Sunday 25 February 2024

Assault on Bad Reinigung (Oathmark)

 My experiments with Oathmark continue. This time, I am adding character figures to the mix, specifically commanders and champions. I have finished painting enough figures to field fully painted units(!) and have made some movement trays to ease movement. Now my troops can slide around the battlefield as if on rails. The trays are a little off in places, because I am not good at measuring and cutting as accurately as I could wish, or it might just be the bases of the figures that I did not cut precisely enough when I did them originally. However, they are all made from scrap materials and only cost me time, so I am happy enough. I have plans to add magnetic sheet to the trays if I can find a relatively cheap source here in Norway. That and some steel paper will sort the main issues with keeping the figures securely on the movement trays.

I have also made some unit cards for the game. These have the stats for the units listed on them, and those units with a champion or captain leading them have that character listed on them too. They are playing card sized and should do quite nicely instead of a roster. Putting them in card protectors means that I can use wipeable markers to mark them up if I need to make changes during a battle.

Smarting from their previous defeats at the hands of the humans, the Orcs have descended on the picturesque village of Bad Reinigung. This time, they have brought two of their most fearsome warriors and one of their greatest minor commanders. Captain Bloodnok of Bloodnok's Marauders has high hopes, especially because he has managed to recruit some giant spiders to his force. Surely that will be enough to put an end to the hegemony of the Human heavy cavalry.

On the Human side, Captain Nedbart Seagoon, commander of Seagoon's Doorsmashers, hopes to end Orcish incursions into his district. Let that fop General Bluebottle or one of the other district commanders deal with the Orcs instead. He is fed up of it. All he wants is to sit on his verandah in Bad Reinigung and enjoy the view across the valley to the River Vaskelv, a view that takes in his steadily growing herd of hairy pigs. He will be relying on Sir Ferax the Trampler and his unit of heavy cavalry to trample the Orcs under foot and scatter them to the winds. He also hopes the Sir Edric Doomsayer will speak the doom of many an Orc this day.

I diced randomly to see how much terrain to set out and where to place it. The dice decided on 5 pieces of terrain. They also chose to place 3 of those in the Human centre and the village of Bad Reinigung on the Human right. Only a single hill found its way into the Orcish set-up zone. I also diced for deployment, applying a little common sense as needed. The Orcs concentrated their forces around the hill in their centre and on their left flank. The humans spread out a bit, but with their two wings separated by a marsh and a forested hill.

The villagers of Bad Reinigung had fled their idyllic village and headed into the hills. It was safer that way. Now their fields were about to be trampled by the two armies facing each other across the valley.

The view from the Orcish lines

The Orcs had deployed their units to give them a numerical advantage in manoeuvring. The Humans had deployed in depth to try to stay the course.

The armies manoeuvred towards each other. Captain Seagoon planned to take the weaker flank of the Orcs out and then to fall on the remainder. Captain Bloodnok planned to walk straight over the puny Humans, although he had learned respect for the Human cavalry in previous battles. As they closed, Captain Seagoon raised his sword into the air and uttered the battle cry of his ancestors.


Captain Bloodnok gave the time-honoured reply: an Orcish battle cry of great antiquity.


The Orcish archers let fly their arrows and scored first blood. An enemy archer would not be going home tonight. The Human response was to shoot the Orcish soldiers. The Rememberers would be singing of those soldiers.

Then the battle lines clashed.

The early fighting saw casualties falling on both sides and gaps appearing in the lines. The archers were effective and whittled away at the enemy. The warriors fought hard and Orcish soldiers fell alongside their Human counterparts. Sir Ferax the Trampler's cavalry fared poorly in these early clashes as Captain Bloodnok's Marauders cut them down and left them disordered. The Orcs were sworn to vengeance and held steady even as their dead piled up. The Humans were less sure and seemed to be wavering.

Wolves score 5 hits on the archers but suffer 3 in return. This was a bloody combat indeed!

The Wolves joined the fray and suddenly the Human archers were puppy chow! But, it was at a cost to the Wolves. They were all slaughtered by Seagoon's Doorsmashers, who wheeled round and attacked the Wolves in the rear.

As the battle progressed and the casualties increased, the Spiders joined the fray, and Argrabad the Irascible proved that an Orc mounted on a giant bear was the equal of a unit of human soldiers if he could only get the bear turned in time to attack the humans in the flank.

With total collapse of the Orcish and Human right wings, the remaining forces wheeled to charge straight down the valley. Unfortunately, the Orcs were too much for the Humans. There were just too many Orcs attacking from too many different directions and the Humans were cut down almost to a man.

