When luminaries of the retro-revival scene join forces for a big retrosexual get-together good things are bound to happen. The latest chapter of my ongoing campaign to revive the fortunes of global gamesmastering saw Orlygg of the Realm of Chaos 80's blog ally with Steve Casey of the Eldritch Epistles blog (also your friend Bridgend Steve on eBay) and take on Thantsants of the Somewhere the Tea's Getting Cold blog. The legendary Nik Dixon brought his classic Wood Elves along to add an unknown third element to the proceedings.
Look at that happy face! He loves it!
First of all please allow me to introduce and thank our hosts, Slayer Gaming. Stepping in as a free venue at short notice they exceeded all expectations and couldn't have been more friendly and accommodating. I hope those of you who enjoy reading these retro after action reports will take a moment to pop over to their Facebook page and give them a like as it will not only show the community's appreciation for a FLGS that welcomes the retro scene revivalists but also will be useful for hearing about updates on new events and how we are being perceived in 'modern' wargaming circles. They also have some mighty impressive discounts available on their webstore by the way. I have no shares in SG (regrettably) but it's the least I can do to return the awesomeness shown to us.
Slayer Gaming Facebook page.
Slayer Gaming home page and store.
On with the show. If you've missed any of the intro narrative or build-up games it is worth a search through this blog to familiarise yourself with the protagonists.
At the beginning of the game it was explained to the players that Baron Kraust (Thantsants) had detected his pursuers and left the Elven Road to take refuge in a small, renegade fiefdom run by a petty warlock. The fiefdom was accessible only through a narrow pass guarded by a watch tower and accompanying toll booth. The force present in these buildings was unknown and the three independent parties pursuing Kraust (Orlygg's Ulther Deathfist, Steve's Carnivale and Nik's Elves) would only have a small unit of scouts available at first. the objective was to penetrate through the fiefdom's defences and obtain information on Kraust's whereabouts.
A deceptively peaceful scene at Deadwood Pass. Igor the road warden is cheerfully extorting monies from a trader at the red-roofed toll booth while two Dark Elf mercenary crossbows prowl the tower battlements.
A kinband of wild Wood Elves accompanied by a Zoat mage enter the pass using stealth to cover their approach. They are able to slink past the local guards and take up a commanding firing position in one of the patches of petrified forest that give the pass its name. Along the way, they trigger a magical trap left by the wily Baron Kraust, sword-trees! Tree limbs bearing magical blades lash at the unsuspecting Elves, unused to fearing the forest one of their number succumbs to the onslaught.
Next to arrive is a Dark Elf mercenary guard with two prisoners from the Carnivale. Swiftly following them comes an unsubtle Khornate 'reconnaissance in force' led by Grimgrunt, one of the Deathfist's Lieutenants. The Beastmen's noses twitch uncontrollably at the smell of magic on the guard, and Grimgrunt is about to order an attack when more strangers arrive from the travelling circus troupe offering an alliance. An accord is struck (after some role-play) and the Chaotic efforts become more coordinated.
As the large Khorne scouting party is spotted they come under fire from the watchtower. One of the mercenaries runs downstairs to alert the Orcish tower commander Gruntslahg (seen here on the road to the right of frame) before returning to the battlements to add his crossbow fire to that of his comrade's. Gruntslahg is not the bravest of Orcs and didn't rise to his position by carelessly risking his life in combat, he orders Fikskul the Ogre mercenary into the Chaotics while supervising from a safe distance. The Kinband's Zoat casts a dispiriting spell on Igor the road warden and the weak-minded unfortunate is utterly stricken. He seals himself in the toll booth and goes downstairs to his underground hovel where he drinks heavily before taking his own life (it really was a very poor magic saving throw result). The mercenary guard with the Carnivale prisoners stops to talk to Gruntslahg, asking if it might be worth fetching that Baron Kraust to help defend the pass, as he is a right tasty Necromancer, and where might he be? The Orc ignores the suggestion and orders the chagrined merc to dump his prisoners in the watchtowers oubliette and join his comrades on the battlements.
The Kinband are set up in ambush further up the toll road. As a messenger from the watchtower carrying a heavy bag of documents flees up the road he is peppered with arrows and slain. The unfortunate trader who fled from the toll booth at the approach of Grimgrunt's force was also attacked by the indiscriminate Elves but due to errant shooting from the Wood Elves his mule was killed in his stead allowing him to make progress toward the thatched hostelry. Not to be deterred by his comrades inaccuracy, the Zoat mage attacks and kills the innocent trader by hitting him with a big lump of metal up close and personal, 'just in case'.
