Wednesday, 9 January 2013

The Battle of Hel Fenn, Part 6 – The Final Turn


This post is a continuation of the 20,000pt Hel Fenn battle report. You can find the parent page containing links to each turn here.
Oh dear...


Vampire Counts, Turn 6: Another one bites the dust

Vampire Counts, Turn 6
A more detailed map can be found here.

The Empire centre was crumbling and that fool Adolphus had managed to punch a massive gaping hole in the Dwarf flank before he got himself cut down. Mannfred looked up and down the line, and was pleased. His forces had swept across the plain and were threatening to drive the enemy from the field entirely. All it would take was a final decisive blow and the battle would be over.

On the Vampire Counts' right flank, the ghostly, howling Black Coach careened into the waiting Hammerers, with Kallad Stormwarden himself at their head. The Dwarfs just had time to brace for the impact, and managed to absorb the worst of the damage as the Coach's wicked scythed wheels slashed by. From the driver's seat, the Wraith reached out with its own lethal scythe and swept the keening blade toward Kallad's neck, intending to take his head clean off. The Dwarf Lord was up to the challenge however, and parried the blow before striking back with his runic axe. He failed to land a telling blow, and the struggle continued.
Kallad Stormwarden fends off the Killing Blow attacks from the Black Coach. 
The Hammerers and Slayers continued to fight side-by-side against the Spirit Hosts and Skeleton legions. The courage of the Dwarfs was not in question, but the enemy attacked tirelessly as only the already-dead can do. Neither side could gain the upper hand.

Adolphus' standard bearer continued to lead the rampaging Skeletons in the absence of his fallen master, and they made short work of the Krakenberg Handgunners who, moments before, had thought themselves safe behind a solid wall of Dwarf shields. The Handgunners were cut down to a man and at last the Skeletons drew to a halt as they realised there were no more enemies to be seen.
The Slayers are overwhelmed by the Ghoul King and his 34454095496 (approx) minions. 
Having been frustrated for so long, the Ghouls leapt upon the small group of Dwarf Slayers with pent-up savagery. The Dwarfs were unable to defend themselves from the relentless assault as their formation was smashed apart by the brutal strength of the Strigoi Ghoul King, with an endless tide of his minions right behind. Slashing claws brought down every last one of their victims, and seeing no other enemies upon which to unleash his fury, the Ghoul King at last halted the advance of his horde and they turned to feast upon the still-warm flesh of the fallen. This was too much for the Krakenberg Crossbowmen, who turned and fled from the sight of their comrades being devoured, scrambling past the Dwarf Grudge Throwers as they headed up the hill behind them.
The collapse of the Dwarf centre sees the main Vampire Count units unopposed in their deployment zone. 
Close behind the fleeing Crossbowmen, the Hexwraiths charged the Thunderers who had rallied after their earlier lapse. Determined not to shame themselves further, the Dwarfs raised their weapons in defiance, but knew that they could not harm the enemy bearing down upon them. They were mercilessly slaughtered by the charging Hexwraiths, whose momentum carried them onward into the nearest Grudge Thrower on the hill.
Slayers under siege as the Grave Guard arrive to give the Wraiths a hand.
The Slayers engaged with the Wraiths found themselves under further pressure as a regiment of Grave Guard wheeled around their flank and charged into the fray. Despite finally being presented with something they could damage with their mundane weapons, the Slayers took heavy casualties and there were few of them left to continue their resistance.

