Thursday, 15 February 2018

The Deadly Assassin



Being an assassin may seem like a glamorous job, but behind every swift, sharp exit there’s a tonne of preparation and spadework – quite literally in some cases.

Dig a deep enough rut and your target’s wagon will ‘just happen’ to break a wheel in it. Thus distracted, your target is easy prey to your ministrations. Usually this is the end result of your client’s displeasure in your target but sometimes it’s, y’know, just for fun.

The assassin watched as the merchant’s goods spilled out of the stricken cart. The fat bejewelled man was busy berating his driver while the bodyguards looked on with wry amusement. No-one saw the assassin coming.

First rule of assassination? Not only make your own luck, but remove other people’s as well...


A quick post before the half-term holiday next week. The only soldier type I was lacking was the assassin. This has now been duly rectified with this Reaper miniature.

The cart is a very nice model, not only as a general piece of scatter scenery but also an integral part of the Loot the Cart scenario from Thaw of the Lich Lord. It was kindly given to me by my pal Giles (cheers mate!) and given a quick paintjob.

Monday, 12 February 2018

Tiszirain: Demon Prince of Poor Painting Decisions



There are times when even the most pure of heart are vulnerable to corruption. For wargames figure painters this is often the time when he/she asks him/herself: ‘what colour scheme shall we paint this in?

One cursed night this happened to me. I had found a great model – a Reaper Bones Frost Wyrm - that I wanted to use to represent Tiszirain: demon lord of victory and consumption. Little did I know that this aspect of the creature is also the demon of poor painting decisions! Unaware of the danger, I merely listened as, what I thought was my inner painter’s voice said: ‘Go on, paint it yellow. You love painting yellow…


Then, with a slight chuckle, I heard the words: ‘oh, as a matter of fact, why not push the boat out and go for a black and yellow-striped wasp theme?’ And then, it laughed: ‘and paint my Chilopendra minions yellow too...’ for I had recently undercoated some CP Models Gene Reaper aliens for these demonic underlings. 'Paint a black stripe on them too,' it giggled. 'Oh dear, you've made them look worse - never mind, paint over it with... more yellow!'


By now the thing was roaring with malicious mirth, gibbering sarcastic encouragement as I wrestled with my chosen colour scheme. ‘Green or brown wash? I think green…’, ‘no, add more water… oh look, it’s puddling around the bases…’, ‘just go for your standard quickstain, it won’t dirty the yellow at all…

By the time I got to the drybrushing I was howling in anguish! However, battling on I clung to whatever sanity I could grasp and eventually applied the final coat of varnish - the hateful things were done! Confident that I had exorcised the monster, I reached for the next model in the pile – a CP Models Three-headed Lurker that I wanted to use as a Toravor (a multi-headed burrowing demon). With renewed confidence I opened my paints tub, as the voice sniggered: ‘Go on, paint it orange…’



Thursday, 8 February 2018

Aeon Flixx and the Fungi of Felstad


+++ALERT! ALERT! CONTAINMENT FIELD BREACHED!+++

The laboratory shook, fluorescent lights flickering as somewhere deep within the research complex, something went ‘CRUMP!’ Aeon Flixx threw down her clipboard as a door was flung open by a terrified man in a white lab coat.

“It’s time!” he squealed.

“But I’m not ready!” she replied. “My research isn’t-“

“It’ll have to do! I’ve seen you zap lightning from your fingertips, so-“

“in laboratory conditions!”

“Never the less,” he continued, waving her objection aside, “there’s no more time – they’re breaking through! The capsule is ready. You’re the only one who can do the old magic – you have to go back and put a stop to this.”

“But the paradoxes haven’t been-“

“I said there’s no time! You need to go Aeon! Now! Aeon!”

“Aeon!”

A large and calloused hand was roughly shaking her shoulder. She sat up, rubbing her eyes, focussing on the wide face before her.

Ah, Brunhilde: the best acolyte the Sisters of the Pendulum had to offer, for the price at least – damn that weight limit. A decent enough student for the time period, but, bless her, somewhat lacking in finesse.

“You were dreaming again ma’am.”

