Shades of decay

Posted by  | Thursday, August 6, 2015  at 1:22 AM  

When death falls upon the Free City of Marienburg, fractious citizens witness the exploits of apocalypse. The End Times have come. Renegade personalities clash in a fight for survival. In a city shattered and leaderless, rival outfits face off to stake their claim on Marienburg. Rich thieves in a safe place became dead men on a long rope.

For this years 5th annual Mordheim battle day it was originally my intention for the player's warbands to fight in a united front against a Plague Fleet spearheaded by the brothers Glött. Inevitably realising plan A* couldn't be orchestrated without a Nurgle general volunteering to lead a few thousand points worth of Chaos despoilers through my decaying port-cityscape we resorted to plan B.

*Oldhammer Nurgle fleetmasters apply herein and we may yet re-enact this.

The back up plan discussed with my conspirators Dan and Chris was to entertain ourselves with a series of two player battles by starting off with new warband lists. Veterans of our campaign have been playing the same gangs on and off for the last four years. The consensus was that most of us prefer to start afresh for this get together. With a bunch of new recruits joining rusty veterans for the weekend, I devised a simple map-based system of area control broken down into districts and boroughs.

Each of 16 wards or ghettos was represented with a different scenario and the players could agree between themselves which ones they wished to play, or randomise a scenario if they failed to agree, then move on to face another opponent based on current whereabouts on the Great Map.

A crude tagging system was employed to mark out victories with coloured spots determining which warbands were asserting their dominance over the city.

All of the games were staged in the loft flat my girlfriend and I have moved into. We've been lucky enough to find a place with adequate space in the spare room for my Marienburg table to be set up full-time. Yet as I write this a good chunk of my terrain collection is currently boxed up as I've just returned from another weekend event with the Oldhammer community! It's been a busy month for Mordheim activity and this years battle day featured 10 players.

João (Dwarf Rangers), Michelle (Strigany Gypsies), Chris (Skaven Warp-Engineers), Stu C (Norse Explorers), Stu W (Dark Elves), Phil (Ogre Maneaters), Bob (Fimir), Dawn (Dwarf Treasure Hunters), Enys (Sisters of Sigmars) & Dan (River Watch)

Witch Hunter General Dave made a brief guest appearance during the course of Saturday to say hi to the group. Another new face to Bournemouth Mordheimers was Kawe Weissi-Zadeh who visited during set up week with his goblins, trolls and some unreleased halflings. Kawe ended up missing the battles due to work commitments so we are planning another night for some games soon with a smaller group.

João and Bob grabbed some super snaps of the action through the day. My own photography featured here occasionally is not the best. João shot some excellent pics of the main Marienburg table terrain in my spare room. He was able to capture over 200 shots at Oldhammer Weekend whilst I was running participation games of Mordheim.

In addition to the main 6'x4' table, a second table 4'x4' was prepared in the living room by draping a Dreadfleet seascape mat across my (large enough to do this) coffee table to represent the Reiksmouth Estuary. With the excess terrain being supplied by João we had more than enough to create 10' worth of tabletop across the two boards.

Additionally the dining table was used to play Mordheim Quest games in the Marienburg sewer network with the 'Border Town Collapsing' scenario plus four tavern brawls were fought using the scenario 'Last Orders!'

Some time was spent drawing up warband lists on Friday evening. Most of the games took place on Saturday beginning in the morning and finishing quite late as has become tradition. Some of the survivors who arrived late on Saturday reconvened on Sunday for a couple more games. As the sound of battle died down it was clear that the most successful outfits had been the Dark Elf Corsairs, Skaven Warp-Engineers and Fimir Ambushers.

Everybody attending the get together brought something unique of their own making to the exploratory return to the City of Islands & Bridges. In the case of Enys and Dan that meant a supply of mead, for Michelle two tins of baked banana bread cakes, and Chris rocked up with his deadly concoction of home-brewed stout.

João took the opportunity to limber up his camera skills in preparation for the Oldhammer Weekend which the two of us had booked in for at Stoke Hall in Newark, the home of Wargames Foundry owned by 'The Mighty Avenger' Bryan Ansell. I took this opportunity to familiarise myself with Marienburg terrain to help select the best scenarios to go on the road with up to Nottinghamshire for the annual Oldhammer community event 'Bring Out Your Lead' (BOYL) III.