A lone archer surveys the oncoming Orcish horde

Only a single archer remained. Even though the Orcish horde had been cut in half, it was not enough. He prepared to sell his life dearly as he gathered arrows from his fallen comrades, for he had used all those in his quiver. Bad Reinigung would be an Orcish village for now. Its jam buttie mines would feed the Orcs, not the Humans, and the clear waters of the River Vaskelv would refresh Orcish throats not Human ones. For now anyway. No doubt the skalds would sing of the archer's stand and it would inspire future generations to retake the valley.

Well, that went completely the other way from previous games. Part of the issue was set-up, part was having so many fewer units than the Orcs, and part was poor activation rolls by the Humans. They did as badly as the Orcs had in previous games. It was good fun though, and the addition of champions and commanders changed the dynamic of the game. Being able to coordinate attacks by using the commanders was very useful. I need to read the champions and commanders rules again to make sure I am doing it all correctly before I add spellcasters, but this definitely seems to take some of the sting out of the Human Heavy Cavalry. I think I am going to mix up the Human army a bit for the next game though. They need more units to counter the Orc hordes, maybe by deploying in less depth, and it might be fun to add a monster to their side too.

Turn 41: The Thrappled Lemmings and the Cunning Outlaws (Five Leagues from the Borderlands)

 The Thrappled Lemmings were woken at the ungodly hour of noon by an unaccustomed noise. Fikaby had acquired a town crier thanks to its increased prosperity, and now that demon in humanoid form was disturbing their rest and making their hangovers worse with his racket. It was something about the local priests involving themselves in things in the area. The Lemmings to a man rolled over and covered their ears.

Later, after a hearty repast and a bit of training for Lysanthir and Sir Thiebault, they planned their next excursion. They were going to break the back of the Hooded Men once and for all, if all went as it should. They had heard of an outlaw group that was plaguing the foresters to the north-west of Fikaby. It sounded like the outlaws were planning a major incursion against them soon. The location was nearby and easily reached, so the Lemmings set out the next morning and were soon approaching the location where a Charismatic Leader was recruiting new outlaws.

The enemy is gathering near a site of Ancient Power

The Lemmings formed up in line and headed towards where they could see the leader of this outlaw gang preparing for combat. The bandits were caught unawares and the Lemmings were almost on them before they reacted. As one, the Lemmings charged. Drogo and Wido reached the enemy leader and her lacky before the others. The lackey was driven back, but Wido's spear pierced the breast of the enemy leader and she died instantly in front of him. Meanwhile, Fulrad's arrow killed an enemy slinger. Onesipe wounded the other enemy slinger who fled the field.

As Drogo slew the leader's lackey, another outlaw decided to pursue a different life path and fled. There was just one left. Outnumbered 6 to 1, it took no time before Fulrad had flanked the outlaw and killed him with a well-placed arrow. The area was quiet once more.

It's all over bar the arguing over the loot

The leader had a particularly fine bastard sword, which Sir Thiebault claimed by right of social hierarchy and the Lemmings found a handful of coins that would cover their bar tab for a while. They were also gratified to find that there was a bounty on the head of Lady Cassiopoeia de Gris, the leader of this group of outlaws.

Upon their return to Fikaby, they confirmed that the Hooded Men were no more. The Thrappled Lemmings had thrashed them and organised crime in Utavoll was on a definite downturn. Moreover, local troops had been increasing their patrols now that the wilderness was safer, so it should be easier to travel for a little while.

Another battle where a lucky roll killed the big bad before they could get going. Wido's first attack was enough to pierce her armour and kill her. That was very lucky. I am also quite pleased that I had various bits of vital information to use to negate enemy plans rolls. There will be a few of those in the upcoming turns as all my characters reach level 8. No idea if the intention is to make one roll per character or one roll per turn, but I shall make my mind up when it happens.

And that is the end of the Hooded Men faction. Scattered to the winds by the Thrappled Lemmings, they are no more. Only the Dusklings remain to be dealt with. I cannot think of a real reason why the Lemmings would choose to attack them though. They have done nothing to the Lemmings yet. I'll think about the Lemmings' next action. I'm tempted to try the quest mechanic, but I also wonder about delving into the Temple that is the main reason for the Lemmings to be here. I had planned to make the delve the grand finale with new dungeon terrain based on the module, but am thinking about changing that plan. It really depends upon whether I have the energy to build the dungeon, or whether I just use the tiles I already have in a spirit of "make do and mend".

In other news, I really need to make a less shiny battle board, or play somewhere else where the light does not reflect as much.