“Mmm?” Aeon sat up gingerly. “Argh, what was I drinking last night?”

“More than enough ma’am…” the apprentice said reproachfully.

“Huh, when I come from, the beer is a little less… robust...” she sighed ay Brunhilde puzzled frown. “Never mind – have the men found the entrance to the complex?”

“Yes ma’am, though they report that other wizards are also exploring the ruins.”

“Heh, ‘wizard’ – such an archaic term… Oh well, let’s hope that they’re friendly…”

Time then for a new campaign, headed by a new wizard! Step forward Aeon Flixx, Chronomancer, and her big-boned apprentice Brunhilde.

Aeon is something of an experiment. Not only is she a Chronomancer – a school I’m unfamiliar with, but I also deliberately chose spells that I’ve never used before. Considering that most Chronomancer spells have pretty high casting values, this is going to be interesting…


Anyway, let’s follow her on her first adventure as she delves into the Breeding Pits to face the Moving Maze!

The table was laid, with small pieces of terrain as per the scenario – all the better to move about, which was done the fungus that grew on the walls (okay, actually by whoever rolls the lowest initiative each round).


Aeon, Brunhilde and their band of entry-level soldiers (a brace each of thieves, thugs, archers and infantryman) emerged from a dark doorway and into the chamber. The outside chill gave way to a moist warmth, with the air stuffy with an earthy, fungal smell.


But there were other intruders… The Illusionist Shazam! (I must fight the urge to spell that with an exclamation mark) and his equally low-level warband have emerged on the opposite side.


Giles beat me to the first initiative roll (yes, it was going to be one of those games), which at least allowed me to move a piece of terrain, blocking off a piece of treasure (Shazam(!) having cast reveal secret).


Undeterred, the Illusionist quickly grabbed two pieces of treasure, which allowed me to place two Violent Fungi. Using the creature placement rule mod in ‘Into the Breeding Pits’, I placed one next to Shazam’s doorway, and another out of sight close by.


Aeon’s men also moved forward and grabbed a treasure, allowing Giles to return the compliment and plonk a Violent Fungus next to her door. Thankfully the two infantrymen were on hand to splat it. Aeon cast her first spell, giving a thief fleet feet. Make a note of this, as you won’t see many more spell from her this game!


Brunhilde also tried to cast fleet feet, it being the easiest spell to cast at present, but fails, taking damage. Yes, like I said, this was going to be one of those games where the Dice Gods decided to turn their backs on me…


Shazam(!)’s men picked up another treasure, allowing me to place another Violent Fungi. While spurning Aeon, the Dice Gods smiled kindly upon her erstwhile opponent, allowing the Illusionist to cast most of his spells and win the initiative for the most part.


The infantrymen easily defeated the Violent Fungus, but as it fell it released a cloud of deadly spores. Both warrior inhaled the cloud (both failing to beat a 10 on a will roll), thus becoming wounded. Guess who, as part of the experiment, didn’t pick the heal spell…


Still at least some of the opposing warband were also getting spored. Although they had an apothecary and the heal spell, so it wasn’t such an issue.


Another treasure for Aeon, and another mushroom man shambling around the nearest exit. Happily, though wounded, the infantrymen were able to defeat it, safe in the knowledge that they couldn’t get infected twice.


Giles was still getting the better of the dice, while I was decidedly not. Shazam’s warhound slew a fungus and avoided the spores as more treasure was nabbed by him.


The upside of losing the initiative was being able to move around terrain. This gave me a couple of chances to open up lines of sight, albeit reduced to 20” as per the expansion rules. Alas this didn’t give me much of an edge, s spellcasting and shooting rolls continued to disappoint.


Another Violent Fungus sprouted up near the doorway, over which Aeon’s infantrymen stood guard. Shazam’s warband were also treated to a similar fungal treat.


The infantrymen dispatched the overgrown toadstool before Brunhilde could wade in to assist (thus potentially earning extra experience). On the opposite side, both wizard and apprentice would gain said experience by squaring up to the fungus.


Before the game, Giles had asked for two extra treasures – the results of a reveal secret and a fool’s gold spell. One of Aeon’s thugs approached a treasure chest with a sinking sense of inevitability.