The Carnivale arrives in full, gleaming, painted wagons rolling toward the fracas developing by the toll booth. Fikskul kills a Thug while another has fallen to the Dark Elven marksmanship from the watchtower. Grimgrunt bellows a challenge in the Dark Tongue at the Orc commander who promptly flees toward the safety of the watchtower leaving Fikskul to his fate.
The two Dark Elves atop the watchtower don't recognise the approaching guard, he must be one of Dinuvial's lads, they ignore him and continue to add their fire to the combat below.
The guard ignores his orders to throw the prisoners into the oubliette, instead he frees them once inside the watchtower and works with them while they search the lower floors for clues. They only give the Orc's desk a cursory glance however, missing an important note. Heading to the top of the tower the 'Dark Elf' reveals himself to be none other than the famous Great Nint'hen-doh, illusionist extraordinaire and star attraction of the Carnivale. Pushing up his sleeves, he unleashes a trio of fireballs at the Dark Elves' backs with a flourish of his hands. Unfortunately, one of the barrels of oil stored here to deter attackers is caught by a fireball (What are the chances? About 16.7% as it goes...) and explodes spectacularly. Both Dark Elves are killed either by the fireballs or the accident while a shocked Nint'hen-doh and his comrades are wounded but on their feet still.
Down on the Toll Road, Fikskul finally succumbs to his multiple opponents. The final blow comes from Grimgrunt himself who very carefully planted his axe in the Ogre's spine while he wasn't looking. No doubt the tale will be somewhat different once retold at the campfire.
Nint'hen-doh, Klynt and Clyde escape the watchtower as the fire spreads, quickly engulfing the building. They are rather singed and a little embarrassed too.
The rest of the Carnivale, they don't really need to know the full details of the accidental arson supposes Nint'hen-doh. They make progress through the pass unopposed thanks to the erupting chaos all around.
The watchtower is soon merrily ablaze. All paperwork therein pertaining to the whereabouts of one Baron Kraust becomes so much ash. Nint'hen-DOH!
The Carnivale/Khorne alliance is able to coalesce and head up the pass following the death of Fikskul, the destruction of the tower and the flight of Gruntslahg. Nobody is sure exactly where they are going unfortunately. After some role-play, it is finally revealed to the players (Nint'hen-doh resumes his magical disguise and talks once more to a cowering Gruntslahg) that the Orc is fleeing towards the hostelry in the hope of meeting Kraust there. Another magical trap is triggered en route, this time summoning skeletons bound to a runestone, which impedes the Chaotics momentarily.
Armed with the knowledge of the location of their quarry at last, Grimgrunt sounds a daemonic horn (not magic, daemonic) which summons his master, Ulthur Deathfist, through a portal to a ridge on the south side of Deadwood Pass.
The Horde of the Deathfist, arrayed for battle once more.
The Deathfist's personal banner waves proudly over his elite bodyguard which he leads into battle, hoping to avenge his previous misfortunes.
Out of the dust, skeletons begin to draw themselves upright, jaws clacking maniacally as if some memory of hunger for the enemy's blood is driving them into a frenzy. The road beyond the thatched hostelry is flooded which is why Baron Kraust has been forced to rest here. Now roused to anger he is not without defences, his powerful necromantic magic assembles a large army in moments with which to oppose the Deathfist.
The Battle of the Burning Tower is about to begin. The board is set, the pieces are moving.
The battle begins as the Deathfist's Chaos Dwarves unleash their awesome firepower on the Undead. Kraust responds by sending a Bone Giant and a lethal unit of Death Riders towards the missile troops of his enemy's exposed right flank.
The Chaotics seek to encircle and trap Kraust, though the rune-bound skeleton trap is still causing problems. Klynt and Clyde, unable to face the Undead, flee back to safety leaving Nint'hen-doh alone and unguarded. The Zoat mage is drawn into a protracted struggle with some of the skeletons. Disturbed by the turn of events the Wood Elves attempt to cause as much carnage as they can while preparing to withdraw to safety.
The Bone Giant is diverted towards a unit of Minotaurs while the Death Riders plough unhindered through a copse of petrified trees. Grimgrunt's scouts and the Carnivale form the Deathfist's left flank which presses towards the hostelry. The Carnivale desperately wants to retrieve a stolen relic and avenge a murder. Ulther personally leads the centre with his elite Chaos Warriors and some Beastmen. On the right the Minotaurs steel themselves to face the towering Undead horror while the Chaos Dwarves in the rear try to fire as fast as they can.