Saturday 24 February 2024

Turn 40: The Thrappled Lemmings Hunt Some Rebel Scum (Five Leagues from the Borderlands)

 After the journey back to Fikaby, the Thrappled Lemmings organised themselves for their next foray against the Hooded Men. They took time to drink with the older men of Fikaby and learned some useful information from one of the hamlet's Elders (+1 Adventure Point).

Sir Thiebault and Drogo spent their time sparring (+1 XP each) while Lysanthir headed to the market to sell what he could. He successfully sold all their spare gear for 7 Marks and was most gratified to find that the Lemming's investment in Fikaby was reaping rewards as more people were moving in and that meant more and better merchants in future (-6 Adventure Points). The place was large enough to be called a village now.

Lysanthir called the group together after they had all run their errands to discuss their next move.

"Right, lads, there's a monster lair north of here that we could raid and be back in time for dinner, or we can deal with these Hooded Men once and for all. What do you think?"

The others quickly divided into two camps. Sir Thiebault, Drogo and Fulrad were all for kicking the bandits while they were, while Onesipe and Wido preferred the chance for proper loot in the monster's lair.

Lysanthir expressed a preference for attacking the monster but deferred to Sir Thiebault's preference given that it was an even split between the group.

"Ok, Hooded Men it is," he announced after all had stated their case, "We'll come back for that monster another time. I'm sure it will still be there, and it might have gathered even more loot by then. The local elders say that there is bandit activity near here, so we can sort them out and be back in time for last orders. Apparently, they are regrouping and seem to be preparing an assault or something. Grab your gear and let's go!"

The village elder had told the Lemmings that she had heard that the bandits were massing in the wooded hills to the north, near the ruins of an old farm. Her intelligence proved accurate and the Thrappled Lemmings were soon moving stealthily from cover to cover as they tried to sneak up on the grim-faced Hooded Men they could see just ahead.

"By Odin's hairy bollocks," muttered Drogo, "Would you look at the size of that guy!"

The others concurred with his assessment. Although there were not many bandits in this group, one of them was huge with arms like tree trunks. He looked like the type who would not be inclined to see reason at all and for whom every problem could be solved by breaking things. The party had got as far as it could reasonably sneak, so Sir Thiebault gave the order: "CHARGE!"

The Lemmings' movements in blue, bandits in red

The Lemmings raced forward, using cover to keep out of sight of the enemy archers. The enemy did the same and the Unreasoning Brute was soon flailing at Drogo with his axe and sword. It was a hard fight but Drogo held the beast off, then Sir Thiebault stepped in and lopped the guy's head off with a single blow.

"That's how you do it, Drogo!"

Onesipe and Fulrad opened fire on approaching bandits as the others got stuck in. Soon three more bandits lay dead on the floor and the remaining archer had fled. A single bandit was left, who did not seem to realise that his comrades were no longer beside him and that the Thrappled Lemmings were all converging on him. Fulrad beat off his desperate attack and then Wido ran up behind the bandit and ran him through. Peace fell over the old farm, disturbed only by the sound of the Thrappled Lemmings ransacking the bandits' possessions.

"Hey, men," shouted Sir Thiebault, "Look at this."

He had been ransacking some barrels and found documents and plans in the bottom of them.

"This looks like directions to a secret lair for these Hooded Men. I bet that is where they stash all their loot."

The lair looked to be in the foothills at the end of the River Hait. One of the Hooded Men's biggest camps had been located along that river and this seemed not to be a coincidence.

This attack had further weakened the Hooded Men (-6 Adventure Points) and the end was in sight for that group. They were being scattered and would soon be too scattered to be a threat. Unfortunately for the Lemmings, pickings were meagre here. A small icon and the remains of someone the bandits had slain were all they found. The victim had on them a letter addressed to Fleur the Milliner in Fikaby and a wedding ring. The Lemmings took these and quickly found Fleur on their return to the village. She was distraught at the death of her husband (+1 Story Point).

"Oh, thank you for bringing these to me," she cried, "I was so worried about him. Now, at least, I know.  It is better than never knowing, even if it is the news I feared. I am forever in your debt and will give you discount should you ever need to purchase impressive hats from me."

As they settled in to drink their evening meal, the Lemmings chatted with merchants in the tavern.

