"Wot's da plan, boss?"
The question was posed by Captain Gritstool with the indifference peculiar to an orc whose finger is knuckle-deep in his nose. Gritstool's leader, General Krapfang squinted into the sun. He was surrounded by his lieutenants, holding a council or war. "Roight," Krapfang said decisively, "I dunno."
The orcs had taken up a position by a stone bridge over the the Sty River. If they could hold off the oncoming Skaven, a rich season of plunder awaited them in the halfling settlements across the bridge.
The still summer air was pierced by a cry. A goblin ran into their midst, panting and wailing. "Boss, Boss," he said, "da ratters are comin'!"
Krapfang belched with studied nonchalance. "We knows dat, Smarmy," he replied
"Burt burt burt Boss. Dey's got giant dogs. With skull faces. And rat ogres. Tails like snakes. Skin dat looks like iron. Huge muscles. Muscles on da muscles. Chaos and shit. We're meat."
|Clan Moulder's Chaos Hounds (by 24_Cigarettes)|
The orcs started wheezing in fear. Chaos? Monsters? This was not what Krapfang had promised them when he had led them into the valley. They wheeled on their leader, demanding to know what to do. There was a long pause. The General was sweating so hard, it was audible.
Finally, Krapfang cleared his throat. "Wot we needs," he said, "is a resurve."
"Yes," said Krapfang with more confidence, "A resurve. All da top generals keep resurves."
"Wot's a resurve?" the orcs asked. Perhaps it was a kind of potion.
"Da resurve stands back. Way, way back. And when da fightings loudest, and it lurks like we've 'ad it, da resurve charges in, and we win," replied Krapfang, "Simple as peein' down yer leg."
"Well, who's da resurve?"
"Me and my bigguns are da resurve," said Krapfang, "Natch."
Swartbad the Black Orc stiffened. Without further preparation, he horked up a hedgehog of mucus and spat it out on Krapfang's boot. His band of Black Orcs was a recent addition to the army. They were large and terrifying, especially Swartbad. He had a face like a cow's arse halfway through a miscarriage.
"Dat is to say," said Krapfang thoughtfully, "Me, my bigguns and da Black Orcs are da resurve. Da rest of you get out der and make me proud."
"Well boss, if Swarbad is resurve, my boyz should be resurve too," wheedled Gritstool, "Furs fur."
"Yeah boss," said the old wizard Grogeye, "Da Spell Talker is always in da resurve."
"If der in resurve, you can't reckon us to fight," said Smarmy the goblin.
"REE SWERVE" bellowed the Giant Rotwang.
"Fine! Fine!" cried Krapfang, smelling another mutiny, "We're all da resurve. I already sent da Gobboes across da river for flanky stuff. They'll advance and do da fightin'. We'll resurve from way back 'ere and hope da ratters don't notice us."
Welcome to another battle report, the third in my ongoing feud with 24_Cigarettes and his incredible Skaven horde (the first two battles are here and here). In this 1500 point bash, 24_C assembled a beautiful Clan Moulder army, featuring lots of beastmasters with packs of chaos hounds, rat ogres and giant rats, all of them stippled with terrifying chaos mutations. It was a rich and thematic force. My army was similar to my previous offerings, with the new addition of Bob Olley's Black Orcs.
Krapfang's Backwood Bandits
Krapfang's Tin Kan Kommandoes
14 Orc Bigguns (+1 elites) with light armour, shields, spears + standard bearer
Lead by General Krapfang
Toothshyte, Lvl. 20 Orc hero with light armour and shield
Wielding the Wreckrune, a magic hell-honed, parasitic sword
Gritstool's Nasty Gits
10 Orc Boyz with light armour, shields, spears + standard bearer and musician
Harboth's Black Mountain Boyz
10 Orc Arrer Boyz with bows, shields + standard bearer and musician
Vape Softbladder's Gobbo Greatmob
19 Gobbos with shields + standard bearer and musician
Lead by Prince Vape Softbladder, Lvl. 15 Goblin with
Smarmy's Swift Backtrakkers
10 Goblin Stikkas with short bows
10 Black Orcs with light armour
and double-handed weapons
Grogeye's Butt Uglies
Lead by Grogeye the
Incontinent, Lvl. 15 Orc wizard
6-man stone thrower with Orc crew
Rotwang Bawbag the Giant
4 orcs & 1 goblin with improvised weapons
Clan Moulder won the dice roll and chose the north side of the map for deployment. They took the field in a tight fist of a formation, with two units of rat ogres and one pack of chaos hounds in the very centre, flanked on either side by skavenslaves. A powerful Clan Moulder warlord wielding a magic sword accompanied one of the groups of rat ogres (denoted on the map by an asterisk). The force was rounded out with a huge swarm of giant rats. Most of the units had chaos mutations, but the chaos hounds were especially worrisome with a fearsome appearance that gave them fear +2.
