Monday, 22 May 2017

Barbaric Splendour!

As tribe after barbarian tribe congregated in the sacred space, a blast of horns heralded the arrival of the next group. Swaggering into the meeting place, came the nobility: the self-styled knights and templars who had risen through the ranks by feat of arms, cunning or sheer bloody mindedness. They could afford better armour and weapons than their peers and walked haughtily, ignoring their inferiors as they barged their way into the centre of the hollow.

Flanking these noble fighters and keeping the rabble at arm’s length from their masters were their kinsmen. Trusted soldiers and retainers, they had fought at their bosses’ sides since childhood and as such enjoyed some of the favours brought by being blood brothers of such men. The nobles knew them as men-at-arms and infantrymen, although those without the inner circle may have had less charitable names for them.

And so they came, each barbaric prince settling on a stool hurriedly provided by a lackey. They faced each other with scorn, for many a grudge existed between them, as their clansmen glared at each other whilst simultaneously watching their master’s backs. With hands tightening around weapons and fingers drumming shields they waited, impatient to be off and fighting…

More barbarians now – knights, templars, men-at-arms and an infantryman. Once again these are for the most part from the Northstar plastic barbarian box set, with the occasional arm, head or torso from other sets (including the helmeted head and mace hand from the last ‘Nickstarter’ deal).

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

By Crom! The Barbarian Clans Gather

The call blew through the frozen wastes on the north wind, carried along with the sleet and snow. ‘Gather’ it said, ‘for promises must be kept and pacts must be honoured…’

Through the mountain passes they came, streaming over barely trodden paths through valleys and ravines until they arrived at the Great Meeting Place. Surrounded by ancient totems and tattered prayer flags, this low depression among the snowy peaks had been a neutral gathering spot since time immemorial: a place for warring clans to negotiate peace, for dynastic claims to be settled and for disparate tribes to gather for invasion.

And it was for the latter that they now came, for the Hallowed was calling...

First came the warriors. Softer, more ‘civilised’ folk may have denigrated them as thugs, but in their own hearts these barbarian fighters knew themselves as the mainstay of their tribes: the rank and file, if such things existed in their savage battle tactics. They came first, eager to show off their prowess and perhaps gain the patronage of a powerful lord through valour in battle.

Next a smaller group slunk down the slopes. Faster and more agile than their kin, these thieves and treasure hunters had had time to scout around the meeting place before revealing themselves. Clever and cunning: if they had chanced to pounce upon the stragglers and relieve them of a knickknack or two, then where was the harm in that?

I’ve made a start on the plastic barbarian models from the Northstar box set (give or take the odd piece from my other kits) and lovely miniatures they are too. This first lot are thugs, thieves and treasure hunters.

As per my Gnolls, I started off by looking at the scenarios and barbarian encounter table in the Forgotten Pacts supplement, and worked out the minimum requirement (assuming two players) as follows:-

2 treasure hunters
4 thugs
1 infantryman
1 thief
2 men at arms
2 knights
2 templars
Approx 7 berserkers (this is to cover the 'Enemies Without Number' scenario, where I intend to make up the numbers with infantrymen and templars as berserker stand-ins).

I already have a couple of wizard miniatures that will do for Balkren, the barbarian summoner, so that just leaves Kornovik the outcast. Northstar are releasing a lovely miniature for him (and his rhino), but it will remain to be seen if I can afford it!

Monday, 15 May 2017

Running With Rangifers


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.

Giles' report can be read on his blog - part 1 and part 2.

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.

“Er, master?”

“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!”

Oddleigh gasped.

“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…?”

Thaddeus Braves the Storm of Undeath

“Well? What do you think?”

Thaddeus Daemoncall tossed the scarf over his shoulder. It’s bright colours, contrasting sharply with the Summoner’s dark robes, seemed to shift and pulse, making Johannes Oddleigh’s eyes water.

“Er, it’s certainly very vibrant master. Very, um…” the apprentice trailed off, waving his hand vaguely.

“Indeed,” chuckled the wizard, “but I’d like to see anyone get an arrow into me whilst I’m wearing it!” He stopped and looked to the clouds. “Hmm, another storm brewing? How many’s that this week? We’d better hurry up!”

As he urged his band forward, Oddleigh followed. His master seemed more determined than ever to explore the frozen metropolis, despite the almost constant snowstorm that whipped around the ruins these days. Each trip to buy supplies brought back more rumours of the mysterious necromancer that supposedly stalked the accursed city – tales of undead hordes and strange rituals abounded in the taverns and trading posts. A powerful magician was no doubt abroad, and Oddleigh knew only too well that his master could not abide rivals…

“Ah, now, look!” Thaddeus held up his hand, peering through the snowstorm. “There, isn’t that a clearing? Can I see… yes! Treasure! Lying out there in the open!”

“Um, I can see bodies too my lord…” Oddleigh’s heart sank, knowing that this would do little to temper the Summoner’s ardour for knowledge.

“Indeed…” nodded Thaddeus. “We shall have to be caref-“

Suddenly a fork of eerie green lightning flashed ahead of them, sending strange tongues of light flickering around the blasted masonry. Somewhere, either deep in the bowels of the frozen earth or high up in the storm-ridden sky; it was hard to tell; a voice as dark and cold as the grave boomed out an incantation.


“Very strange, yet not unexpected…” Thaddeus frowned, his head cocked to catch the words on the howling wind. “The language is familiar, yet unknown…” He turned to his apprentice, smiling almost apologetically. “I think this necromancer fellow is rather more powerful than we first thought…”

Time for another bout of Thaw of the Lich Lord! This time, the evil one finally makes himself known by summoning the Storm of Undeath…

Thaddeus and co. discover an open square, bordered with pillars, within which lie treasure and corpses. His band splits up, with the Summoner leading some of his men in the centre. His marksman starts off atop a ruined building, hoping for some decent shooting despite the snowstorm (-4 to any shooting attacks).