Although we did not get around to playing through all of the scenarios, there were some firm favourites seeing repeat play throughout Saturday. Our newest guests took the liberty of making the most of the abundance of scenery conjured up by João Sousa, Carl Merrell and I. We also made use of some new ships that Chris & I have been constructing in the hope of taking the waterfront actions beyond the limits of Fisherman's Steps, Oyster Dock and Candle Wharf. Boarding actions and danger chasing false beacons in the Reiksmouth Estuary beckons.

There was the usual spate of post battle scrambling about for desirable rare items. We kept the amount of visits to special Marketplace locations to a minimum, yet thanks to the Wasteland Exploration tables there were still some unexpected visits to the Infamous Haunts found in seedier corners of the city-port! Skaven and Fimir Heroes jostled over wyrdstone shards (1 in 6 chance of finding tainted treasures) to take to the Alchemist and the amphibious Fimm nobles felt the touch of Chaos upon them more than once. Speaking of Warp-touch rolls, we took a break from the tabletop for dinner and discovered the taint of wyrdstone upon a menu board in one of the local fast food restaurants on Charminster High Street! Another recommendation for the Infamous Haunts chapter.

The cramped streets and docks of Marienburg caused the usual amount of cursing from Phil as he led his Maneaters through the Old Money Ward for perhaps the final time. The ogres faired well enough beneath the Dead Canal on a smuggling run through the sewer network.

The lascars of Crime-lord Salaman Singh were once again absent as the Pirate-King's usual warband commander Stu Webb had chosen to lead a crew of Dark Elf Corsairs down the Reik onto Marienburg's South Dock.

Despite the absence of lockstocked holy templars with their smoking flintlock barrels we enjoyed the divine presence of Sigmar in the feminine form of an orderly visitation by Sisters of Sigmar. Our new pilgrim on the dock Enys led the ladies in a fervent charge across seaweed-strewn cobblestones to liberate orphans. Waterfront witches or heroines with halos, the Sigmarites faced the Lords of the Marsh with all their zeal.

Despite being bitch-slapped in an opening encounter by swampbound monsters they bounced back with proud posture. Righteousness prevailed in the rolling fog as the united sisterhood held their ground while craven fiends clawed at their buxom forms.

The Marienburg Secretariat repelled an assault from drunken barbarians across Powder Bridge at great cost.

River watchmen were plunged like sinking torpedoes into the Poultice Water yet with enough reinforcements the law fought hard enough to press the hoary heathens back as far as Norse Town.

The Reiksmouth Estuary ran thick with blood. An recurring aquatic menace threatened civilians each time that an eerie mist descended upon the port.

From the relative safety of priestess-blessed skiffs the fallen Sisters find they are less welcome sailing the canals than they had imagined in Manannshaven as they disembark for Temple District on their pilgrimage.

Lords and ladies. Marsh daemons biting off as much as they can chew in the shape of whip-toting she-devils. Well that's what Witch Hunter General Dave would call those feisty matriarchs.

Wharf rats slumming it down on Sour Dock. Strigany gypsies will take any kind of work. They won't do it honestly because of shadowy traditions they can never escape from. The past has a habit of catching up with river pirates! They won't be the first crew of cut-throats to dance from a gibbet in Marienburg. As the End Times approach they could well be the last!

There are some enormous vermin reported to be infesting the city. This one must have sat on a warpstone slab!

Sigmar's Solace provides safe haven for the least favourable priesthood in Marienburg. The God-King was never popular in the City of Secret Deals. Worship of Handrich is a perpetual state and the following of Stromfels rise with the tide.

What everyone wants to see right now. More pictures taken by João. Enjoy the scenery! There will be more of it in our report of Oldhammer 2015 weekend.

Move with the times

Posted by  | Tuesday, May 19, 2015  at 2:31 AM  

War in the north has been raging on and off since before 2004 when the Storm of Chaos played out globally. The massive narrative campaign for Warhammer marked a golden age of releases that began with the Mordheim game published in 1999.

