Thursday, June 19, 2014

Meandering Fantasy Batrep: The Cardinal Palantine vs Rupert of the Reik (and 'Gurl')

From reading an old batrep, I see my description of the battle as having Jason 'casually swat aside my army'. I remember distinctly facing an army of undead that constantly reanimated, and it was led by a Vampire so scary that facing it was impossible. Futher, Jsson was sure he could make it scarier. Fortunately, Jason decided he wanted to repurpose his Pike and Shotte troops as Fantasy Humans. I like a lot of what he has done, especially the heavy cavalry with armoured lance arms, bucklers and C17th helmets. His general, in the tradition of true Warhammer thinly veiled pastiche, is 'Rupert of the Reik' (with his dog Gurl). To be extra virtuous, he is using the official Dogs of War list. That being the list of 10pt pike and 3+ armour save cavalry. Not that it doesn't have its good points... like 85pt cannon. Still Jason's army is focused around a big unit of Pike with a front row of Crossbow, using the rules for Pirazzo's lost legion (see? thinly veiled). He also has skirmishers armed with pistols, crazed Marauders (repurposed ancient Germans) and light cavalry. We played it at 1600points.
I'm actually a reasonable way to a painted 1600pt army. Jason isn't but they are built and he did complete all the Undead since I started work on my Humans....
My forces are led by Trajan, Cardinal Palantine (slightly more thinly veiled than GW does it). He is mounted with his personal guard of elite Men at Arms. He has also borrowed a small number of Imperial Knights (the Cuirassier models) and is joined by yet more knights (the Scots Lancer models). Then there is a big block of Pike, some Archers as a detachment, and the volley gun. He has also secured the services of a mercenary Druid. Finally, a hero rode a mighty gryphon (much smaller than a proper Empire gryphon, so a Pegasus) Jason had some sort of weather Wizard too. I used the wild form spell and Jason got chain lightning and the one that makes me reroll all sixes.

I set up the table with three woods and a large hill with ruins on the top. This was only accessible to skirmishers on foot. The first phase of the battle involved me advancing the Cavalry and Pike in the centre under a withering hail of crossbow bolts. Luckily his cannon kept landing it's shot buried in the mud.

 On my right, Jason had snuck his light horse between me flying hero and Knights. Those cavalry are slippery. I'd take light cav but mine cost twice as much!

 On my left, the Druid Allor cast Wildform on the Imperial Knights and they crashed into the front of the mercenary Marauders. Jason initially gave me a scare by saying those marauders had great-weapons (its what I'd have done) but no, just ordinary wooden spoons and feather-dusters. Warhammer is hilarious. Those Marauders have about a million attacks but my Knights are mounted terminators. So the combat result is that some of the Marauders die, none of the Imperial Knights die, and the Marauders run right off the battlefield.

 In the centre, the Cardinal's Men at Arms crashed into Jason's crossbowmen. Of course, they are crushed immediately and break and run. Then we thought they'd rallied. Then we realised they needed double 1s, so they ran again. Then the pursuit carried my troops into the cannon. It is not there in the picture because we got the rules wrong. Reading up, I see that the combat vs the cannon should have waited until next turn. Still, Jason was happy the Cardinal had charged straight into the canny Rupert's trap...

 On the right, my mounted hero got chain-lightninged out of the sky. Goodbye lord flappy-bird (it's what all heroes mounted on pegasi are called), we hardly knew you. On the upside, my Knights took a rear charge from some of Jason's light cav. That's right, they won the combat by not dying and only the rear charge turned it into a draw. So my Knights reformed to face.

 Rupert of the Reik decided to get stuck in and to the sound of Gurl's yipping, his heavy cavalry ploughed into the flank of the Paladin's unit. I wonder if the cannon had been there, would it have allowed my unit to 'win' by virtue of those three casualties counting toward combat resolution? Who knows. As it is, the Paladin is stubborn (Crown of Command) and gets to reform facing the poor 3+ armour save cavalry.
 Jason had been having a miserable time of my magic phase (turnabout is fair play). My spells aren't flashy but the Cardinal and the Priest in the Pike get lots of cheap, cast on a 3+ , spells that boost combat. So I would roll a dice against each of these and Jason would have to decide if he wanted to chance a 1-2 dispel dice against each of them. Both the Pike and the Cardinal's guard got the 5 ward in combat. then my Pike charged Jason's Pike & Crossbow unit. then something weird happened. My unit was at half strength but won the combat, had more ranks, and Jason's main unit broke and was run down. Yikes.
 The Cardinal's unit had lost two valorous Knights. However, the enemy were dying faster and my Knights off to the right of frame had finished the last of Jason's light horse and would soon be initiating a rear charge of their own... on Jason's general Rupert.