Yep… Poof! Away goes the illusiory treasure. That left the revealed secret treasure, sitting squarely within Shazam’s grasp.


At the away end, the illusionist’s men suffered a large bout of fungal infection after slaying a mushroom man, but there was little I could do to capitalise on this, as they were pretty much home and dry by now.


Still, at least Giles got to move one piece of terrain, after I uncharacteristically won the initiative, blocking Aeon's line of sight. Aeon, despairing of ever casting a spell successfully again, moved up along the flank with a couple of her men in a vain attempt to bother the opposition.


Amazingly she moved closer and managed to cast a wizard eye, thus getting around that pesky scenery. This left her exposed to the attentions of the enemy warhound. Luckily my roll was high enough to force a push-back, allowing my thug to jump to the rescue. Yes, he was defeated.


But at least one of my archers managed to redress the balance, turning Rover into a pincushion. I had one last chance – win the initiative and, drawing upon Aeon’s remaining health, blast the illusionist with an elemental bolt… But the Illusionist warband won the roll again, and promptly buggered off.


An interesting, but, for me, frustrating game. I can’t really blame the high casting value of my spell choices as I couldn’t even roll the ‘easier’ ones, such as fleet feet. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be. The Violent Fungus were a very tricky foe to face, for defeating them was no guarantee of staying unscathed.

I got three treasures to Giles’ four, which, adding the XP he gained by having his spellcasters fight the Violent Fungus, earned him the win. His batrep can be read here. Will I have to play the long game as Chronomancer, or will this leave me open to being outclassed? Time will tell.


“Hmm, well that could have gone better…” Aeon muttered as she wiped the green mould off her robes. She sat down and winced as various the parts of her body that ached and twinged competed for attention with those bits still awash with youthful adrenaline.

She began to rummage through the meagre pile of treasure as Brunhilde lumbered into the room. The apprentice knelt before the Chronomancer, offering up her twin wands as if they were some kind of supplicatory offering.

“I have failed you ma’am! I hereby resign from-“

“Oh, stop that you!” Aeon tapped her on the shoulder with her feebly fizzing wand. “I was hardly Zangarium the Mighty myself back there.”

“Who?”

“Eh, after your time perhaps. Listen dear, today wasn’t entirely a washout…” She fished out a small battered book from the pile beside her.

Brunhilde’s eyes widened as she read the just-legible title. “By the Great Pendulum - a reaction spell! They’re incredibly rare!”

“Even more so in my day – that’s why we’re poking around those old tunnels – there are things hidden in them that will aid me in my mission considerably. So, y'know, it could be much worse.”

She cast her mind back (or should that be forward?) to the time the containment field was breached.

"Much, much worse..."

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Epilogue

Johannes Oddleigh sat glumly in the empty parlour of the Cloven Hoof. It had been eerily quiet since his master had dismissed the bulk of his warband.

The word ‘master’ seemed to stick in his throat recently. Hadn’t he blasted his enemies with elemental power? Hadn’t he mind-controlled their minions and had them turn on their comrades? Hadn’t stared the Lich Lord in the face and traded shots with him for Gods’ sake?

And what of his so-called master? Half the time he had fluffed his spells, or had to empower them, leaving him weak? And now, with the great evil destroyed and the frozen city’s secrets for the taking, he remained locked himself in his chambers, caring for nothing but his studies.

“I’m worth more than this…” Oddleigh muttered, scuffing his foot in the dust.

“Indeed you are, Johannes Daemoncall.”

The startled apprentice shot guiltily up to his feet.

“Oh! M-master, I- er, sorry? Johannes who?”

Thaddeus Daemoncall chuckled. “It is the privilege of every wizard to promote his apprentice when he deems him ready, and you are, I believe, more than worthy.”

“Y-you mean I’m a-?”

“A wizard – yes. You have earned the right to bear the name Daemoncall and take your place at Ulfenhalle. Why, you have summoned more demons in the field than most of the faculty – it wouldn’t surprise me if they made you a dean!”

“But we’re in exile!”

