Fool's gold

Posted by  | Friday, November 7, 2014  at 7:39 PM  

Annual battle day is an affair featuring Mordheim regulars plus guest friends. Organised to coincide with my birthday each year there needs to be festive conditions. Surprises were various this year.

[L-R] Gold diggers arrive at Erlach: Chopper, Ant, João, Bob, Phil
A tiring excursion through Little Country, beyond the city walls of Marienburg. Site of once proud delvers is Erlach, a mining colony in the shadow of the Pale Sisters mountain range. Historically dwarf prospectors excavated the wild foothills of the Wasteland region. Most of its riches have been plucked over the years leaving slim pickings. For those canny diggers bold enough to venture deeper into untapped crevices could be a heap of spoils or the curse of greed.

Hosting the get together in my father's garage provided a change of scene in more than one sense. For this unique occasion that themed mountain board built for our Border Town Burning adventure came out of retirement. It has been kept stored in the garage ever since we completed our campaign at Games Workshop Poole set in the Cathayan borderlands. Another highlight was the refreshing keg of Bugman's Ale acquired for players to wet their whistles throughout the day.

We have enjoyed playing team scenarios before rather than battle royale style multi-player battles. These play a lot quicker based on shared turn sequences. This year's event used a chapter written for the occasion. It was published on Liber Malefic before the event in my last article; Quest for nostalgia. Golden opportunities to play doubles games using paired teams of like-minded factions don't come up often. A narrative campaign that is deeply rich as Mutiny in Marienburg provides a satisfying landscape for this story of adventure.

As much as I revel in the gaming experience itself, the set up for a tabletop battle like this is something to be appreciated in equal measure. This years encounter was memorably planned out with the assistance of fellow TBMF member João Sousa. The Portuguese-man has an eye-catching collection of Citadel memorabilia that includes lots of villagers plus a small throng of bearded characters. João has a soft spot for the stout fellows! This provided us with ample excuse to populate the entire plateau of my mountain board with beautifully painted civilians, both Umgi and Dawi. For every warband participating in the battle there will be six colonists. That was what my scenario quoted! An even mix of 48 villagers and prospectors representing the colonists of Erlach. Deploying this amount of cannon fodder colonists becomes a tactical quandary in its own right.

First at the scene was Bob. Earlier when we agreed times I hadn't factored in extra times for picking up João. That included loading his miniatures and terrain being transported to the mountain. Bob was tapping his watch when we arrived, asking "what time did we call this?" and to be fair we were running later than planned. Fortunately I had erected the board and set out my collection of miniatures in advance. What followed was a bit of reassembly work on some mountainside causeways damaged in storage. The signpost to Mordheim from Shang-Yang was repaired. João unpacking his themed terrain piece followed by miniatures representing two dwarf warbands, a goblin pirate flotilla and 48 mining colonists.

Antony arrived shortly after to signal that it was time for the colony to be deployed. Together the defending team of João and Ant creatively positioned the colonists and their respective warband pairing of Dirty Ruddy Stunties. Rangers guided by a Runesmith Journeyman and Noble led band of Treasure-hunters.

Mountain defence squad - Ant & João deploy the Dawi miners
While dwarfs were busy populating the plateau, three corners of the tabletop were assigned among three raiding partnerships. Each corner of the foothills posed different variables but it was clear that one corner was more favourable while another was most undesirable. Allocations were made based on treating higher warband ratings as a handicap upon arrival of Phil and our special guest player representing two more teams. Their team partners would be appearing later in the day due to family and working commitments, meaning these lone rangers would be deploying two warbands each then captaining both through an interim period.

The next phase following deployment was lunch, home cooked by Mother Cresswell. Fried chicken was well received. Washed down nicely by steins of Proper Job XXXXXX brewed by St. Austell Bugman's brewery.

In order of warband ratings (Team 1 = lowest, Team 4 = highest) Coham's Barbarians deployed on the North-East edge at the foot of the steepest route where warriors would ascend the vertical mount using a network of wooden causeways and a rope bridge. Ivory Road Warriors deployed on the South-East edge at the base of a winding incline most easily traversed by vehicles or large models. Predators deployed on the South-West edge had the unenviable task of scaling a sequence of rickety platforms before joining a windy mountain road leading to mine entries at the summit.

Business partnerships in the Free City

Team 1 - Dirty Ruddy Stunties
Dwarf Rangers & Dwarf Treasure Hunters
João Sousa & Antony Bowker

Team 2 - Coham's Barbarians
Cult of Stromfels & Norse Explorers
Ham Haslett & Andy 'Chopper' Extance

Team 3 - Ivory Road Warriors
Ogre Maneaters & Battle Monks of Cathay
Phil Card & 'Canada' Steve Hume

Team 4 - Predators
Fimir Ambushers & Swamp Goblins
Bob Whetton & Stu Cresswell

Conspicuous by their absence were a fourth proposed team 'Mice & Men'. The pirate alliance of Clan Skyre & Clan Skurvy duping a water-caravan of Strigany river gypsies. They never sailed due to house moving commitments made by the Hayward-Steeles (Chris & Michelle). No sign either of other campaign regulars, Witch Hunters or Salaman Singh's cartel gang of lascars from the Spice Islands.