The orc set-up was very different. Krapfang dispersed his forces widely in an effort to keep them from breaking out into animosity inspired brawls. He was especially eager to keep anyone from interfering with the crew of his stone-thrower, The Man-Mangler.
|The Orcs prepare to hold the bridge over the River Sty|
Turn 1: The Better Part of Valour
Like Fabius Cunctator, General Krapfang's strategy was animated by one idea: avoid battle for as long as possible. Time would allow his superior missile troops to whittle down the enemy, and may even permit some sort of daring flank attack. So on the first turn he sent his light troops scurrying forward on the left and right, while his centre remained motionless. Although Harboth's Arrer Boyz landed a few arrows among the giant rats, the crew of the Man Mangler showed typical orc competence and lobbed their stone well short of the chaos hounds.
The decrepit orc wizard, Grogeye, cast "Cause Frenzy" on the unit of trolls that he himself was leading, with the intention that if the chaos hounds did get close, the trolls would try to fight with them (or at least vomit on them). This simple spell would have a dramatic impact on the outcome of the game.
|Would you hasten to fight this army?|
Clan Moulder had no wizard, and their only missile weapons were two Warpfire Throwers embedded in the units of Skavenslaves. So their turn simply consisted of charging forward and chittering in a most unseemly manner.
|The Trolls consider hiding under the bridge, as their ancestors used to do|
Turn 2: Destructive Even in Error
In the second turn, Krapfang continued to hold back his main strength. His flanking forces advanced, but their arrows were ineffectual against the battle-hardened Skaven. His hopes rested more and more on the Man-Mangler. However, the crew once again forgot to carry the three when calculating their trajectory, and missed. And yet, a weapon like a six-person stone thrower is so destructive that it hurts even when it misses -- in this case, the errant stone grazed a couple Skaven units, wiping out two Rat Ogres and one Chaos Hound.
This was not enough to stop Clan Moulder. In an effort to delay the pain, Grogeye cast Windblast at the Skaven General and his unit of Rat Ogres.
|On the right flank, Goblin skirmishers snipe from cover at the Skaven|
The magical wall of wind indeed halted the Skaven General, but he sent the rest of his units ahead. In a worrying development, the seething mass of giant rats forded the River and moved to intercept the flanking force of Goblins.
|On the left flank, the swarm of Giant Rats crosses the river, scaring the sheep|
Turn 3: Gotterdammerung!
This was such an action-packed turn, I've broken it into two maps, one for the Orc's turn and one for the Skaven's.
The moment of truth had come for Krapfang. Any hope of dismantling Clan Moulder before they arrived had vanished. It was time to charge or be charged. Or at least it was time to order someone else to charge... which meant sending in "da uglies" - three trolls and a giant.
With surprising good fortune, the trolls passed their stupidity check and fear check and charged the Chaos Hounds. Bewitched by Grogeye's spell, they also entered a battle frenzy. Next to them, Rotwang the Giant charged the oncoming Skavenslaves. Meanwhile, on the far left flank, Goblins and Orc archers charged into the swarm of giant rats, hoping to panic them with a pincer movement.
|Goblins and Orc Archers attempt to surround a seething horde of Giant Rats|
But before any of these melees could resolve, there was some missile fire. The Goblin Archers fired at the melee between the Giant and the Skavenslaves, confident that their tiny arrows couldn't hurt Rotwang no matter how often they hit him. Actually, they hit him quite a lot. Indeed, it was their finest hour. Although none of their enemies were injured in the barrage, the Goblins dealt the Giant 2 wounds -- forcing him to make (and pass!) a morale check.