“I am in exile Johannes, not you.” The old Summoner’s haggard and careworn face suddenly lit up with a warm smile. “You can return to the College in triumph, while I must embark on a much greater journey.”

“You’ve successfully cast the spell haven’t you?”

“Transcendence? Yes, a few moments ago in fact.” He raised an arm, allowing the sleeve to fall back to expose the glowing skin underneath. “I shall soon ascend into a higher plane of consciousness and leave this realm to fully explore those other realities that we have merely poked around for so long.”

Johannes coughed, flighting back the tears. “Y-you’re really going?”

“Yes my friend. The process is almost complete. So much to say, too little time eh? At least I can save you the long journey ba-“

And then there was light.

-------

Mother Goosegog tapped her foot impatiently as the Arch-Druid of Wiccan Hedgeology peered at the potion she had retrieved from her battered haversack.

“You say you found this potion of restoration in the frozen city madam?” he asked, his voice rumbling over the noisy crowd in the great hall. “And that it can cure the disease that afflicts your village?”

“Aye – or at least reverse it’s effects. But there’s not enough in that bottle, which is why I need your laboratories to work out how to make more of the stuff!”

“The frozen city…” The Arch-Druid, sighed and, shifting his massive bulk, gently handed the potion back to the witch. “Look, this lich business has got us somewhat concerned and, honestly madam, this is the Ulfenhalle College of Magick, not some workshop rental space. I don’t think that-“

Suddenly there was an explosion!

Or, not exactly an explosion, for explosions aren’t usually silent and don’t normally leave everything standing.

But to the throng of wizards, students and general staff, it felt like, with that amount of light, there really should have been an explosion.

And in the epicentre, half-wreathed in the swirling dust, a young man in Summoner’s robes stepped out onto the flagstones.

“I gather there’s a vacancy in the Department of Extra-Planar Studies. My name is Johannes Daemoncall: Summoner. I am the former student of the great, transcended, Thaddeus Daemoncall - explorer of Frostgrave and destroyer of the Lich Lord! I hereby tender my application.”

He turned to the spluttering gaggle of senior wizards who were pushing themselves through the crowd, led by a skinny man in fine, if wax-spattered, robes.

“Chancellor Runeskry isn’t it? How nice of you to greet me personally. Thaddeus sends his regards and requests that the Department gets it’s summoning hall back – you know, the one you filled with books. Oh, and in case anyone has a problem with that…”

Dark clouds began to gather behind the grinning Summoner as something large, horned and cloven hoofed unfolded it’s massive bat-like wings.

“…say good-day to my little friend…”

-------

The soldiers formerly in the employ of Thaddeus Daemoncall had failed to reach a consensus. Some, like the Halfling thief Nifty Halfinch, had opted to return to their homes with enough gold to, in his words, ‘buy a three-storey mound and enough pies and wenches to fill it.’

Others, such as Goldtooth the treasure hunter and Gog the barbarian, were all for selling their services to the next highest bidder – their reputation as lich-slayers enabling them, they believed, to name a handsome price.

The surviving tribesmen; they who had first started out with the Summoner on his journey to Felstad; still squabbled among themselves about the merits of staying on to fight versus the delights of a bigger herd of goats and a nicer yurt.

In fact, the only thing they could all agree upon was that the ale served in the hostelry was bloody good.

Perhaps they could have been excused then, for failing to notice the cloaked figure until it stood before them, looming over the table.

As hands clumsily reached for weapons she chuckled, pulling back her hood to reveal a bifurcated face: half-smooth and comely, half-careworn and wrinkled.

“Hello boys,” she said. “Looking for work?”

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Thaddeus’ Journey Ends


The ground shook and lightning speared through the broiling clouds as Thaddeus Daemoncall and his apprentice Johaness Oddleigh tumbled out of the Cloven Hoof inn.

The rest of the warband followed suit before falling back through the ancient coaching arch to escape the huge shadow that enveloped them.

Not just them in fact, but the whole quarter and, indeed, the whole city.

“What in the name of the Gods is that?” screamed Halfinch the Hobbit thief.