"So, I was in Haitabu last week and it was rumoured that the Hooded Men were planning to attack you directly and were building up their strength to do so," Honest Odd the Tinker told them, "but it seems from what I heard most recently that you managed to scupper their plans by killing someone vital to them. Nicely done, chaps. Let me buy your a drink." (-1 Vital Information to cancel enemy plans roll)

Well, that went better than expected. The Unreasoning Brute is nasty, and I was expecting casualties, but he was not nasty enough to stand against sixes on armour penetration and toughness rolls. The Lemmings did not earn much treasure, but I spent 6 Adventure Points for a guaranteed upgrade from Hamlet to Village, and 6 more to guarantee reducing the Hooded Men. One more successful attack on them and they are history. I also finally got a use for some of the Vital Information I have gathered, because the final random event in the village was an enemy plans roll that I could negate with it. The effect would not have been bad, because it was just 1 extra bad guy in the next fight agains the Hooded Men, but it makes for a better story to see these battles have additional effects.

Turn 39: The Thrappled Lemmings Take A Hike (Five Leagues from the Borderlands)

 "Right lads," announced Lysanthir, "We're not far from Fikaby and it's on our way to the Temple of Elemental Evil, so we can grab a beer or three on our way. What say you?"

There was a loud chorus of agreement. Beer was the magic word, after all. As they prepared to set off for the small hamlet, Fulrad and Sir Thiebault did a bit of scouting from the highest of the nearby hills. That helped them get the lay of the land (+2 Adventure Points). Then they scarfed down a chunk of the meat that Sir Thiebault had caught with some green leaves that Drogo said were edible (-1 Rations) before they marched off in the general direction of Fikaby.

As they travelled, Sir Thiebault hunted ahead of them. He reported back that he had found suspicious looking tracks, perhaps more bandits were active in the area. Maybe they should consider a slight detour before the delve to deal with these hoodlums (+1 Adventure Point). Fulrad continued to practice his archery and learned a thing or two (+1 XP).

The journey to Fikaby was uneventful and the Lemmings were in time for the closing of the market where they sold their spare Scout's Cloak for 1 Mark. They also learned that Elsfjord Kloster was in need of supplies. They could earn their keep and maybe learn something new by travelling there soon (If they travel there within the next two campaign turns, they can skip the next upkeep costs and gain 2 Adventure Points).

Monday 19 February 2024

Getting to Grips with Oathmark

 I got another game of Oathmark in over the weekend. This time I expanded the armies to 1000 points and set up on my dining table with an area equivalent to 4'x4' marked out. I still only used the basic rules (no characters and no monsters, for example) and the armies were Orcs/Goblins versus Humans.

First things first. On setting up, I felt that the playing area was too narrow which meant the Goblin wolves could not run around the flanks, as I feel they should be able to do because they are more like light cavalry than anything else. I should have used the whole dining table for an area equivalent to 6'x4'. Lesson learned. I'll do that for all future games. Be nice if I had a terrain cloth for it too. It's on the shopping list.

The view from the Human lines

The rules recommend 2-4 terrain pieces for a 4'x4' playing area so I diced and got three terrain pieces. I diced again based on what is in my terrain box and got a grave mound with stone circle (one of the hills had fallen inside the stone circle and I thought it looked good so I left it like that), a ruined building and a wooded hill. I diced again and they were set up in three corners of the battlefield. A further dice roll saw the Orcs setting up between the grave mound and the ruin, while the humans set up ready to occupy the wooded hill.

The view from the Orcish lines

Due to numbers, the Orcs had to set up in depth, which I thought they might be able to use to their advantage with the Fire Over ability of their archers, but it turned out that it worked against them instead, because they wound up starting shooting later than the humans and did not have space to really use their numbers. The humans deployed archers on the wooded hill, planning to snipe from cover and the rest of their force set up across the field.

The heroic Orc and Goblin Alliance

The main focus of the battle was in the centre where units wheeled and pivoted and charged until there were almost no troops left. There was little attempt to hold a line, which seems like a most non-Orcish thing to try to do anyway. On the flanks, the Goblin archers did sterling service, while the Human heavy cavalry rode down almost everything it came across. Even sandwiching it between two units and attacking from front and rear was not enough to send it fleeing from the field. In the end, the heavy cavalry told and the Humans won.

Both sides starting to get stuck in

Of course, if the Orcs had activated properly more often, things might have been different.

It was a fun game, and the activation system lends itself well to solo play. I supplemented that with dice rolls to determine which unit should activate next, based on where I saw the need to act. Once combat was joined, there were few obvious choices as priorities and need changed. For example, at one point one heavy cavalry unit was surrounded and needed to act, but there were other opportunities for taking out Orc units by charging or by missile fire. The dice decided the general's priorities in this situation: should the general sacrifice the cavalry to destroy Orcs on the other part of the battlefield, or not?

