Serefina slid into the room from the blackest night. Her Master finished wiping a trickle of blood from his chin using a delicate handkerchief; his victim lay gently moaning in her bed clothes.
“I have found the Artefact, my master,” she hissed. “It lies in a tower to the South.”
“Then why have you not brought it to me?” demanded Count Otto Von Marchbank.
“The old man had already been murdered by foul Beastmen. Even now they despoil his works with their brutish ways,” Serefina returned. “We must take the Artefact by force of arms if we are to continue our plans.”
After a long hiatus for various reasons, the gaming returned to my house this week. Aramoro brought out his new Vampire Counts army which is mostly composed of the rather lovely Mantic Games Undead (apart from the characters which so far are just proxied, so that a Necromancer was represented by some fat Brettonian peasant). In the interests of time, I was lazy and simply used the same list as the last few weeks.
Beastlord, Armour of Destiny, Steel Claws (BL)
Wargor, BSB, Gnarled Hide, heavy armour, shield (BSB)
Bray Shaman, level 2, additional hand weapon, Lore of Shadow (BS1)
Bray Shaman, level 2, additional hand weapon, Lore of Shadow (BS2)
18 Bestigors, full command, banner of eternal flame (B)
19 Gors, shields, full command (G1)
19 Gors, shields, full command (G2)
12 Gors, additional hand weapon, full command (G3)
2 Tuskgor Chariots (TC1 and TC2)
5 Ungor raiders (UR)
Aramoro’s list was:
Vampire Lord, Crown of the Damned, Master of the Black Arts, Summon Ghouls, Helm of Commandment, Forbidden Lore: Light (VL)
Vampire, Black Periapt, Lord of the Dead (V)
Necromancer, Invocation of Nehek, Vanhel’s Dance Macabre (N)
20 Crypt Ghouls (G)
20 Skeletons, full command (S1)
19 Skeletons, full command (S2)
30 Grave Guard, great weapons, full command (GG)
Of course, I don’t know the first thing about Vampire Counts (except that Forkbanger thinks the ‘o’ is silent) so I’m relying on Aramoro to keep me right, which is pretty much how all our games of Warhammer have been so far. The Undead don’t need to randomise their spells, since the Lord has the whole Lore of Life, and the other casters just pick what they like. For my own part, one Bray-Shaman takes Melkoth’s Mystifying Miasma and Okkam’s Mindrazor; the other gets Enfeebling Foe and The Withering. I’m greatly impressed with the Lore of Shadow so far, all the spells seem useful. We roll for the scenario and it’s the Watch Tower. For the first time in ages we actually randomly generate the scenery, and end up with a Sorcerous Portal in the North, with a Magic Circle to its East. There is a mist-wreathed swamp to the East of the tower, and finally the hill in the South East is just normal (boring). Everything else we just had to hope for the best. I win the roll and take the tower – I don’t fancy trying to shift unbreakable units from a fortified position. The deployment ends up like this:
The game begins with the Ghouls assaulting the tower and the rest of the shambling horde… shamble a bit. In the magic phase the Vampire Lord raises a few more Ghouls with Invocation of Nehek and puts Pha’s Protection on them, but Vanhel’s Dance Macabre is dispelled. The Ghouls and Gors waft their weapons / horns / slimy claws ineffectually at each other resulting in a single casualty on each side, so the attack is repulsed.
In response, the Beastmen do what Beastmen do best – rush forward as quickly as they can manage. The Ungors enter what turns out to be a venomous thicket, but none of them manage to prick themselves on a poison thorn. I fail my Stupidity check and forget to roll for the ambush. The Bray Shamans put Miasma on the Ghouls and Withering on the grave Guard, and finally the Ungors can’t even manage a single arrow hit on the Skeletons (this turns out be the only missile fire of the entire game).
Continuing their plan, the Ghouls charge the Gors in the tower again, the Grave Guard charge into the Bestigors and the Skeletons crash into the other Gors. The river turns out to a River of Light (seemingly it isn’t apparent that it’s a river of magic until you step in to it), which improbably casts Banishment on both the Skeletons and the Grave Guard, sending a few of them back to their graves again for a while. The Sorcerous Portal puts Speed of Light on the Skeletons, which probably makes up for the bad luck in the river. The winds of magic come up 6+6 – I know this is going to hurt. The Withering is dispelled, and the Invocation of Nehek brings a few Grave Guard back, which must have resulted in the shortest possible banishment in the game. The Vampire Lord goes for the big one and throws 6 dice at the super version of Birona’s Time Warp. The miscast wounds the pointy toothed chap, and vapourises a bunch of Skeletons. It would have been a very different game if he’d been sucked into the warp, but fortunately for our evening (and unfortunately for my chances of victory), it was not to be. Even with that mighty buff, the Ghouls are repulsed from the tower, although they do kill plenty of Gors in their turn. The Beastlord challenges but is declined and instead he cuts a lot of Grave Guard into pieces. A very large number of Grave Guard and Bestigors are felled, but no-one breaks. Meanwhile, on the other side of the river, the Gors and Skeletons trade blows. Both the Grave Guard and Skeletons reform to get themselves out of the river.