Making up the numbers this year are two seasoned campaigners. We have the long-awaited return of the mysterious Cathayans led by local wine merchant Steve Hume (aka Canada or Cad). Even longer since is the return of a very welcome guest, my old schoolmate Andy who commanded a tribe of hoary Norse sailors in our first ever annual campaign battle day: South Dock Massacre. With all the dwarfs on site it would be suicidal to walk a troupe of sea elves into their mining village. For the sake of rounding out the team partnerships João handed over his goblins warband to me, pairing up diminutive swamp-pirates with the Lords of the Marsh.

Campaign rewards for participating in this battle would be hard fought over. There was potential for uncovering spoil heaps of gold, hoarded treasures, warp-touched trinkets of cursed dwarf gold, plus a single chance at uncovering one of the Greater Artefacts speculated to be moving through Marienburg and the Wasteland at this time. Specifically we are talking about a war mask with magic properties cast from solid gold. An artefact currently associated with rival factions in the city.

Perilous features of the scenario are the involvement of considerable non-player characters. João & I discussed options for this monstrous cast of wanderers and dormant denizens. In the end settling on a suite of wandering monsters for random happenings in addition to possible scary outcomes when exploring the mines. Of these the deadliest outcomes are waking a great beast snoozing in one of the mines or attracting the attention of a migrating giant.

As (rotten) luck would have it the barbarians attracted the giant in only their second turn of the battle, presumably using their loathsome body odour, a mix of goat piss, virgins blood & honey mead!

Motivation for my giant comes in the form of Fighting Fantasy monster sized miniatures. They featured in the pages of the first Warhammer rulebooks that I clapped eyes on. As a consequence Citadel's first plastic miniatures ever released (in 60mm scale!) hold great significance to me. It was with glee that I set about bastardising a large scale resin release from Forge World. At a similar time David Stafford was working on a giant sized resin piece for his collection so that provided further inspiration to me. What started life as a limited edition stone troll has since become the (even more limited edition) giant cyclops. This was a hobby project being planned since testing the Manhunt scenario from Border Town Burning supplement.

A big change to the administration of warbands at this get together was that everyone has gone digital with their roster sheet. This was a carefully planned move. After releasing the new format of Fillable PDF warband roster sheet the guys in my campaign were quick to pick this up. We transferred all warband details from paper rosters onto these 'smart scrolls' in the weeks prior to battle day. In theory we could host all our rosters in a public folder on the Dropbox.

At this point it will not be easy to relay all the specifics of our battle. Some of us were drinking ale. Fortunately we have a sequence of photographs captured during the battle that may help to piece together some of the important moments. These can be viewed by visiting the 'Mordheim Timeline' widget in the sidebar. Scroll down to 28th June. The live feed for this battle was run using my Twitter account @Mordheimer allowing me to send images and submit captions from the game straight into the shared digital feed on Liber Malefic.

Antony departed for personal reasons or perhaps because the keg was running low when he realised he was riding his bicycle home drunk from the village. Did I mention my parents aptly live in a village!?

Bob departed due to work commitments before 'Canada' Steve and Ham would arrive. It was as if the Ruinous Powers were trying to steer the fimir raid from beyond the Realm of Chaos, as written prompts and audio memorandums sent by Bob were received continuously on my handset via Whatsapp as the game progressed in his absence!

Blood brothers - Chopper & Ham lead a Chaos barbarian charge
Things went up a gear when Steve arrived. As João, Phil & I were flagging Steve started calling some shots that helped lead his Battle Monks within sight of the scenario objectives. While the ogres had looked likely to get bogged down by the tide of colonists under Phil's leadership, Steve's boundless enthusiasm drove the monks and maneaters over the summit into the heart of the colony. The rest of us must have been too fatigued from commanding efforts from the front line. Mistakes were being made due to modifying tactics based on a frantic scramble to reach the plateau. The mountain was beating us and we knew it!

A clunky schedule of arrivals and departures had physical repercussions on the outcome of battle day. With the hour being late my dear mother's decision to call time (kick out!) on the same round the first wave of barbarians scaled the summit. A decision that came as a relief to João who like myself had been courteously abandoned by his team partner. Andy weathering the full days events in real time better than the rest and Ham being fresh to the table, Coham's Barbarians were desperate for one more round of turns to reach two objectives in their grasp! In the end it wasn't to be. Ivory Road Warriors was the only team to reach objectives with a running time that clocked over ten hours. Of the two objectives they secured only one entry reaped a positive result in the mines. A single nugget of cursed dwarf gold was enough to claim victory.

Ham assessing the vista beyond the reach of his barbarian host
What comes next? Back room deals to be struck in a thematic post-battle sequence to be hosted by Steve in the privacy of his liquor store after hours.

Stu + Steve outside the old liquor store, at Tatnam in Poole town