Dark Magic crackles in the night air. Through an endless barrage of cannon and handgun fire, wolves and giant bats tear across the field to rend man and machine alike. Undead warriors, their skulls glowing with balefire, clash with soldiers of the Empire, Sigmar's faithful making a desperate stand to curtail the spread of undeath on this Night of Mysteries.
The game was played at my friend Steve Stiefel's house on his beautiful terrain. You can see more of his finished Empire Army and works-in-progress over on theWarhammer-Empire.comforum.
Moving into the 4th turn, Steve and I have both suffered catastrophic miscasts that injured a majority of our spell casters, and we've each lost a Lord-level character. My dire wolves have absorbed most of Steve's cannonfire, sparing my larger blocks of troops. A few wolves and a varghulf have devastated the missile troops on the left flank, but my black knights have been all but completely ground away in combat.
Turn 4: Vampire Counts
All that remained of my Hellfire Knights was a single unit champion. He valiantly charged into the Helblaster crew. With luck, I'd be able to resurrect a few more in the magic phase. Speaking of magic, the black coach had siphoned enough dice to max out its Evovation of Death abilities. It was now ethereal, and could fly. (Those wings aren't just for show!) I threw it into the Obsidian Order of Sigmar, hoping to crush some of those Inner Circle knights. If the coach couldn't break the unit, it would be flanked by Steve's flagellants.
The Crimson Reapers charged into the Helblaster volley gun. I attempted to charge with both the grave guard and the Red Guard skeletons just behind them. Unfortunately, the skeletons couldn't fit through the gap between the clock tower and the grave guard; their charge failed, and they inched their way forward instead. My grave guard were now in danger of being engaged by the swordsmen during Steve's turn.
The rest of my line moved forward, and the varghulf that has chased the swordsmen off the field last turn, returned and moved into position.
After dispelling the Cascading Fire-Cloak cast on the Greatswords last turn, the rest of my magic phase was no help; every spell attempt was either a failure or dispelled by Steve's wizards. I did, however get to participate in my first shooting phase of the game– The zombie dragon, which could not move thanks to the monster reaction requiring it to stand guard over its fallen rider, fired its breath weapon at the now unengaged free company. The pestilential breath killed a few of them.
In the combat phase, the dire wolves and black knight that were fighting Steve's war machines both broke and destroyed their opponents. The Crimson Reaper skeletons also crushed the Helblaster they were fighting and overran into the cannon beyond. The nearby destruction caused the handgunner and crossbowmen units to panic.
The Greatswords held against the grave guard. Both units, swinging their cumbersome great weapons, blew out a rank of troops from each other. I directed a few attacks toward the Erlich Karlz the Fire wizard lord and took him out.
The witch hunter swung his sword into the cloud of bats swirling around him and every blow connected. The combat result was enough to significantly weakened the swarm, but not finish it completely.
As the black coach thundered into Steve's knights I rolled for its impact hits. Including the bonus from it scythed wheels, the coach struck 3 hits. Pitiful. The attacks from the wraith driver and the steeds didn't fare any better and I's only killed one knight. None of the characters in the unit had any magic weapons, so they couldn't physically hurt the ethereal coach, but Steve's unit won the combat thanks to his War Banner and army standard bonuses. The coach suffered a wound. The flagellants would most certainly be charging it next turn, and that would be the end of that.
Turn 4: Empire
At the start of the turn Steve generated the steam points for his tanks. Steam tank Weltuntergang, its structural integrity having been weakened from fighting the black knights, could not contain the steam pressure and exploded!
The crazed flagellants surged into the side of the black coach, and Albrecht Hexenjaeger charged his War Altar into the side of the Crimson Reaper skeletons.
In the center of the field, the swordsmen charged into the Greatsword/ grave guard combat. There wasn't enough room for the unit to wheel into position between the clock tower and my unit, so we settled for a frontal, corner-to-corner charge.
Behind Steve's line, the crossbowmen fled the battlefield, but the handgunners rallied. The Celestial Hurricanum repositioned itself to face the lone black knight.
By this time, both of Steve's Fire Wizards were gone, as were a significant chunk of his warrior priests. He was able to augment the War Altar and blast a few zombies with Shem's Burning Gaze.
Most of the war machines were gone or engaged in combat, but the remaining Helblaster volley gun was able to pick a few zombies off of the hill. The steam tank aimed its cannon at the vargulf, and basted it apart.
The combat phase went very well for the Empire– as expected, the flagellants turned the tide of the fight with the black coach. With no more impact hits available, the coach could only rely on the wraith and steeds for attacks. It directed everything into the knights hoping to significantly weaken the unit, but all the attacks either missed or were deflected by the knights' armor. The combat resolution finished the coach and the flagellants overran while the knights reformed to face the center.