 The one bright spot of the battle was that my Imperial Knights on the left got stuck on another of Jason's crossbow units as they rolled double 1s. His banner-bearer is actually the mercenary pay-master and I guess life wasn't worth living for Jason's shooters if there was no money for blow and hookers?

That went well. Jason called it once it was clear my Cardinal's unit was going to stick in the fight and he was going to get pinned from all directions. His other light cavalry unit was coming around the hill for another rear charge but they did not have a good track record in melee. Thanks for the fun game, Jason.

On-going impressions of WHFB rules: The game is incredibly fiddly, with lots of 'busy work' involved with army design. You have to pick the base troop. And then equip them. And then add command. And then choose heroes to give them different types of boosts. And then spell casters to give them more. And then... I had to do this for all my heroes and the infantry. The Cavalry were simpler. Still though, it is a fussy game and it seems like combos and engineering rock-paper-scissors type matchups (ie my Knights vs many of Jason's units, Jason's Vampire vs anything at all I could ever field, allegedly Dark Elves vs my troops, according to Jason) loom larger in the game than timing, positioning and combined arms. It's almost the opposite of War of the Ring, where the gameplay is almost everything.

I do have a more favourable impression of the game this time though since A. I won (I kid) and B. we had more roughly equivalent troops so the overall approach to the battle mattered more. However, I'm not giving up on the side project of writing new rules. Slowly does it though, Rick Priestly still hasn't completed Gates of Antares and he was asking for money for it. Good things take time.

Also, speaking of pastiche history, my favourite Warhammer rumour is that they are totally replacing the Warhammer rules and background (in key areas) as it is so derivative that it is hard to legally enforce copyright. Who knows if that is actually true. But it is true the setting is incredibly derivative in many areas so I can see why they might want to focus on the areas where there has been some genuine original creation by them. Even the parts of the setting that aren't pseudo history, use what we'd all consider mainstream (ie DnD or Tolkien) tropes eg the style of Elves, Dwarves, Wizards etc. The more distinctive stuff is the Moorcockian Chaos, the Runequest style Broo/beastmen and the enemy from within rat-men from Fritz Leiber. But I guess the statute of limitations has passed on that borrowing? It's less mainstream than DnD/Tolkien at least. So that leaves the Egyptian themed undead, and the Old One controlled Aztec themed lizards as something that I can't immediately place in another work of western Fantasy.

Still. I love my cool Perry late medievals and they are perfect for a Fantasy army. Warhammer isn't the worst platform for some games using them and I do still have fond memories of shadow of the Horned Rat / Dark Omen. And I even get to field the druid from that.

And Perry Foot Knights are coming!

Sprue pics, not the greens we've been looking at for over a year. It's getting close. Just the thing for another unit of foot. they can be armoured great-weapon troops.

Thanks for reading all my ramblings.


  1. Interesting thoughts on WFB. I must admit I've played less and less of this over recent years, despite having sizeable armies for it. I guess that right now I want simple but tactical rules,that are not constantly changing, and also don't cost a fortune, which I can use a more diverse range of figures with. WFB is not providing that sadly.

    1. I do see, with some concern, that they do seem to be in a bit of an abusive relationship with their 40k customers at the moment.

      I had a really good look around at the Fantasy rule options out there and while there are a few good sets of Ancients/Medievals rules, there aren't any obvious candidates for Fantasy games. I found that by the time I tweaked other rules to do mass battle Fantasy, I might as well be making my own rules anyway. So I am happy to play along with it.

      You did run Napoleonic French as a Fantasy army at Conquest though, right? I think any game where players have the right attitude to letting people use a wide range of (properly painted and based) figures has a future.

    2. Yes that's true I used the French. It looks like the 9th edition is coming out this year which will mean another rulebook, and codex's changing all the time also. Unless you are a hardcore Fantasy player it all gets a bit much effort and expense. I'm tempted to perhaps give Kings of War a shot, or maybe an Impetus fantasy mod...

    3. And nice report by the way, which I meant to say earlier :)

    4. Thanks Chasseur.

      More work needs to be done on the fantasy mod for Impetvs Imo. Magic and heroes need to be more fun. The balance of different historical unit types is excellent though and there is a lot of depth to the game.

  2. Looks like a fun game mate! Nice writeup as expected.;-)
    Those Perry knights look nice as well actually.

    1. Thanks Adam. Yes, I was going through the Venetian Italian Wars list (was thinking Fornovo could be cool) and there isn't really a place with the Cavalry loving Italians for Knights on foot. Sadly. Fantasy is aother matter.

  3. Very nice batrep, great looking game with beautiful minis!