The ambushing Gors continue their incredible run of form and stroll on behind the Vampire Lord’s unit. The Chariots move to line up charges in the next turn, and the solo Bray Shaman enters the Tower. In the magic phase, an attempt to put Miasma on the Grave Guard is dispelled, but Enfeebling Foe does go through. It doesn’t make much difference, as they still cut down every single Bestigor. The Beastlord has had enough of this and legs it for the safety of the deep dark forests he calls home, although the battle standard bearer rather unwisely stays and is chopped down for his troubles (due to the rules of course – I would have no problem with him running away). The Grave Guard pursue, but they aren’t fast enough to catch this goat. The Skeletons and Gors continue to beat each other up, but the flow is beginning to favour the Gors, especially now that Speed of Light has worn off.
In the time-honoured tradition, the Ghouls charge the tower. The Grave Guard charge and kill the Beastlord (as a side note, in 3 games I’ve paid 50 points to give him a 4+ ward save, and he has yet to even take a single save). The Vampire Lord’s unit reforms to face the oncoming Gors, evidently not fancying a rear charge from a bunch of angry goat men. A whole load of Skeletons, Ghouls and Grave Guard are raised back to continue the fight, but Pha’s Protection and Vanhel’s Dance Macabre are both dispelled on the Ghouls. It doesn’t cause them any problems, and they finally expel the Gors from the tower. Meanwhile, I finally remember that I can allocate attacks to characters and the Necromancer is pulled out his unit of Skeletons and beaten senseless by the Gors. Between attacks and crumbling, all the remaining Skeletons are felled, and the Gors reform to face the tower and its new occupants.
The chariot in the East charges through what turns out to a necrotic ooze (it doesn’t help because we instantly forget about the poisoned attacks) into the flank of the Vampire Lord’s unit and the ambushing Gors get in the front. The other Gors charge the tower. The recently ejected Gors fail to rally and change direction to avoid running directly into the Grave Guard. It turns out that the Sorcerous Portal really dislikes the Western chariot hitting it with a fireball for a couple of wounds. The Bray Shaman who isn’t running with his tail between his legs tries to put Enfeebling Foe and The Withering on the Ghouls; the former is dispelled but the latter reduces their toughness by 2. The Ghouls lose by plenty, but of course they are unbreakable so the Gors are repelled. The Vampire Lord challenges the ambusher champion and duly smashes him to paste, but otherwise a bunch of Skeleton are re-killed.
The Grave Guard reform and begin their long slog back to anywhere that matters, everyone else is too busy to move. The Sorcerous Portal continues its hatred of the Chariot and puts Plague of Rust on it. In the magic phase, all the Undead units are reinforced using Invocation of Nehek, but a 1,1 to cast Pha’s Protection ends the magic phase. Everyone in combat continues to flail at each other, and I make the mistake of trying to direct as many attacks as possible on the Vampire Lord – it turns out that S3 against T5 isn’t going to be very effective (the Bestigor on the chariot continues his improbable ability to either miss or roll a 1 to wound, a theme which has been in just about every game we’ve played).
The fleeing Gors finally manage to rally; they reform to face East. The unengaged chariot fails a somewhat optimistic charge on the rear of the Vampire Lord’s unit. Predictably, the other Gors run at the tower again. The Vampire Lord dispels an attempt to put Miasma on his unit, but Enfeebling Foe does work, reducing his unit’s strength by 2. The Ghouls once again repel the Gors from the tower. The Vampire Lord’s killing power is somewhat reduced by the hex on him and few more Skeletons crumble. We roll for the end of the game… and it doesn’t end.
The Grave Guard charge the Ungors, who flee and get away. The Sorcerous Portal puts Plague of Rust on the chariot again. Invocation of Nehek raises a few Skeletons in the Vampire Lord’s unit, since he is down to depressingly few followers, but Aramoro rolls terribly and it doesn’t help much. The Lord is still a beast in combat and kills enough Gors to make the handful of survivors flee, but incredibly the chariot sticks around for more. The Skeletons reform so that they won’t get rear charged by the other chariot.
One set of Gors charges the Ghouls in the tower (again), the others charge the flank of the Grave Guard and the chariot crashed into the Skeletons. Neither the ambushers nor the raider rally. Miasma on the Ghouls is dispelled, but the Bray Shaman does put Mindrazor on his own unit. Even with that, it is only a narrow victory over the Grave Guard. The Gors reform to 3 wide – they’re in a river, so they’re not getting a rank bonus anyway; I figure I might as well have an extra couple of supporting attacks. The Grave Guard try a combat reform to face them, but fail. The two chariots deal significant damage to the Skeletons (despite poor impact hits on both occasions), and when the dust settles and crumbling is done the Vampire Lord is left alone with a single wound. The Gors rip into the Ghouls, and after crumbling there are only 2 of them left, but they still hold the tower. We roll to see if the game ends… and it does. Victory for the Vampire Counts!
What a great game. If I had killed one more Ghoul then the Gors would have taken the tower (because the other would have crumbled). Similarly, if I’d killed one more Skeleton the Vampire Lord would have crumbled, and the army would have begun to fall apart. On the other hand, I didn’t really have anything left to face the Grave Guard so it would have been all about delaying tactics with them if the game had continued.
Well, they say that you learn more from a defeat than a victory. One thing that occurred to me after the game was that I’d have been better off sticking the Beastlord and BSB in the tower as soon as possible – with steadfast, leadership 9 and a re-roll, it the Gors in the tower might have lasted a bit longer. As it was, they ran at the first opportunity after the BSB was gone. The Bestigors finally bit off more than they could chew with the Grave Guard, after a couple of good games for them splattering Skaven and humans all over the place. Finally, although I love the hexes in the Lore of Shadow, I was feeling like I might have been better off selecting one of the damage spells. With Pit of Shades, I might have been able to thin out the Grave Guard and make them more manageable.