The Knights of the White Wolf, who had been fighting since turn one continued to hold against the Red Guard skeletons.
The Crimson Reapers were crushed under the wheels of Hexenjaeger's War Altar. The remaining skeletons, in turn, failed to finish off the cannon crew and then suffered even more casualties from the combat resolution. The fight between Steve's infantry and grave guard also saw the undead taking heavy casualties; what were 30 models at the start of this turn were reduced to 12!
Joachim Schadel the witch hunter stood triumphant, having finally finished off the last of the swarming bats!
Turn 5: Vampire Counts
My engaged units were in serious trouble and I needed to get the rest of my army up fast. The grave guard on the left flank charged Steve's witch hunter and the lone black knight stormed the hangunner line. He was too close for them to stand and shoot, otherwise he might not have made it.
The Red Guard skeletons reformed 5-wide so they could fit through the gap and into combat on the following turn. My general Dimitri Von Koss joined them to add some fighting prowess. Marduk the Ghoul King moved forward with the skeletons and ghouls.
In the magic phase, things went from bad to worse– With a high roll for the Winds of Magic and lots of power dice, I started off with Marduk casting Gaze of Nagash at the Celestial Hurricanum. The spell was cast with irresistible force and the Hurricanum took a couple wounds. But when I rolled for the miscast the result came up as a Dimensional Cascade! The explosive energies blew apart skeletons and ghouls, and Marduk himself was pulled into Realm of Chaos! Noooo!
At least the miscast didn't cause me to lose any power dice. Dimitri attempted to cast Curse of Years on the swordsmen, which Steve promptly dispelled. Between Dimitri and the necromancer Samus Garz, they were able to resurrect a couple black knights and a few grave guard, and some zombies. The general also augmented the unit with Hellish Vigor so they could re-roll to wound in close combat. The lore attribute enabled me to recover a few wounds my characters had suffered earlier in the game.
The combats were stagnant– My units, though outmatched, held fast. The Crimson Reapers dwindled to three men (including the wraith Korak the Grim). Thanks to the resurrected grave guard, their unit was not eliminated and managed to whittle away more Greatswords. The knights, now three models strong with a full command, fought against the handgunners, who refused to break.
The charging grave guard blew through the witch hunter and overran onto the flank of the swordsmen.
Turn 5: Empire
The Obsidian Order of Sigmar charged into the flank of the grave guard. Steve also sent the Celestial Hurricanum after my black knights.
The Light wizards cleared out more zombies with their Burning Gaze and the Helblaster nearly finished of the unit. The skeletons were still reeling from Marduk's implosion when the steam tank turned its cannon on them and killed a few more.
In combat, the Hurricanum failed to take out any of the black knights. A few handgunners were killed, resulting in a minor victory for the knights. The Imperial troops held their ground.
The charge of the Inner Circle knights turned the tide of the battle, but not enough to eliminate the grave guard. The unit had been reduced to a single rank through casualties and combat resolution. Korak and The Crimson Reapers held their own against the War Altar and only lost a single model.
The Knights of the White Wolf, weary from the longest battle they'd ever seen, finally fell to the skeletons' rusty swords. His unit dead, the warrior priest of Ulric's resolve finally broke. His war-wearied steed carried him beyond the reach of the pursuing skeletons, but only just.
Turn 6: Vampire Counts
"Comes the dawn." (Literally.) Steve and I had been playing all night, and daylight was just starting to creep through the windows as we moved into the final turn.
The skeletons, hot on the heels of that warrior priest, charged ahead, forcing him to flee further. They caught him just short of the wizards, whereupon Hieronymous Bosch panicked and ran. Dimitri and his skeletons charged into combat with the swordsmen. Likely, this combat would decide the game.
The Ghouls engaged the steam tank, and the remaining dire wolf charged the Celestial Hurricanum. The only other move was for the necromancer Nieman Kimmel to extricate himself from the zombies which reformed into a horde formation to deal with the approaching flagellants.
The magic phase was uneventful. (Thankfully!) That just left the combat phase. Korak finally killed the remaining members of the cannon crew, and was the lone survivor of the combat, still engaged with Steve's general and the War Altar.
The dire wolf and black knights inflicted the final wound on the Hurricanum and broke the handgunners.
In the central engagement, Dimitri and the skeletons, with the flanking grave guard unit handily won the fight. The last of the Greatswords were eliminated, and with a combat result of 21 to 8, the swordsmen and knights broke. My units pursued and caught them all.
