful and skilled warrior. von Braun too had to admit that Heidi was a capable warrior and resigned himself to rather than teaching her things that would set her up for marriage and a life of peace, he would teach her warcraft instead.

However, when news reached von Braun of Mordheim and with it rumours of great treasures and rare stones his mind was made up instantly. Heidi begged her father to let her go with him and had it been an other expedition he might of relented but he’d also heard other rumours. Tales of foul creatures, daemons cavorting in the streets and atrocities committed on men and women alike. Although he couldn’t stop his daughter from becoming a warrior, he could protect her from the horrors that awaited in the City of the Damned. Unbeknown to von Braun, however, Heidi was an expert tracker and setting off two days after him, she soon had his trail and was following him all the way to Mordheim and glory.

Ana Vass – Lady in Waiting

Ana Vass had led an unremarkable life prior to Heidi von Braun’s arrival. As with all women of Middenland she was hardy and skilled with a sword, but her lot in life was little more than darning socks and repairing slacks for her father and twelve brothers as they worked the land and hunted. When Kaiser von Braun arrived and moved into the long abandoned manor on the edge of the town she went there in search of work. Life for Ana wasn’t much more exciting within the walls of the Manor but it gave her a wage, she was free to use the manors library and was granted leave to explore outside pursuits. When his daughter arrived in Grossefurre Count von Braun assigned Ana to her daughter as lady in waiting. Wherever his daughter went she was to follow. As much to report back to him any transgressions as much to assist his daughter.

However, Heidi’s penchant for exploration and tendency to get herself into life threatening situations meant that within days of meeting the von Braun daughter Ana had killed an ungor that sought to attack Heidi whilst she did battle with its herd brother. Grudgingly impressed by Ana, Heidi began covertly teaching her sword craft. This was as much for Heidi’s survival as it was for Ana’s as Heidi identifying the benefits of having an able companion, even if she was on her father’s employment.

Ana’s abilities quickly grew through Heidi’s teachings and from watching the men train in the militia barracks that Count von Braun had ordered built in the years since coming to the town. Although Heidi was unparalleled with a spear and black powder weapons, Ana was adept with twin short swords and her smaller frame and greater agility meant that she was one of the few that could get past Heidi’s guard. Despite the social gulf between them they became friends and their excursions into the forest became ever more frequent and daring even to the point when Count von Braun has had to come to their aid.

When Heidi made her decision to follow her father, Ana had preempted the lady’s wishes and already her things ready, along with her own. Heidi initially refused to allow Ana to come but realised that she, like Heidi herself, would simply follow her anyway she relented, realising that a companion on such a treacherous journey would be no bad thing.

Erasmus Klocke

A hot-headed but capable warrior, Erasmus Klocke was a ferocious man both on and off the battle. Despite being a capable tactician, his overly pious nature meant that he never rose beyond the rank and file in no small part to his consist admonishment of the men in his unit him for their lack of faith in Sigmar. And in Middenheim such talk sat ill. Were it not for his prowess in a fight he probably would have been met with an ‘accident’.

When the von Braun Irregulars disbanded Klocke wandered Middenland offering his services as both preacher and blacksmith in exchange for food and lodging. Klocke believed that manual labour regardless of one’s higher calling kept the soul pure and grounded, far away from the lofty dillusions of grandeur that befalls so many men. Eventually his travels brought him to Grossefurre and was elated to find many of his old comrades in a uniform startlingly similar to that of their old regiment.

When Erasmus Klocke was presented to von Braun by Helmut Gruber, he was saddened to see what had become of old Ironhide and instantly knew that coming to Grossefurre was Sigmar’s will. Despite von Braun’s better judgement he allowed the self-appointed warrior priest to stay within the town and the zealot immediately set about constructing a temple to Sigmar and a smithy, within which he forged himself two new hammers one named Kampf the other Glauben. With these hammers in his hands he’d preach to the masses of the virtues of sacrifice and duty, always keeping one eye on the door to see if von Braun would return to his true path. Every day, when von Braun failed to show, Klocke would walk across town to the manor and enter von Braun’s offices and ask his former General if he had anything to confess. And every day he got the same answer; Many things, priest, but not today.
It was this simple act of charity towards von Braun that no doubt kept Klocke from having any unfortunate accidents whenever he dumped into his former brothers in arms. Although Kampf and Glauben were always within reach should they need reminding of his martial abilities.

When von Braun announced his intention to travel to Mordheim Klocke insisted on coming. To the surprise of the entire party von Braun immediately agreed claiming that his abilities as a warrior and a smithy would be invaluable to the expedition but with a wry smile Klocke accepted his place knowing full well that before the end he would hear von Braun’s confession.

It’s Not Propaganda…

…it’s good advertising…

Spartan Games are working over time at the awesome factory at the moment. And not content with bombarding us with images of the up and coming ships and other contraptions for Firestorm Armada and Dystopian Wars, they’ve penned a few rather funky Propaganda posters.

I think the thing I like most about them, aside from some rather striking design and a great sense of humour, is that Spartan are really getting behind their backgrounds now. A rich universe to game in is a fun universe to game in and I think when the new iteration of Firestorm Armada comes out we’ll see even more fluff than before. I also suspect as fleets are re-released we’ll start to get booklets included in starter boxes like we’ve seen with the Covenant of Antarctica (review for that slice of awesome coming soon) which will dramatically enhance the background and therefore gaming experience. Not to mention the added benefit of not having small cards littering the board with all the handy, need to know, special rules on the back.

But my musings aside, scroll down for some Spartan awesomeness…