On the left, Oddleigh takes command of the remainder of the band, with the exception of a minor demon, summoned pre-game. This foul fiend not only had vampiric tendencies, but also had the ‘backstabber’ trait, which meant it could throw off it’s control at any moment. As such the demon was tasked with covering the far right flank, out of harm’s way should it go rogue.

Hobron Toddlbrew, Sigilist and general nuisance, appears on the opposite side with his apprentice and warband, intent on stealing Thaddeus’ rightful loot. Once again he begins to spoil the party with a draining word spell.

Using telekinesis Thaddeus drags some treasure towards the waiting arms of Halfinch the thief. Meanwhile Toddlbrew’s men move forward into the square, warily avoiding the prone bodies in favour of the tempting treasure.

However his warhound advances a little too much, affording my marksman some excellent sport. The crossbow bolt flies true through the magical maelstrom and hits home, putting down the dog.

Oddleigh orders his crew forward and summons a skeleton to fetch another treasure chest – the Book of Bones discovered in the last game is already coming in handy.

The bony minion closes in on the treasure, but a wall spell blocks it off! Another wall spell screens off Hobron’s men, unfortunately cutting off one of his archers in the process.

Without support from his fellows, said archer is quickly dispatched by Thaddeus’ infantryman and treasure hunter. Meanwhile, summoned skeleton and comrades fight over treasure with an opposing knight.

However the score is evened out when the dodgy demon is shot by an enemy ranger while it attempts to sneak down the right flank. At least Thaddeus doesn’t have to worry about rogue demons anymore!

Or does he? All this treasure snatching attracts the attention of another minor demon on the left flank, perilously close to Oddleigh. The apprentice, already thoroughly exhausted from a series of fluffed spells, is in no condition to face off with the creature.

Things are worse for the opposing apprentice however. In order to do some supporting spell casting, he gets a little too close to Thaddeus’ treasure hunter Goldtooth, who duly dispatches the poor chap, despite him being supported by a ranger.

As the opposing soldiers tussle for treasure, Thaddeus somehow knows that he must also enter the square. Hidden under an invisibility spell he breaks cover, but before he can get there a massive bolt of green lightning hits the pillars! A pulse of eldritch magic rips across the square and suddenly the corpses begin to rise…

One armoured skeleton heads for Hobron, but his treasure huntress bashes it back into the dirt. This enables the Sigilist to enter the square unmolested and, like Thaddeus, gain some experience from the dark magic.

As the armoured skeletons join the fray, Thaddeus’ men gang up on the enemy knight and down him, though he manages to wound Franck the treasure hunter in the process. This allows the skeleton to finally pick up the treasure.

Gog the barbarian and an infantryman see off a skeleton. Meanwhile Thaddeus retreats back into cover whilst his apprentice fails to cast more spells as he tries to hide from the demon, which is wandering around aimlessly on the left flank.

Fluffy the demonic warhound lopes forward to run interference, but is splatted by the enemy captain. In the central square, fighting continues with several soldiers becoming wounded.

Another armoured skeleton heads for a wounded Franck, unable to see the invisible Thaddeus – a more juicy target otherwise! Thankfully Franck dispatches the bag of bones.

Unwittingly supported by two armoured skeletons, a similarly wounded Goldtooth defeats a ranger. However his undead helpers now turn on him…

The melee in the central square is beginning to thin out as the armoured skeletons are defeated one by one. Both warbands have three treasures in their possession.

Gog and his infantryman chum defeat another skeleton, but one more lumbers into the fray. On the left flank, Oddleigh is still hiding from the demon, but manages to leap the marksman over to cover him.

Gog, Sir Pierre the knight and an infantryman gang up on the last skeleton. They high-five, celebrating victory, but then something whistles through the air and lands in the middle of them…

Boom! A grenade, courtesy of the Sigilist, explodes in their midst! When the dust settles, Gog the barbarian is down.

With this final parting shot, Hobron and his band bids adieu and departs from the battlefield. Thaddeus and Oddleigh, covered by the two wounded treasure hunters, also prepare to depart while the surviving members of the warband pick their way back over the bones of the fallen skeletons.

This was a fun, and very quick, game! Oddleigh couldn’t cast spells for toffee but the soldiers all pretty much held their own. Both wizards snagged three treasures and got experience from the square (being too late to be there when the lightning struck). As Thaddeus’ crew killed four skeletons to Hobron’s two, I just about won on points, but with rolling 1’s on the treasure table, I suspect calling it a draw is more accurate!

Check out Giles’ blog for his view of events (part 1 and part 2).

Back at the Cloven Hoof Inn, Thaddeus sat gloomily over his haul, picking up the paltry amount of gold crowns before allowing them to fall through his fingers, landing back into a treasure chest with a hollow ‘clunk’.

Oddleigh coughed. “Master?”

“Hmm? Oh…” the Summoner looked up from the meagre pile. “It’s not the prize that bothers me – any and all gold is welcome – didn’t your father ever teach you that boy? No, not the gold…”

He stood up, wincing. “That lightning, did you feel it? Those corpses just stood up as if they were puppets pulled on strings… In effect they were I suppose…” He looked around the dark chamber at his men, tending their wounds and counting their wages. “The necromancer is indeed more powerful than we ever imagined. Oddleigh my boy, we are going to have a lot of work on our hands…”