Having dealt quickly with the Empire Engineer, the Fell Bats looked for another vulnerable target, and their sights settled on the retreating forms of Martin's Knights as they tried to escape the field of carnage. With a screech the Bats launched themselves at the Knights' exposed backs, and one of them glanced back and shouted a warning to his comrades. They turned their flight away from the winged horrors and rode for their lives, but it was not enough. The Fell Bats tore into the one-proud Knights as they fled, and the remnant were scattered as they tried desperately to evade their attackers.
The Fell Bats land on the hill after making their 19" charge to chase down the remnant of Martin's Knights. 
The Krakenberg Halberdiers, stranded in front of the enemy after they were not permitted to overrun after the Black Knights crumbled. My bad, I forgot that FAQ until it was too late. I was trying to punch through to Mannfred, but that ruling made it impossible.
Further forward in the centre, the Krakenberg Halberdiers found themselves alone in a sea of undead. They turned this way and that, searching for where their attackers would come from, but in the end there was a shout from the front as a legion of Grave Guard wearing tattered purple robes stepped forward to engage them. Ancient wight blades cut into the packed state troopers as they thrust and hacked back with their halberds. Leading from the front, their Warrior Priest and Captain shouted encouragement and struck at the enemy. The Wight King that had claimed Arch Lector Axelbrand moved as if to silence the Empire Captain, however the Halberdiers' sergeant intercepted him and issued a challenge. The Wight King silently accepted and swung his great axe in deadly arcs, but the sergeant managed to avoid the blows and held his foe in the duel. Both regiments took casualties in the struggle, but though the Grave Guard had the better of it, the Halberdiers had the numbers and held their line.
The Grave Guard slam into the Halberdiers, but they hold their ground.
Mannfred watched the contest between the Grave Guard and Halberdiers with hungry intent, knowing that he was so close to breaking the back of the Empire army in the centre. Glancing around he saw the enemy Free Company and Greatsword regiments looking for a way around his screen of Zombies and into his own entourage. With a flippant gesture he ordered the Zombies to widen their formation, shutting off any chance the enemy had of reaching his position. It simply wouldn't do for him to be in peril in his moment of triumph. He wanted to enjoy this.
Mannfred watches the slaughter from the relative safety of his entourage of 90 Zombies. 
Mannfred blocks the enemy advance with a long wall of Zombies.
Gothard's Knights fight on, though their numbers are dwindling.
On the Vampire Counts' left flank, the struggle between Gothard's Black Knights and Jaeger's Empire Knights continued. Gothard and Jaeger continued their duel, and though the Empire general managed to wound his opponent, Gothard was not to be denied. With the skill of one who in life had been one of the Empire's finest knights, he batted aside Jaeger's defences and thrust his blade through the man's throat. Jaeger gurgled and died, slipping from his saddle and his body was lost in the battle continued between the two sides of milling knights.
The Grand Theogonist begins to regret ignoring the Wraiths
The Grand Theogonist began to question the wisdom of his joining the engagement when a group of Wraiths glided up beside his War Altar. Wielding his staff of office like an enchanted club, he tried to stave the enemy away, but they would not be so easily deterred. Ghosting up onto the Altar with him, they surrounded Sigmar's favoured servant and then as one, hacked him down with their wicked scythes. Without their master and with the chill of death in the air, the horses pulling the War Altar began to panic. The ungodly shriek of the Banshee as she gloated over the fallen form of Kurt was too much for them, and they wheeled away from the fight and turned to flee. Their efforts were futile however, as the charging Corpse Cart overtook them before they could pick up speed, and the Zombies dragged down the horses and desecrated the Altar with their foul presence.
The Grand Theogonist and his War Altar are destroyed.
Hard on the flank, the Zombies continued to paw ineffectually at the sides of the Steam Tank, but the Fell Bats had more success and finally managed to drag the last of the Outriders from his horse.
The Vampire Counts' left flank.

Empire and Dwarf Alliance, Turn 6: Insult to injury

Empire and Dwarf Alliance, Turn 6
A more detailed map can be found here.

The alliance of the Empire and Dwarfs had now lost 2 of its principle commanders and all of their banners had fallen. Kallad Stormwarden alone remained on his feet, and his life too was in peril as the Wraith on its Black Coach looked to land a killing blow. The Vampire Counts had the upper hand and the alliance was dangerously close to collapsing.
The Dwarf left flank holds firm. Note that those Thunderers survived, despite what the map suggests. Totally not my fault. Must have been that other guy.
Kallad fought fiercely as the Wraith continued to assault him from its perch up on the Black Coach. He snarled his defiance and crashed his axe into the nearest skeletal steed, collapsing it in a shower of splintered bone. “Come down here where I can reach you, coward,” he roared. The Wraith merely cackled and swung its scythe at the Dwarf Lord once more, its glittering arc heading straight for his head. Kallad smashed he blow aside with his weapon, its runes glowing brightly. Beside him, his Hammerers could only wait and mutter encouragement, their great hammers useless against such a foe. Kallad curse the unholy contraption – there seemed to be no getting rid of it.