Ducking and diving, wheeling and pivoting in the middle of the battle. Orange beads mark Disordered units

I'll read the advanced rules properly for the next game and introduce the other figure types. Let's see what an Orc shaman or champion can do to that heavy cavalry. Or maybe the Unseelie Court (Elf/Orc alliance) can take to the field against those horrible Humans and show them that the Hidden Folk are not happy with them. We'll see. I'm looking forward to finding out and experimenting with the rules some more. It's a nice change of pace from Five Leagues from the Borderlands and I can see me using Oathmark as a way to get more usage out of my existing figures.

Sunday 18 February 2024

Turn 38: The Thrappled Lemmings and the Haunted Ruins (Five Leagues from the Borderlands)

 It had been a terrible week. The rain had got everywhere and got into everything.

"So much for camping," complained Onesipe. "What kind of idiot would think it was good fun to sleep under the stars? More like under the clouds! And look at my crossbow. It's knackered. I'm going to have to replace the string and the trigger mechanism! Sod camping. I hate it."

He stomped off to get a repair kit from Jarnhauss the Mule's pack saddle, chewing on a soggy piece of dried fish from their rations. The others were in better mood, if only because they were not total townies like Onesipe and had experienced worse in their own lives. Sir Thiebault was off hunting at this point or Onesipe might have caught the sharp edge of his tongue, and Fulrad was scouting the area.

"Ha!" exclaimed Sir Thiebault as he returned to camp, "Look at this."

"This" was a small deer that would feed the Lemmings for a while. About the same time, Fulrad returned with no new news and just a comment that there was a spooky tree to their north in the hills, that might be worth checking out. The group agreed that marching off to check this new place out was better than sitting around while Onesipe griped and moaned, so they packed their things together and set off.

Onesipe griped even more as he discovered that the route they were following led through marshes that soaked his feet and boots even more. They reached the location that had seemed interesting to Fulrad quite quickly though. There was a small ruin there with an uncanny air about it, and the vegetation seemed warped by whatever powers had been unleashed here. The vegetation was warped and grew close together. It seemed to be trying to strangle the Lemmings even as they moved in to check the place out. This looked like it had once been a rich settlement, but now it was ruined and overgrown and almost certainly haunted. The Thrappled Lemmings moved through the bone-chilling fog that had arisen from the ground as they approached and advanced into the ruins.

There were several obvious routes into the ruins, so the Lemmings chose to split into pairs and advance on several fronts. The plan was to meet in the middle of the settlement having dealt with whatever they found on the way. As Drogo and Onesipe crept up the road, past uncanny crystalline formations that had sprouted in the middle of it, a group of shambling undead appeared out of the mist. Moaning gently, the maddened revenants altered direction towards the pair.

Fulrad advanced into a low ruined building and leapt back at twice the speed as the floor beneath his feet gave way and tumbled into an abyss below. The ruin was clearly unsafe.

As Lysanthir and Wido moved carefully forward, they spotted more of the undead horrors. Another group of revenants appeared to Onesipe's right. He and Drogo were going to have a hard time of it shortly and the others were too far away to help. Drogo dashed up a nearby hill to distract the revenants and took up a position between two giant toadstools. As the revenants advanced on him, he slew one and drove the other back.

Meanwhile, in a hard fight, Wido had slain too more and Lysanthir found that the area near them was full of fallen logs that were partially hidden beneath rubble and moss. They made the ground around them treacherous.

Onesipe raced into the woods. Three revenants were chasing him. Drogo dealt with the one that was focused on him and raced off to aid Onesipe. Hearing Onesipe's cries, Sir Thiebault also rushed off to help him, leaving Fulrad to search a stash, where he found some Springwind Berries. Suddenly, another revenant emerged from the mists behind him, as the others converged on Onesipe.

The fight was hard, but eventually, the revenants were defeated, although Wido was hurt in the process.

 Fortunately, it was an easy wound to clean and he was otherwise unaffected. The Lemmings started their search in earnest and it was then that their problems began as they disturbed numerous revenants. The haul of loot was nice but in the process Sir Thiebault and Drogo were both put out of the fight by the revenants. As the fog cleared, the Lemmings found a camp site at a safe distance from the haunted ruins. Both warriors soon came too in the camp and were little the worse for their encounter with the revenants but some of their equipment had taken a beating and would need repairing.

That was a good haul of treasure, but it cost me a Story Point to keep Drogo alive. Those guarded stashes are nice but can be problematic as they generate more enemies. The Maddened Revenants are tough too. Generally speaking, they require 2 hits to kill them. Your chances of killing them with one blow are low, and even lower if you roll as many 1s as I do for the armour checks and find your blows bouncing off them! I guess the Lemmings will have to get back to defeating the Hooded Men next, but they might need a trip into town to sell their loot, because the poor mule is starting to complain.