An unhealthy trend is developing in the world of tie-in fiction. The term 'retcon' was born within the comics industry. Now every major movie franchise is rewriting lore or reinventing personalities to fit a commercial template for a corporate release. Whether it is an adaptation or a continuation, there must be some logic behind the pretence that past events never occurred. Time travel unmakes historical happenings. Crossing into parallel dimensions reshapes universes. When imagination fails to deliver then for convenience let's say it was a dream. All solutions continue to be popular trends in fantasy story telling.

Anyone who takes an interest in the historical nature of things can hopefully appreciate this sentiment; What happened, happened! Get over it.

Most enthusiasts drift in and out of the hobby at stages of their lives. Playing mostly 3rd and 4th edition Warhammer battles my interest in military scale engagements had dwindled by the time 5th edition was released. The lore has been my anchor since the beginning! Reconnecting me with tabletop combat through story telling, in skirmishes (using Mordheim system) later inspired by refined sourcebooks and better quality novels published across the years that would follow. Contemporary authors like C L Werner, Josh Reynolds, David Guymer, Darius Hinks and Chris Wraight in particular have done a fine job building upon Oldhammer stories quilled by Bill King and Jack Yeovil. Exemplary work by Green Ronin in Warhammer RPG never ceases to amaze.

Of the End Times apocalypse itself I have feelings of indifference. The levelling of every major city and repository of lore contained therein is a terrible waste. Okay so Marienburg has been sacked four times previously! Cities rise and fall. Resurrection is a big theme in the series. Recovering from decapitation is a big ask. My favourite character Brunner snuffed it in volume 5. He did blow Archaon off his daemon steed with a wyrdstone bullet before being run through on the Slayer of Kings. Damn shame the bounty hunter's second pistol misfired otherwise he could've claimed an unprecedented reward. These are the moments on the battlefield I will remember. Gotrek finally finds his doom. The dwarf slayer has earned it... Unless there is another rewrite of the history books in seven years times, because Karl Franz wakes up covered in sweat to discover it was all a bad dream, his night terrors possibly induced by chewing weirdroot or more likely taking a Lahmian vampire to his bed.

Lots of hard graft that has gone into maintaining continuity over the past 15 years suddenly seems to have gone out the window. That is the element of this grand campaign which has me puzzled. There have been severe compromises made by bringing this story to press. It contains the same brand of irritating contradictions that fans of comic books have resigned themselves to living with. Forgive or forget, the epic scale of this new military orientated lore is magnificently presented. It's an ambitious series of stories where the traditions of showcasing biased accounts have not been entirely discarded. e.g. What you might have experienced in a Council of Thirteen meeting can easily discredit accounts found in a tale of Dwarf Lords.

While ambivalence surrounds the evolution of the game story for hobbyists battling in the modern day, it is amusing to find plenty of Oldhammer players quit the hobby before personalities like Nagash, Thorgrim and Malekith ever came into existence. Meaning they couldn't give a fuck if the characters or the world lives or dies.

Like the gods, perhaps some players are tired. Others are mortified by developments.

It has been worth waiting to see the thing out. The story arc itself is mammoth. A shame to upturn a rich history by hinting at the lore from Storm of Chaos being retrod. That uncertain aspect of it has been poorly handled, lending the affair to inconsistency. Dwarfs have long memories for bearing grudges. There are enough dates and excerpts to be scrounged out of source material to catalogue the second coming of Archaon (formerly Diederick Kastner, bastard son of a Norse champion of the Vargs). Anyone who was in the north when Archaon failed to conquer the Fauschlag in 2522 saw the Chaos warlord forced into retreat. Whether the Everchosen took sanctuary in Brass Keep before fleeing the Middle Mountains across the Sea of Claws to regroup, it is unsurprising the barbarian hordes were driven back. Their lack of discipline not to mention personal hygiene failings is evidence enough.

Warhammer world being brought to the brink of self-destruction might aptly mirror the marketplace position of a corporation once thought to lord over the industry from its ivory tower on the high street. Moving with the times means that all fantasy gaming could be set historically in a time of legends. Not just for Mordheim players then.

Survivors grieve and move on.