On the upside, the Man-Mangler finally landed on target, transforming 3 rat ogres and 2 handlers into strawberry jam.
|The Trolls charge into the Chaos Hounds, while the Giant sends his opponents fleeing away|
All eyes were on the combat between the Trolls and Hounds. With astounding dice rolls, err, skill, the Chaos Hounds savaged the clumsy Trolls, dealing 5 wounds -- almost enough to kill 2 Trolls and more than sufficient to rout the unit -- except that Trolls were in a frenzy and would never retreat. To add to insult to injury, the Trolls made their regeneration roll, suddenly erasing all the damage that the Skaven had done.
Although Rotwang had a few arrows lodged in his buttocks, this didn't stop him from eating a few Skavenslaves. Unsurprisingly, the surviving slaves decided they had better things to do and took off for the nearest sewer.
The battle hung in the balance. Clan Moulder decided to shatter the orcs in one all-out assault. The Skaven General and his Rat Ogres muscled their way through Rotwang's Windblast and swung into the side of the Trolls. The General smote one Troll with his enchanted sword, hideously sucking the life out of him. Meanwhile his Rat Ogres and Chaos Hounds devoured a second Troll. Following up on this coup de grace, the General moved next to Grogeye himself, ready to execute the wizard as he cowered behind the last Troll.
|The charge of the Skaven general and his Rat Ogres|
Meanwhile, the sole surviving Rat Ogre from the other unit charged down the line and crashed into the Black Orcs. And on the western side of the river, the Giant Rats were locked in an existential struggle with the Krapfang's flanking force -- with the rats scoring many wounds, but the orcs miraculously fending them off with their flimsy shields. To add to the violence, the remaining unit of Skavenslaves belched out a blast from the Warpfire Thrower, melting 5 unsuspecting Goblins.
The Orc Army was thrown to the edge of defeat. But the Goblins stayed calm, despite the gouts of liquid fire coming at their rear. The Black Orcs fought the raging Rat Ogre to a stalemate, thus avoiding an automatic rout. The Trolls again regenerated from the dead, and due to their frenzy, refused to break before the terrifying Chaos Hounds. Apparently, there is a fund of luck that the gods reserve for cowards like Krapfang.
Turn 4: A Stab in the Back
If there is one thing that Krapfang knows, it's how to slip it into your ribs when your back is turned.
In the previous turn, the Skaven General had advanced almost behind the Trolls in an effort to get at Grogeye. So now, the Skaven leader was facing north, away from Krapfang and his 15 well-armoured Orc Elites. Now was the time to call in the reserves!
|Krapfang's Bigguns charge into the confused mass of Rat Ogres, Chaos Hounds, Giants and Trolls|
As the Giant wheeled into the side of the Chaos Hounds, and the Black Orcs fought back against the Rat Ogre, Krapfang jumped into action, charging the Skaven leader from behind. The Skaven rolled a panic check to resist this unexpected backstab... anything under a 10 on two dice would make it... and up came an 11. Just like that, the General and his Rat Ogres panicked and routed from the field, initiating a dreadful chain reaction of panic checks for all the other Skaven. At that moment, we called the game.
Napoleon once said that when the decisive moment comes "the smallest body of reserves accomplishes victory". Well, that may be true... but Napoleon never had to reckon on Rat Ogres.
This whole battle ran along a knife's edge. Both sides had to roll so many panic, fear and rout checks, arising from Giants, Chaos Hounds, flank attacks and suchlike... It's a wonder that neither side broke before the 4th round.
For my part, I was astounded at the power of chaos mutations (this being the first time I've ever encountered them): fearful visage, iron skin, snake tails... all of these transformed the Skaven into wicked adversaries (at no extra points cost). For 24_Cigarette's part, I think he was impressed once again at the devastating combination of a Giant and a Man-Mangler. (Indeed, the only thing that could hurt my Giant was my own 30 point unit of Goblin Archers.) Well, that's the nature of Oldhammer! It's not about game balance, or points, or even strategy. It's about a great opponent, beautifully painted lead and a lot of beer.