Across the field, his fellow Dwarfs were facing similar frustration. The Hammerers spat Khazalid curses at the Spirit Hosts and brandished their hammers at their foes, but ultimately there was little they could do other than try to avoid the blows of the enemy. Next to them, the Slayers had greater satisfaction, as the Skeletons they were fighting were more real. Unfortunately there seemed to be an endless number of them, and every time they smashed down one enemy, 2 more stepped forward to take its place.

The Slayers toward the centre fought on, largely ignoring the Wraiths to their front and landing what blows they could on the Grave Guard in their flank. The undead cut deep into their number with rusty blades and ethereal scythes, but found they could not quite finish the job as a single Slayer still stood, defiant to the last. The fleeing Krakenberg Crossbowmen rallied on the hill behind them, and turned to see the Hexwraiths make short work of the Dwarfs manning the Grudge Thrower they had charged, hacking them down without remorse.
The Hexwraiths sit smugly in the midst of the allied lines after killing the Dwarf Grudgethrower. 
On the Empire right flank, the Averland Handgunners took aim at the Corpse Cart as it regrouped after dismantling the War Altar. With a well-aimed volley, they cut down the Zombies and blasted apart the wagon itself. The Handgunners gave a half-hearted cheer, but they knew that their efforts counted for little in the face of the Grand Theogonist's demise. In the fort, the Stirland Crossbowmen settled at their positions and looked for target. Seeing the retreating forms of a handful of Dire Wolves, they decided this was as good a target as any and let fly, their shots striking true and bringing down their quarry.
The Stirland Crossbowmen fly their flag in the fort as they turn the retreating Dire Wolves into pincushions. 
Next to the fort, Gothard continued to use his enchanted blade to cut into the ranks of the Empire Knights. However, the Wight King now had few Black Knights at his back, and things were about to take a turn against him. Mustering their courage and determined to avenge the loss of their commander, Jaeger's Knights raised their great weapons and pressed forward against their foes. Black Knights fell under their heavy blows, and Gothard suddenly found himself isolated as his allies were pushed back. Trying to turn his steed, he never saw the hammers that descended upon him from behind. The crushing blows struck true, and with a last hiss of defiance, Gothard the Undying was no more. His remaining Knights crumbled to the ground, and Jaeger's Knights emerged victorious.

In the centre, Mannfred sensed rather than saw the loss of his other favoured henchman. This was a blow – he would struggle to press home his advantage without Gothard's assistance on that flank. He sighed. It was true, what they said. It was so hard for a super-villain to find good help these days. He was soon shaken from his train of thought however, as he saw the Empire collapse in the centre take hold.
The Grave Guard and Krakenberg Halberdiers face-off after a reform duel in which I tried to make space for the Stirland Halberdiers to charge, whilst Benji sought the opposite. It was a duel he won by about 2cm (a single model-width)...
The Krakenberg Halberdiers continued to struggle against the Grave Guard, but the relentlessness of their opponents began to get the better of them and their courage began to fade. The wights made the most of this psychological collapse, and pressed home their advantage with brutal swings of their blades. Men died left and right, and the Captain himself was slain by several well-placed blows that made a mockery of his fine plate armour. Without his voice to bolster their courage, the Halberdiers completely lost their nerve and they turned to flee. Nearby, the Averland Spearmen witnessed their collapse and panic began to set in. The screech of the Fell Bats beside them as they feasted upon Martin's fallen Knights was too much, and they turned to flee. Confusion reigned as the Spearmen tried to decide which way to flee. This was compounded by the remnants of the Krakenberg Halberdiers, as they sought to escape the pursuing Grave Guard. The panicked regiments collided, and chaos erupted as men fell over each other. Soon the cries of panic and dismay turned to screams and wasted pleas for mercy as the Grave Guard chased them all into the ground, cutting them apart and scattering any survivors.
The Empire centre collapses.
The Grave Guard finish cleaning up the last of the fleeing state troops.
Watching the bedlam in the Empire lines, Mannfred cackled. The humans really were so much like cattle. Or perhaps it was sheep. He wasn't sure – he'd never been one for farm work. Whatever it was, the veneer of culture and civility that men maintained was thin at best. All it took was a little panic, and they were exposed for the mindless beasts they really were. This battle was over. All he needed to do now was cull the herd until it could be properly managed. He watched as the Averland Greatswords charged toward him, only to be bogged in the sea of Zombies he had deployed to intercept them. The men fought bravely and cut down a goodly number of the mindless undead, but it was a futile show of defiance. Perhaps he would cull them first...