Saturday 17 February 2024

Turn 37: The Thrappled Lemmings and the Secret of the Slavers' Stockade (Five Leagues from the Borderlands)

 The mood in Haitabu was strange. Suddenly everyone was gambling in all the taverns. It made no sense to the Thrappled Lemmings, who knew better than to gamble hard-earned beer tokens. Well, for the most part anyway. Of course, that did not stop Onesipe getting sucked into a high stakes Diamondback game while Fulrad trained with his bow. Nor did it stop the rest of the Thrappled Lemmings giving him what for when he lost 3 Marks over the course of a few evenings. Fortunately, the Lemmings were able to sell a few things to restock the communal purse before they headed east to raid a bandit camp that they knew about.

The journey to the camp was uneventful. Fulrad scouted the camp and reported that the bandits' ramshackle huts were build amid the overgrown ruins of an ancient village. This group looked to be slave raiders. There were not many of them, but they were led by a woman he recognised, Autolyca, Princess of Thieves. She was a downright slippery customer and it would behove the Lemmings not to take chances with her or she would be back for revenge. Worse yet, there were several villagers and foresters in chains.

Fulrad spat, "Slavers! Death's too good for them!"

The Thrappled Lemmings used the cover well. Fulrad and Onesipe took up position where they could see the centre of the camp, ready to fire when given the command. The others sneaked through the woods and were within spitting distance of Autolyca and her crew before they were spotted.

Onesipe opened fire but his shot was deflected by the bandit's armour. Sir Thiebault charged a bandit near the camp fire and wounded him. Drogo shot and wounded a bandit slinger. Wido charged Autolyca herself. It was no contest. She had barely lifted her sword to defend herself before Wido had spitted her on his spear. Fulrad then killed the wounded slinger as more bandits emerged from the surrounding area and attacked.

In very short order, all the bandits bar one slinger were slain. That bandit chose discretion and melted into the forest around the camp as Wido, Drogo and Lysanthir closed on him.

In the ensuing calm, the Thrappled Lemmings freed the captured locals. One of them, Tovi the Forester, promised to help the Lemmings in any way he could before departing back to his hut in the woods. He led the others off with him while the Lemmings plundered the camp.

They were very satisfied with the results of their plundering, especially Fulrad who claimed the Harness of Vengeance that they found. Looking through all the documents in Autolyca's backpack quickly revealed that she had been a key individual in the Hooded Men's plans. The Thrappled Lemmings could give themselves a pat on the back for disrupting the Hooded Men even more.

The Lemmings settled in to camp for the night before heading on to their next destination. As they did so, Tovi returned with a letter for them. Sigrid the Beggar had been passing and had given it to him to deliver. The news she imparted was welcome and would aid the Lemmings in the next phase of their adventure.

Well, that went quickly after the initial sneaking. Three turns to kill all but one of the slavers and the Cunning Infiltrator unique foe fell on the first attack roll. I guess that is what happens when you use a newly painted figure for the first time. It was kind of disappointing in some respects that it was not a tougher fight, but I am sure those will come. The magic armour was a nice find though. There have not been many enchanted items found in this campaign so far.

Wednesday 14 February 2024

Unique foes for Five Leagues from the Borderlands

 Occasionally, while out travelling, you will encounter particularly tough individuals, who are somewhat hostile to you. You will have to deal with them as best you can.

These figures are mostly from existing factions, although it is tempting to collect a set of them purely for use as unique foes in the campaign. This is also an excuse to buy and paint the Tabletop Fantasy range from Alternative Armies. I no longer have the original ones I owned, but the 15mm fantasy figures from Tabletop Games, that were often delivered wrapped in tissue inside an old cigarette packet, were the earliest 15mm fantasy figures I bought, so the ones here reek of nostalgia. They are not bad figures either.

Grim Knight

The Grim Knight is both upper class and humourless. Life has gifted him with the best weapons and armour money can buy, thews of steel and a strong desire to occupy bridges or crossroads or other places where people might pass. He will most certainly take offence at your banter and will most certainly either challenge you to a duel or kill you for being a peasant and offending his nostrils with your smell.

Grim Knights do not all have to have skulz(tm) everywhere. Sometimes the grimness is on the inside. (Two Dragons Normans)

Corrupt Sorcerer

The Corrupt Sorcerer is a necromancer of renown capable of summoning the dead to their side at a moment's notice. No one is quite sure why the Corrupt Sorcerer is known as such in common parlance. I mean, the Corrupt Sorcerer is a Necromancer, so why not call them that? I guess the people of Utavoll are just too nice about such things.