Turn 6 Empire
The free company and flagellants both charged into the fray. At the edge of the battlefield, the wizard lord Hieronymous Bosch found his nerve and turned to continue fighting.
The Light wizards each made an attempt to finish off the remaining grave guard with Shem's Burning Gaze, but the necromancers dispelled both. Albrecht Hexenjaeger, however, was able to incinerate Korak the Grim with Soul Fire.
The Helblaster picked off two more zombies and the steam tank ground away nearly half of the ghoul unit. Steve's other units hacked away, but their efforts were not enough to eliminate either the zombie horde or the remaining skeletons.
As the sun creeps above the horizon, the legions of undead skulk back to the shadows, leaving a broken and battered Empire battle line in their wake. The cost to Albrecht Hexenjaeger's forces was high, but they've all sworn oaths to die in the service of Sigmar. Their sacrifice on this Geheimnisnacht spared the citizens of the surrounding townships untold devastation.
After counting up the victory points, the Empire Army scored 3155 points including 3 captured standards. Including 6 captured banners and the army standard, and 50 points for an underdog challenge (the witch hunter had challenged the champion of the grave guard unit and lost), the Vampire Counts scored 4954 points– a solid victory for The Legion of the Infernal Skull!
"I should have been more aggressive early in the battle. I fought a defensive line for the first few turns for fear his Hellfire Knights would cut me to shreds. Rob’s chaff units did what they were supposed to by diverting attention away from his blocks of troops. My large units did perform well once the bulk of our armies met center field, but having to kill his units multiple times while I kept taking casualties is typically what you’d expect fighting the Undead, and I simply didn’t have the manpower to hold out any longer than I did.
"My knights however, performed brilliantly, especially the White Wolves. Funny thing is I normally never take knights! This is something that’s going to change, and there’s already more knights in my painting queue. My war machines did their jobs quite wonderfully as well, with my cannons sniping Rob’s bigger models and the Helblasters sticking around without any malfunctions. This was one of the first games in a while where I’d taken multiple Engineers, and they certainly helped out by allowing re-rolls of artillery dice or lending their higher ballistic skill.
"On the subject of characters, I’d hoped my two Captains would have paid their points a bit more, it just happened that the units they were in didn’t see much combat. Playing with the added dice from the Winds of Magic actually allowed me to buff a few units, but as any of my opponents know, a degree from the Imperial College of Magic will never hang on my castle’s wall. The Warrior Priests-now they were my workhorses, as they should be in any Sigmarite driven list. Fighting prowess, battle prayers, and even the extra pip of leadership proved crucial in the fight, and yes, there’s more of them on my wishlist to Santa.
"Overall, my plan mostly worked. Par for course, things went pear-shaped by turn five, as there’s really no way to win a war of attrition against Vampire Counts. This was a bear of a game; FIFTEEN solid hours of dice rolling, Rolling Rocks, two pots of coffee, and pizza. That’s not even including set-up and cleanup. We really did battle all night until dawn, and had a hell of a lot of laughs while we did it too. From playing Ride of the Valkyries for pigeon attacks that failed miserably, to producing a skeleton out of nowhere to represent Seth’s sizzling carcass…and even our buddy Lou who was there as a spectator and occasional rules lawyer, by providing an ever changing soundtrack and tales of Soft Billy. Really, it was a total blast. What are you doing next weekend, Rob?"
I'll echo Steve's sentiments about the game. It was a lot of fun, even if it was absolutely exhausting. (Steve's "fifteen hours" doesn't take into account the setup and teardown; deployment practically took as long as a regular game of Warhammer!)
It was a great change of pace to field some elements that I don't normally use like the zombie dragon. Next time I'll definitely need to give the rider a ward save. My plan to use the bat swarms to allow my units first strike didn't quite work out as I'd hoped. I couldn't seem to coordinate the charges well enough to get the bats into combat alongside any of my units. But they drew fire and one of them killed a wizard lord, so I've got no complaints.
I'm always pleased with how these large-scale events turn out story-wise for my army. The Vampires all suffered from miscasting– Dimitri brought about the initial miscast that killed Seth, and then Marduk was dragged, screaming to hell. The good thing about the undead is that you can't keep them down for long. "Death" is just another term for a temporary loss of power. Marduk being trapped in the Realm of Chaos could prove problematic, but if anyone is tough enough to survive in hell, he is. Nieman Kimmel's wish to be back in command of The Legion of the Infernal Skull may just come true. He'll first need to reconstitute the wraith Korak the Grim, of course...
Thanks for following Steve and me on this epic adventure!
This last batch of maps is just to have the complete battle, in order, so it can be cycled through in the preview pane like a turn-by-turn animation.