A bone-chilling sound comes from the Death Riders as they come within range of the Chaos Dwarf crossbows and their pace picks up speed.
Ash, stone and burning wood falls onto the Chaos Warriors but they do not flinch for a moment. The Carnivale's wagons steer wide around the inferno.
The Death Riders take terrible casualties from crossbow fire as they ride up the ridge to confront the Chaos Dwarves but get their revenge by slaughtering the diminutive marksmen. The Bone Giant is heavily wounded and lurching unsteadily after a combat with the Minotaurs but nevertheless it routs the brittle bull-men, sending them fleeing over the ridge and off into oblivion. The relatively intact (but freshly painted...) Chaos Dwarf crossbows are allowed a special GM's last chance to rally in a field (just off-table) but fail (with a double 6 no less) and are never seen again.
A chariot smashes into the Beastmen of the Deathfist's centre sending limbs flying as its scythes do their deadly work. Nint'hen-doh is to be seen in his true form (purple and yellow robes) finally in this scene and faintly in the previous image.
The fight between the chariot and the Beastmen is a vicious one, both Undead steeds are destroyed as is one of the crew but one Skeleton refuses to embrace death a second time and eventually the Beastmen lose their nerve. The victorious Skeleton leaps from his wrecked chariot and lustily pursues his foe.
Two Carrion dive onto Grimgrunt's warband who have Nint'hen-doh and his spells in support. Above this conflict, a second unit of Death Riders appear on Kraust's right flank and burst through the Wood Elves who are forced to scatter and leave the field. These Death Riders move on to attack the Carnivale.
The crucial point of the battle is nigh. The Deathfist's forces are in retreat and disarray all across the field of battle and his own bodyguard is flanked thanks to the gap left by the Beastmen. Victory or defeat turns upon the elite heavy infantry being able to overcome the panic caused by the sudden appearance of hostile forces on their exposed right. They hold, just, and use their superior fighting abilities to chop down the Skeletons one by one. Emboldened by the certainty that flight is impossible, Gruntslahg joins the fray and finds himself face to face with death incarnate. After a brief struggle, Ulthur beheads the Orc and roars his defiance.
It is as if Ulthur's personal triumph is a signal that ripples out all over both armies. Having reached a high tide, Baron Kraust's army is suddenly hurled back in all quarters as the magic binding his force together begins to unravel. The Carrion are pulled from the sky and trampled by Grimgrunt's warband, The mortar and bazooka crews defeat the Death Riders, the Bone Giant loses its final wound to the trick-shooter Klynt, Kraust himself is beset by debilitating spells and almost assassinated, his legion attacking the Chaos Warriors crumbles and is destroyed and he is forced to summon a desperate rearguard while he flees clasping the stolen relic. His army's sudden collapse is as swift as it is total.
Only one last action is played out, The Death Riders responsible for routing the Wood Elves plough into the Carnivale, all but Leon and his devoted Christina flee from their hideous approach. Fur sprouts and muscles bulge as Leon transforms into a mighty werewolf. With Christina clinging to his hairy torso (Franzetta-style) Wolf-Leon tears the last remaining Undead apart, scattering their component bones over a wide area before selecting the choicest and settling down to allow Christina to scritch his ears.
Kraust paused in his ascent to glance back for a brief moment. He wrang out his robes once more but it couldn't help him shake off the chill now. Behind him no sign of his army could be discerned at all, it had been wiped out utterly. No matter. Though being forced to wade through that cursed flood was a nuisance he had survived and what's more he had all he needed to create a new phylactery. Once that was complete, all would bow before him once more! All he needed was rest, a little time and shelter. The local ruler had been most accommodating thus far, he would continue to be no doubt, despite this little upset on his borders? And surely those circus fellows would give up the chase now that their Khorne allies had got their petty victory and toddled of home, wouldn't they? Yes, just a little time and a quiet place to conduct rituals, not to much to ask...
Having all gone badly, or at least a little bit meh, for the Deathfist the sudden turnaround was rather spectacular. It happened so fast over a single turn that the excitement can hardly be captured with photographs, I hope the way I've portrayed the battle in the narrative gives you at least a hint of the tension that built and the abrupt u-turn.
Many, many thanks to those who traveled (some distance) to Mansfield and took part. It is always a pleasure to roll dice with you gentlemen. Thanks once again to our hosts, Slayer Gaming, and thanks finally to the bakery around the corner for supplying me with a most excellent bacon cob.
Thanks for stopping by!