On a hill behind the Empire front lines, Master Gunner Gunther Kaltherz cursed. He had been doing a lot of cursing throughout the battle, as he had his men had struggled to find a good target amongst the sea of troops below. Those damned Spearmen had been milling about spoiling their lines of fire all day. He and his men had brought their Great Cannon “Hilda” all the way from Altdorf for this battle, and then she had barely been able to fire a shot in anger. It made him angry. No, it made him furious. And he'd been taking it out on his comrades, though they knew that his rage was not really directed at them.
Master Gunner Gunther finally finds a target worth shooting.
Finally, as he watched the Empire lines continue to sag and fold below, Gunther found a target worth aiming at. A Vampire in a fancy cloak with a distinctively ostentatious (and frankly ridiculous) collar, who appeared to be cackling maniacally at the front of a massive regiment of Zombies. Like all of the gunners, Gunther was under specific instructions from Count Martin himself not to waste shots on difficult targets like enemy leaders, but Count Martin wasn't here to berate him now, and it was not like he could find anything else worthwhile to shoot at. “Heads up, lads! I've found us a target at last.”

Mannfred stood like a colossus of the field at the head of his dead legion, watching his enemies cower before him. Looking further afield, he laughed as with a flash, he saw one of the vaunted Empire Great Cannons explode in a fiery explosion. Those humans and their ridiculous black powder weapons. Would they never learn? He laughed harder as he realised that the enemy were even doing his work for him. “Let them shoot,” he laughed. “One less snivelling group of cowards to round up when this is over!” Mannfred's good humour was spoilt somewhat as he felt a rotting hand tugging at his cloak. Then another, and another! What was going on? Clearly he was getting distracted in his moment of triumph and was losing control over his own minions. Swatting the pawing hands away, Mannfred wrapped his cloak around him to keep it from the filthy hands of the Zombies, and wiped irritatedly at the damp smudges they had left. He looked up just in time to see another flash in the distance, and a whistling noise grew in his ears until everything suddenly vanished in an explosion of noise, pain, fire, smoke and dirt. After that, all was darkness and silence.
Mannfred wears a cannonball after failing to heed the feeble warnings from his unit. 
The Necromancer on the left flank was one of the few characters to survive the battle. 
A relatively empty table toward the end of the game.
The Empire right flank looks pretty solid after all its reforms.

End of Turn 6

Final Battle Points:
Vampire Counts: 16
Empire/Dwarfs: 16

Final result: Stalemate

The table as it stood at the end of the game.
A more detailed map can be found here.

Aftermath

That's right people, we were losing the game and my army was folding, so I swallowed my pride and had a crack at cannon-sniping the enemy general. He failed the first Look Out Sir test he was required to make, and took 3 wounds, which happened to be exactly how many he had left. It was an incredibly cheap way to bring him down, but it was the end of the game and I was annoyed by my inability to get to him in combat in the last couple of turns due to that ridiculous FAQ ruling that you can't overrun after undead crumble from combat resolution – that meant the Krakenberg Halberdiers couldn't force a path through, and in the end they were victimised by my only remembering that ruling after I charged the Black Knights. So I took my frustration out on Mannfred. So shoot me. No, shoot Mannfred...

The gunning down of Mannfred and Gothard being killed in the final turn, along with this entourage, did wonders for the Empire tally. We were losing badly at that point, but those 4 bonus points dragged things back to a draw.

This game wasn't really about out-playing the opposition, but I'll discuss some of the tactics and what worked and didn't work in a follow-up post shortly. For now, I'll leave you with an epilogue to wrap up our story...

Epilogue

Smoke shrouded the battlefield, mingling with the mists that were already spreading from the fens, despite it only being the late afternoon. The field was littered with the dead and dying, although teams of men were trawling the field, listening for the moans of the latter so that they could bring them for treatment at the hands of the battlefield surgeons.

