Empire vs Khorne Tactica Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Empire vs Khorne Tactica Part 1

 

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

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

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

Army List Selection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Captain – BSB

Wizard/s

Engineer

Arch Lector/Warrior Priests/s

Halberdier Block  x2

Small Halberdier Unit  x2

Inner Circle Knights Block

Archer detachment  x2

Demigryphs  x2

Greatsword Block

Outriders

Great Cannon  x2

Steam Tank

Helblaster Volley Gun

Celestial Hurricanum

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

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

-Lee

A Tale of Two Armies – Chapter 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

von Strauss would pay.

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

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

‘Because She wills it.’ He managed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chaos Slaughterbrute – A Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chaos Dragon Ogres – A Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dragon Ogres are available from Firestorm Games priced £31.50.

A Tale of Two Armies – Chapter 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

‘Muster the men.’

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

‘Come on Ludwig, old boy, chin up.’

A Tale of Two Armies – Chapter 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

‘Charge!’

A Tale of Two Armies – 1,000 point lists

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

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

Khorne

Exalted Champion – 110 points – von Strauss the Red

Mark of Khorne +10

Enchanted Shield +5

Sword of Battle +20

Hideous Visage +5

Soul Feeder +10

Total 160 points

 

10 Chaos Warriors – 140 points

Mark of Khorne +20

Shields +10

Total 170 points

 

15 Marauders – 90 points

Mark of Khorne + 30

Light Armour +15

Shields +15

Chieftain +10

Standard +10

Total 170 points

 

6 Warhounds – 36 points

Total 36 points

 

5 Knights of Chaos – 200 points

Mark of Khorne +10

Ensorcelled Weapons +15

Total 225 points

 

3 Skullcrushers of Khorne – 225 points

Ensorcelled Weapons +9

Total 234 points

 

Overall Total 995 points

 Empire

Captain – 60 points – Baron Ludwig von Bomburg

Full Plate Armour +6

Sword of Might +20

Enchanted Shield +5

Handgun +5

Total 96 points

 

Battle Wizard – 65 points – Jurgen the Wyrd

Level 2 +35

Total 100 points

 

34 Spearmen – 170 points

Sergeant, Standard Bearer & Musician +30

Total 200

 

10 Halberdiers – 60 points

Total 60 points

 

10 Hand Gunners 90 points

Total 90 points

 

5 Archers – 35 points

Total 35 points

 

5 Knights – 110 points

Inner Circle +15 points

Total 125

 

3 Demigryph Knights – 174 points

Total 174 points

 

Great Cannon – 120 points

Total 120 points

 

Overall Total 1,000 points

Skullcrushers of Khorne – A Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Tale of Two Armies – Game 1 Post-Mortem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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