A Sorcerer corrupted by forbidden knowledge (RPE Demonworld)

Cunning Infiltrator

Sometimes stealth is needed over brains or brute force. The Cunning Infiltrator is a specialist in sowing discord in the enemy camp. Unfortunately, this time you are the enemy.

You won't see her until it is too late! (Alternative Armies TTF range)

Unreasoning Brute

If life gives you muscles like iron and a huge sword, then every problem looks like something to slay. The Unreasoning Brute does not know of any way to deal with life other than to smash it.

A warrior with might thews and a bad attitude (Alternative Armies Tabletop Fantasy range)

Charismatic Leader

Sometimes the enemy is better organised than you and has more resources to draw upon. The Charismatic Leader is that foe. Worse yet, the Charismatic Leader is very good at attracting other people to their cause.

A Charismatic Leader ready to set her minions on you (Alternative Armies TTF range)

Ruthless Killer

The Synod of Reason causes many problems in Utavoll. One of those is the way it seems to attract and foster Ruthless Killers. These cultists seek to cause the maximum amount of carnage they can and few can stop them. It really plays havoc with the Synod's social events.

A Ruthless Killer bent on wreaking havoc (RPE Demonworld)

Mighty Warrior

Many is the foe who has laughed at the mighty warrior but it is she who has the last laugh as she holds your severed head in her hands. The mighty warrior wanders the land and may join with your cause or take pay from your enemies.

Not the only mighty warrior in Utavoll, but certainly one who has survived longer than you (Alternative Armies TTF range)

Deranged Cultist

Calling a cultist deranged seems like a tautology, but even other cultists notice how deranged this particular cultist is. I mean, most cultists got into it for the social life and secret meetings, but this one got her hands on a book of unspeakable knowledge and has cranked her cultishness up to 11. Her summoning of infernal powers has warped her mind, spoilt her social life, and made everyone else too scared to suggest she might like to stop.

She is not interested in your argument. She has heard it all before, or so the voices in her head say. (RPE Demonworld)

Scheming Heretic

The Scheming Heretic has spent too long in the rituals and forbidden knowledge section of the library. he has learnt how to take over the minds of others and warp them to his will. Sure he seems like a nice guy, but that is just the spells talking.

Scheming Heretics are just the sort to make a face mask from your skull (RPE Demonworld)

Ravening Beast-form

I mean, ravening is just a perspective, isn't it? This poor soul is just hangry and they have been through a lot lately, but I guess if you are the bitee and not the biter then you might consider their behaviour over the top. The Ravening Beast-form is a cultist whose congress with unspeakable cults has driven them to the edge of sanity and mutated their body into some kind of man-beast hybrid.

With the entire animal kingdom to choose from, it is surprising how many Ravening Beast-forms resemble wolves! (RPE Demonworld)

Infernal Spawn

The barriers between the worlds have been weakened by the carnage and this denizen of another dimension has decided to pay you a visit and to feed on your fear.

Infernal Spawn (D&D Miniatures)

Feral Mercenary

The Beastmen of Utavoll are not often seen at the moment, but you can occasionally encounter a Feral Mercenary in the service of the other factions or perhaps pursuing their own agenda.

I am using RPE Demonworld Beastmen for the Ferals and Gnawling Horde, but have not painted any yet, so no pictures for now. I'll upload a photo when they have reached the painting table.

Duskling Champion

This lone warrior has survived in his tribe longer than any other. He knows all the tricks of the trade and is willing to ignore the rules and to fight dirty.

The Duskling Champion will beat you to death with your own leg bone (RPE)

Fey Reaver

Like all the other humanoids, the Fey can be encountered as friends and as foes. The Fey Reaver is a foe. They have a tendency to kill first and noth bother with questions because they are too busy rescuing the gold from your purse.

The Fey Reaver is the dandy highwayman you're to scared to mention. He is stylish, well-equipped and well-groomed. (RPE Demonworld)

Enemy Marshal

The enemy marshal is a strategist par excellence. She has lived through a thousand battles and led her forces to victory in most of them.

The enemy marshal surveys the field and sees your weaknesses (Alternative Armies TTF range)

Master Thief

The Master Thief prefers to work alone and stealthily, but occasionally they can be encountered with others. If you are lucky, you will see them before they attack, but most are not so lucky at all.

A rarely seen portrait of a Master Thief. (RPE Demonworld)

Craven Hex-chanter

The Craven Hex-chant is known for their ability to weaken the minds of others. The Craven Hex-chanter has also learnt how to transform their body into a beast, but at a cost to their sanity, which was tenuous at best to begin with.

