Goldtooth the treasure hunter fell from the top of the ruined archway and thudded into a snowdrift. Seconds later he emerged, unhurt, his wide grin gleaming brightly in the cold daylight.
“Sorry my lord, I haven’t quite got the hang of these Boots of Leaping yet.”
Thaddeus Daemoncall sighed. “Well, if they didn’t know we were here before, they do now. What did you see up there?”
“Oh it’s a gathering alright. I’m not sure what of though – some sort of men-beasts.” The treasure hunter frowned. “They’re guarding treasure though…”
The Summoner and his warband had been following the strange tracks for hours, wary of any ambush from the necromancer and his ever-growing legion of minions.
“Man-beasts?” Thaddeus stroked his beard. “Has the necromancer found his way into the fabled breeding pits perchance? Hmm…”
“Er, master, is this really wise?” Oddleigh the apprentice helped the treasure hunter to his feet as he spoke. “I mean, this place is crackling with a magic far more potent and evil than we can ever hope to muster. Legions of cultists, ghouls and undead - should we add beastmen to our list of woes as well?”
“Tsk tsk! You call yourself a spellcaster? Beast-crafting is an art that has been lost for centuries! If we are to defeat this undead lord, for I’m certain he’s no ordinary wizard, then perhaps it’s an art worth acquiring.” He cracked his knuckles. “Even if it means fighting for it…”
And so Thaddeus and his warband discover the bestial Rangifers (or, in this case, Gnolls from the Northstar plastic box set). Placed on the table are six Rangifers, each guarding a treasure token.
They may not know it, but Thaddeus and his adversary Hobron would be best advised to let these creatures live, for they are potential allies in the fight against the mysterious necromancer, and as such he has sent one of his most powerful servants to eliminate them.
Thaddeus’ band move forward, attracting the attention of the nearby Rangifers. Somehow sensing that it is important, the Summoner stations a magically-armed henchman on either flank, namely Sir Pierre the Knight on the left, and a summoned demon with magical attack trait on the right.
Hobron’s crew deploy opposite, also attracting Rangifers. Once again a draining word spell is deployed to take the edge of Thaddeus’ spells.
Whether it’s advisable or not, Goldtooth the treasure hunter wishes to live up to his calling and slays a Rangifer, after a telekinesis spell deprives it of it’s treasure. Meanwhile Hobron's crew are having to deal with an ice spider that has scuttled into the fray behind them.
Hobron has a great idea: pin the Rangifers down with blinding light. However even with this handicap, one of them still manages to defeat a luckless archer (I rolled a 20). The next two rounds see each side dancing around these creatures, drawing them into the attack but pushing them away rather than kill them.
However the sky suddenly grows ominously dark and a chilling wind rips through the field. On the left flank a terrifying figure appears. Thaddeus recognises it’s supernatural form anywhere – it’s a Wraith Knight!
Oddleigh casts a wall spell to screen off a treasure token he has his eye on as the undead warrior approaches. It heads straight for the nearest Rangifer (currently in combat with an infantryman), clearly uninterested in the battling warbands.
In the centre, Thaddeus’ men climb (or leap) onto a ruined building in order to distract a Rangifer and steal it’s treasure. On the right flank Fluffy races forwards, but is killed by Hobron’s rangers.
Oddleigh raises a zombie to halt the Wraith Knight’s advance. With it’s ability to deal double damage, the creature easily defeats the zombie, but is slowed down in the process.
This allows Sir Pierre, supported by the infantryman that had managed to disengage from the Rangifer, to pounce on the evil warrior. With a slash of his magical sword, the knight vanquishes his undead foe!
On the right flank, the magical demon joins fluffy in the netherhells as it is ganged up on by enemy warband and Rangifer alike. In the centre, the treasure is being pulled this way and that as the apprentices play tug-of-war via telekinesis.
Oddleigh finally wins the game and pulls the treasure towards his men. However a dashing treasure huntress leaps cinematically from the ruins (she too coincidentally being given Boots of Leaping) and lands on a stack of barrels, intent on winning the loot for her master.