Kallad Stormwarden stood in the centre of the carnage, looking about grimly. Beside him stood the remnants of the Empire command, such as they were. A couple of captains, a warrior priest and a witch hunter were all he could find. Somewhere over near the surgeons was Count Martin's wounded uncle, but the man seemed slightly unhinged and Kallad was just as glad that he was off having his wounds seen to, rather than joining this meeting now.

Master Stormwarden, it is our general consensus that at this point, you are in overall command,” said the knight captain solemnly, he helmet tucked under his armoured arm. The other captain and warrior priest nodded their affirmation, as the witch hunter looked around.

In that case, Herr Dwarf, I shall make my report to you,” the witch hunter spoke in a harsh, rasping voice, and the look on his face was sour. But then, Kallad suspected that this was his habitual expression. “I have scoured the field with a team of state troopers. We can find no trace of the Vampire's body, although we definitely found the crater where he fell.”

This is not unexpected, witch hunter,” the knight captain spoke once more. “The undead withdrew in good order when Von Carstein fell, and that would suggest that one of his underlings took charge. No doubt they retrieved his corpse on the way through. We assumed this would happen, but were in no position to try to prevent it.”

Kallad scowled. He knew the captain was right, but the need for revenge burned in his gut. The battle had not been decisive either way, but this felt like a loss. Their army had been all but beheaded by the Vampire's foul minions, and they had no body to show for their sacrifice. A vast army of the dead remained at large, and Mannfred might yet reappear at its head. “What of Stirland?” he asked.

The warrior priest answered, “He lives, Master Dwarf. But barely. The wounds taken from the ghouls are terrible and already infected; I fear poison surges through his system, and my prayers have done little for him. Perhaps the Grand Theogonist might have had better luck, but his body has been recovered and no amount of prayer will help him now. Count Martin's fate is in the hands of the gods.”

Kallad's frown deepened further. “I fear we have taken the worst of this battle. Many of my kinsmen lie dead, and the revenge that we sought remains unsatisfied. This encounter will see more entries in the Book of Grudges, when we had instead sought to strike some out.”

The Stirland captain spoke quietly when he said, “The Vampire may yet be dead. We must hope in that, lest all our sacrifices have been in vain. Excuse me, I must tend to my wounded men.” He turned and walked away, as did the other captain and the warrior priest. Only the witch hunter remained with Kallad.

I don't know about you, Herr Dwarf, but I will not believe the villain is dead until I see his corpse with my own eyes, and drive a wooden stake through his rotten heart.”

Kallad nodded, “Aye, manling. I'll not rest until I can be certain my kinsmen have been avenged.”

The End



Thus ends our rather epic battle report. If you've managed to read this far, you've done very well! Thanks for taking the time to get all the way through! If you want to read other details of the game or look at your leisure through the photo gallery, you should go to the Battle of Hel Fenn main page.

12 comments:

  1. Crazy ending! Good little black coach that could! Looks like it was a hell of a lot of fun.

    Dave

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    1. Yeah, it was good fun. As for that little black coach, if it had just managed to pull a killing blow (and Kallad had failed his ward save), the Vampire Counts would have won despite the cannon shot... So nearly the hero of the hour.

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  2. beautifully written =) a very mad game indeed!
    I loved the cannon at the end... I end up doing little things like that to opponents every now and again that annoy the heck out of them and turn the tables in my favour.
    thank you for sharing this game and taking the time to write it up so.

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    1. Thanks Jessica.

      I confess I don't normally go for cannon sniping, but I was pushed over the edge when I realised I couldn't overrun with the halberdiers. Let this be a lesson to VC players everywhere - push your opponent too far with stupid FAQs and prepare to be gunned down without honour!

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  3. hands down, the best batrep ive read. lots of pics, well written, and easy to follow all the carnage, nice one greg

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    1. Thanks Ben, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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  4. Awesome. The painting. The armies. The battle. The write-up. Something to aspire towards!

    greenhorde.weebly.com

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    1. Thanks Jonah. Those big reports in the old White Dwarfs used to be something I aspired to, so glad we could achieve something similar here.

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  5. This BatRep was absolutely astonishing. It was like reading something that Black Library published, difference being that I could actually see it instead of just my imagination. Splendid and well done

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    1. Thanks Eric, glad you enjoyed it.

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  6. This is quite possibly the best battle report ive read :D love your way of describing the scene!!! :)

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