Thaddeus gazed through the tortured sky at the gargantuan mass that blotted out what remained of the feeble daylight. “Something big… floating upwards yet chained to the ground… I see buildings… Ye Gods! It is a castle of some kind – a floating castle!”

He turned to his apprentice, thrusting into his hands the ancient grimoire that he had been feverishly studying for the last few days.

“Quick, put this somewhere safe. I believe I have the spell but it’s no use to us until-“

“ALL BOW BEFORE THE LICH LORD!”

The guttural voice boomed from horizon to horizon.


Avoiding the fleeing warbands and hordes of undead that swarmed throughout the frozen city, it took what seemed like an eternity to reach one of the massive chains that tethered the floating mass.

Thaddeus had recovered his wits with remarkable speed and ordered his followers onwards. Now they stood under the behemoth.

“This is it boys. It seems like we’re the only ones brave enough to put a stop to this madness. Well, so be it! Let’s-“

“Oh don’t be so melodramatic you old fool!”

The Summoner span to confront the pricker of his pompous balloon. The Sigilist Toddlbrew smirked.

“I somehow doubt you could defeat the Lich Lord without my help.”

“Hmm, an alliance then? Very well.” Thaddeus stepped back with a mocking bow and pointed to the chain. “After you…”


And so Giles and I came to finale of the Lich Lord campaign – the Final Battle! The table was set up as per instructions – a treasure-laden wall along one edge, against which the evil Liche Lord himself stood in readiness, flanked by deadly Wraith Knights. Before him in the centre, a gang of cultists prostrated themselves while on the opposite side a dozen armoured skeletons were placed, waiting to pounce on the allied warbands as they climbed up onto the nearest corners and deployed.


Thaddeus had managed to summon a minor demon, and had also spent a large portion of his hard-earned gold on magical bows and, after seeing the floating ruins, a ring of slow fall for both him and Oddleigh. As a starting gambit he ordered the demon to support his men in attacking the skeletons.


Toddlebrew had also beefed up his warband with magic weapons and similarly advanced on the skeletal horde. Would both warbands be able to shelve their differences?


A rough plan had been agreed – reduce the skeletons to manageable numbers and then take on the cultists. Once they had been defeated it would be time to regroup and advance on the Lich Lord and his knights.


Thaddeus’ band took on the vanguard of the creaking tide, losing an infantryman in the process. The demon clawed a skeleton into dust, but they kept on coming.


Toddlebrew’s captain and knight also attacked the skeletons, reducing their numbers while the archers moved up to whittle down the cultists. Thaddeus’ missile troops also took up positions to shoot.


The combined warbands took on the skeletal foe from either side, battering their way through crumbling bone and rusting armour. Even Halfinch the thief found himself getting stuck in!


At long last most of the skeletons were defeated, but this was only a temporary reprieve, for the Lich Lord began to raise another skeleton in a bid to replace his minions.


As the warriors cautiously moved forward, taking cover wherever they could to avoid the Lich Lord’s elemental bolts, the cultists in the centre began to scatter. With no victims in sight they moved randomly, but ended up converging on Toddlebrew’s band on the right flank.


This allowed Thaddeus’ men to move along the left flank, shooting at the backs of the cultists whilst being protected from the Lich Lord’s wrath with a wall spell. A draining word spell courtesy of the Sigilist also helped by nerfing the evil one's bolts.


A summoned zombie joined the fray in time to assist Thaddeus’ band in finishing off the final two skeletons. Now they could move forward towards the centre of the table.


Treasure hunter, warhound and a summoned imp took on a pair of fanatics. The imp was slain but soon were both cultists. Healed from injuries sustained in fighting the skeletons, the second treasure hunter was also moving up, as was the archer, who took up position to snipe at the Lich Lord with his magic bow.


Meanwhile Toddlebrew was busy buffing up his men, enabling them to defeat the last of the cultists. With most of his minions taken care of, it was time to focus on the Lich Lord’s bodyguards.


Both warbands were now in a general advance, with Thaddeus’ archer and keeping the Lich Lord occupied by dodging his elemental bolts and firing back in return. The Wraith Knights and newly raised skeleton were lured away from the wall and into battle.