"Gotrek's passing will be the doom of this world. But it may be enough to save the next."
— Morzanna, Mutant-Prophetess

Death of a hero

Posted by  | Sunday, April 5, 2015  at 8:30 PM  

As the last hope of the Old World falls to a few heroes, the fate of the mortal realm is decided by their final deeds in these dark times. The End Times marks the conclusion of an era in story telling. The stark realisation that fables of legend have come to a natural conclusion is something fans of the stories are finding quite sad. Not everyone is willing to let go.

"If this journal is found, if the day was won, then remember this - here a Slayer lies."
— Felix Jaeger, Poet

A week after that report of our Erlach mountain battle was published my friend Antony died. We fought together on the tabletops for many years with cards and dice. A talented musician, Antony shared many hobby hours making guitar music that involved writing, arranging, recording and performing in bands with his friends. There were times when the music saved me from ruin and he was always there.

Antony appeared as a special guest player in the last battle day we ran in Marienburg. Previously he participated in this tabletop tavern brawl battle report. That was the first battle report after I began publishing articles for Liber Malefic.

Antony will be remembered as a chivalrous hero. A buccaneer amongst bureaucrats. Losing him in a cruel trick of fate was a bitter blow. Unexpectedly saying goodbye cuts right to the core. He was something of a legendary personality. Knowing the journey continues with no further contributions by his swift blade is unbearable. He enriched my life story as only a Slayer-pirate could. Miss you buddy.

Cities rise and fall

Posted by  | Tuesday, January 6, 2015  at 2:57 AM  

Over the years the greatest port of the Old World has been sacked no less than five times. The city has suffered raids, sieges, conspiracies, invasions and plague. It has been razed, pillaged and burnt to the ground. In the Imperial calendar year of 2525 the hordes of Chaos befouled the Free City of Marienburg for the sixth time.

Behold the End Times are upon us! We returned to what should have been familiar surrounds of Oyster Dock in Temple District only to discover... That disaster had overtaken Marienburg.

Marienburg was founded on the ruins of an ancient Sea Elf fortress by the Jutones tribe. What elves abandoned, men rebuilt. Our city lies in ruins once again. Nurgle's Rot ravaged the population. The Plague Lord's foetid host marched on in the spring of 2525 converging on Altdorf. For anyone interested in apocalyptic current affairs or the historical destruction wrought against the greatest port in the Old World, I have compiled a fairly concise timeline of significant events.

Download the timeline calendar here:
The Marienburg Timeline (PDF, ca. 0.1 MB)

The End Times campaign for Warhammer is huge. This announcement only skims the surface of events involving the Empire, her neighbours and the hordes of Chaos from Volume 2. I am following the story more thoroughly through the Black Library novels rather than the Warhammer rulebooks releases for the End Times campaign. Inconsistencies do crop up in the End Times source material.

example: Louen Leoncour, the Lionheart
In the novel 'Fall of Altdorf', the dethroned King's chest is sawed up by Festus the Leechlord, and he dies in the arms of a Shallayan priestess, somewhat peacefully. In the 'Warhammer: Glöttkin' campaign book, the Lionheart dies in the arms of a gloating Festus, more specifically, his head is brutally sawed off and displayed to shocked Empire soldiery.

Volume 1 involving the resurrection of Nagash, maps the ambitions of the Von Carstein bloodline, including Elize von Carstein, Doyenne of Red Abbey, and her favourite get, the ghoul-caller, Erikan Crowfiend. Volume 3 charts those of Aenarion's bloodline with welcome cameos from two fan favourites, the Shadow King of Nagarythe, Alith Anar, and the Warpsword, Daemon's Bane, Tyrant of Hag Graef, Malus Darkblade.

Volume 4 is scheduled to involve the Skaven. There have been further spin-off's available in the form of new novels for Gotrek & Felix. Black Library has other releases being lined up with some of its best authors getting involved, notably a new Malus Darkblade story quilled by C L Werner.

There is plenty more I could say about the new material. That would spoil the surprise. Go check it out yourselves. It's the end of an era. And the the beginning of a new one.
"Everywhere we look is as ruined and lifeless as the last, yet here we stay because this ruin is ours."
— Pirate-King Salaman Singh, Marienburg Crimelord