Meanwhile Hobron’s men dispatch their temporary Rangifer ally. By now all thoughts of protecting these creatures has gone out of the window as both warbands succumb to a lust for treasure.
The Rangifers do not help their cause by insisting on attacking the plunderers. An enemy thug is soon dispatched by such a creature after it manages to shake off a blinding light spell.
Standing proud on the barrel stack, the treasure huntress is a prime target for Thaddeus who, skulking behind cover, sends her sprawling with a bone dart.
His victory is short-lived however, for a shot from an enemy ranger flies straight through the ruins and thuds into the Summoner! Oddleigh can only look on in horror as Giles rolls a 20 and crits my wizard!
Gog the barbarian is pounced upon as the now wizard-less warband battles against the Rangifers. It’s up to Oddleigh the apprentice to lead the charge and, to his credit, he manages to let off quite a few spells.
Working their way along the left flank, Sir Pierre and infantryman support take out a Rangifer and then bear down on the enemy warhound. Further to the left my archer is also moving up.
Franck the treasure hunter also reluctantly puts down a Rangifer, as do the opposing warband. Trying to lure them away from their treasure only works for so long and eventually we are both forced to fight them.
Sir Pierre and chum continue to work their way along the flank by slaying the warhound. Now they must get around the magical wall that blocks their path.
Goldtooth almost makes it off the board with the much-fought over treasure that caused such a scrap in the centre, but a wandering skeleton gets in the way. Not for long though.
The archer that had worked his way up the left flank takes up position behind a ruin and, after a couple of missed shots, draws a bead on Hobron. Will he take revenge on his master…? Yes! In a twist of fate it’s my turn to roll a 20 and crit the opposing wizard!
By way of celebration, Franck skewers a giant rat. Serves the blighter for wandering onto a battlefield doesn’t it? Rat kebabs all round tonight!
Both warbands have secured three treasures apiece and, with the Rangifers all dead, Hobron’s band starts to withdraw. However Thaddeus’ men are still full of fight and begin the pursuit.
One last kill as an infantryman downs an enemy ranger - that'll teach him to shoot my wizard! Another fantastic game with both wizards going down to critical hit bowshots and indeed more 20s rolled than is decent! Both bands nabbed three treasures and, while we failed to spare any Rangifers (it was an interesting experience trying not to kill them), I did at least manage to dispatch a Wraith Knight, and gain 50 XP as a result. The Lich Lord was fortunate to have potential enemies slain for him, yet had also lost a valuable and deadly servant.
The storm that howled over the Cloven Hoof Inn that night was as dark and surly as the mood within it’s walls. Oddleigh nervously bit his fingernails as Halfinch the Hobbit thief, the nearest thing they had to an apothecary, directed the men to carry Thaddeus’ limp form to his chambers upstairs.
A short while later the apprentice was called up to his master’s room. Full of foreboding he closed the door on the others and peered into the gloom.
“Come in boy…”
Oddleigh felt a surge of relief at the sound of his master’s voice. He stepped into the ring of candlelight that surrounded Thaddeus’ bed to find the Summoner sitting propped up, arm in a sling.
“How are you faring my lord?”
“Oh, well enough…” The wizard shrugged the shoulder of his bandaged arm and winced. “Though I suspect this blasted arm will never be the same again…” There was a pause before Thaddeus spoke again.
“That was a near thing my boy - such a thing that brings the question of mortality sharply into focus.”
“Yes my lord.” Oddleigh whispered, not knowing where this train of thought was going to go.
“But what if we could slip off the chains of mortality eh?” His master shifted awkwardly, revealing the dusty grimoire on the lectern beside him. It looked, and indeed somehow felt, wrong – decidedly evil in fact.
“I don’t understand master…”
“Perhaps it is for the better that you do not my boy. You see this book is what those beastmen were guarding. This book is what, through his servant the Wraith Knight, our necromancer friend was after. This book contains the spell of Lichdom!”
“But such a thing does not exist! C-cannot exist!”
“Oh but it does boy… I think it’s plain to see that our real adversary is not a piffling Sigilists or silly Enchantresses but that most evil of beings, the fabled Lich Lord! The question is, do we dare use it’s power against it…?”