On the right, the skeleton was easily shot down by Toddlebrew’s men, as their newly-hired minstrel kept up morale, lest the Lich Lord start playing mind games.


On the left, one of Thaddeus’ treasure hunters, ably assisted by Fluffy, hefted his magic sword and swung at a Wraith Knight.


Meanwhile the Sigilist’s band had engaged the other Wraith Knight. Tooled up with magic weapons they made short work of the fiend.


As did the treasure hunter, who sent his undead attacker back to the veil of shadows. Bereft of his underlings, the Lich Lord dodged ineffective magical arrow fire from Thaddeus’ men, but also failed to hit back.


Thaddeus himself had spent most of the battle keeping out of harm’s way, healing and summoning as necessary. But, with everyone else now battling the Lich Lord, it was time to stride purposely forward to hit the evil creature squarely between the eyes with an elemental ball.


Both wizards knew that the key to victory was to keep the Lich Lord busy to prevent him casting any spells. To this end Fluffy was sent forward to attack. The demonic warhound scored a critical hit! But alas her attacks were not magical and so the Lich Lord stood, but it was enough to keep him occupied.


Soon the combined might of both warbands converged on the Lich Lord. Those with magic weapons attacked, whilst those without stood in support. The Lich Lord screeched and raged, but was close to being overwhelmed.


But who would claim the honour of the kill? Thaddeus had already landed a couple of blows via elemental ball (one delivered by his treasure hunter, thanks to a pair of Eyes of Amoto), but in the end, it was Toddlebrew’s captain that landed the coup de gras.


As the Lich Lord crumbled into dust and rags, it was clear that his evil magic had died with him. The dark storm that raged ahead gave way to bright wintry sunshine. Chill winds abated, grey skies turned blue and birds sang. Oh, and the floating ruins began to plummet back to earth. Time to make a run for it!


Halfinch the thief and Goldtooth the treasure hunter couldn’t resist taking what treasure lay nearby, but Thaddeus graciously allowed Toddlebrew to lay claim to the rest. Instead the Summoner ferried his warband back down the great chains, leaving the demon and zombie to cover his retreat, just in case. Then, when he was satisfied, he and his apprentice walked calmly to the edge, turned to salute their erstwhile opponent and stepped over the rim…

Another great game! Giles could claim the win for this one, having killed the Lich Lord nd escapeing with the lion’s share of treasure, but I was also happy. We were fortunate that both spellcasters were at a very high level (having already gone through the main rulebook scenarios) and could afford to kit their warbands out in some serious magic gear. We both agreed that the scenario, and indeed the entire campaign, would have been a lot more challenging if we had started with low level wizards.


Things would have been even more complicated if we had decided to ditch the co-op and fight over the treasure once the Lich Lord was defeated. But as it was, Giles knew that this was to be the last time that I intended for Thaddeus to take to the field and that I cared little for treasure, experience and such…

Read Giles' take on the proceedings here.

“Ah, there’s nothing like leaving in style!”

Thaddeus and Oddleigh were still floating gently down as the Lich Lord’s lair crashed back into the crater it had left, sending out clouds of dust and debris. The Summoner and his apprentice watched as their comrades emerged from the mess, dusting themselves off as people clambered from the ruins to congratulate them.

Other survivors of the undead reign of terror were crowding around Toddlebrew and his band, cheering and marvelling at the huge haul of treasure they dragged along with them.

Thaddeus noted his apprentice’s frown and chuckled. “Ah my boy, let ‘em have their baubles! We’ve defeated the Lich Lord! Time for us to leave this madness behind and return in triumph to Ulfenhalle.”

“Um, will they be pleased to see us do you think?”

“Oh yes – in time at least. With the Lich Lord gone, I can now learn the ultimate secret.”

“You don’t mean-?”

“Oh yes – the spell to end all spells...”

He looked past the crowds, past the heaps of former undead mouldering in the sunlight, past the ships frozen on the Meregril river and the entrance to the now-dead Ghoul King’s lair, to the Cloven Hoof inn and the book hidden inside and laughed.