A Craven Hex-chanter from a Duskling tribe. Other Craven Hex-chanters are available. (RPE Demonworld)

Tuesday 13 February 2024

The Curse of War: Ghouls and war cultists for Five Leagues from the Borderlands

 The Curse of War faction is not part of my main campaign, but I appear to have accidentally painted enough figures to field it, if I need to. As with my bandits, the figures are largely Vikings and Normans from my wider collection divided according to armour type. That gives me three main groups of unarmoured, lightly armoured and armoured troops with missile support. All of the human figures can and will be used as whichever faction is on the table and suits their armour and equipment, but separating them out and painting them as individual factions helps keep me focused and painting, a focus that I lost in the rather shitty end to 2023.

The human factions are those who have deserted, or those who have been betrayed by their commanders and left for dead. Driven half or even wholly mad by their experiences, they roam the countryside with little purpose other than to fight. There are also undead arisen after the battle is over and fiends that seek out battlefields to feed on the dead. There is much conflict in Utavoll for them to feast on.

Craven Deserters

Craven Deserters are the least of the human groups, Pressed into service by unfeeling overlords, they have sought to escape but find themselves in a situation where they must simply fight to survive with what little they have, which is very little indeed.

Two Dragons peasants and slingers are a useful stand-in for pretty much all of the unarmoured, poorly equipped troops in Five Leagues from the Borderlands

Opportunistic Pillagers, Cruel Deserters, Torch Bearers and Forsaken Infantry

Opportunistic Pillagers, Cruel Deserters, Torch Bearers and Forsaken Infantry are regular soldiers whose experiences have broken their minds. With light armour and a bit more experience, they are one step above the Craven Deserters. They know only that they must fight to survive but lack direction in their madness.

Two Dragons Vikings and Normans provide the right mix of light armoured warriors for these groups

War-mad Roamers, Torn Flags and Forsaken Elite

War-mad Roamers, Torn Flags and Forsaken Elite are warriors born and bred, who find themselves consumed by blood lust and well enough equipped to slake their bloodthirsty obsession. They fight because in their battle madness is the only time they are truly alive.

More Two Dragons Vikings and Normans, this time in mail to represent the best equipped reavers

War Cultists

War Cultists are among the strangest of the blood-crazed human bands. They worship the battlefield itself. Their cry of "Blood for the Blood Gods" is the prelude to carnage that can only be stopped by killing them all. Their god gives them the power to summon powerful half-man, half-bull warbeasts to aid them in this.

The Brothers of Battering Blows led by their most fearsome captain, Friar Chuck (Essex Miniatures monks and warrior monks)

A powerful half-man, half-bull warbeast (Alternative Armies Tabletop Fantasy Minotaur 578)

Gibbering Corpse Crawlers and Battlefield Stalkers

The battlefields of Utavoll are also populated with Gibbering Corpse-Crawlers and Battlefield Stalkers, undead monstrosities raised by evil necromancers for the sole purpose of wreaking carnage wherever they roam.

Gibbering Corpse-Crawlers (Alternative Armies and RPE Demonworld)

Battlefield Stalkers (RPE Demonworld)

Soot-Stained Fiends

Soot-Stained Fiends are demonic flies attracted to the battlefields of Utavoll, where they feast on the bodies and souls of the slain.

Halloween flies. The golden ones are the leaders. In Utavoll, demons often take on the form of flies and other nuisance creatures to torment the inhabitants and drive them mad

Monday 12 February 2024

Oathmark: Training Wheels

 I bought Oathmark in a sale at the local bookshop back end of last year and am finally getting around to trying them. Like with a lot of other rules, I am playing with 15/18mm figures at 60% scale using a printable ruler scaled down to 60% when I printed it out. This makes my normal 70cm x 50cm gameboard the equivalent of 46" x  33" which is a small table for Oathmark. At this scale my 5'x3' dining table will be more than large enough for a large game if I ever get around to that.

 The armies for this test game are cobbled together from the stuff I have been painting for Five Leagues from the Borderlands. They are far from optimised armies, but my opponent is cool with that, so it's ok. I am also not using the kingdom building rules which offer significant and exciting opportunities for cobbling together unusual fantasy army combinations. If I get on with the rules then that will be the next step to add, along with bigger monsters and spellcasters, plus the rules from the expansion books.

Not every battle in Utavoll involves the Thrappled Lemmings, despite what the Lemmings themselves will tell you. Sometimes local warlords fight or the Dusklings (Orcs) come down from their mountain fastnesses in larger numbers and attack the settlements in the flat lands. This happened recently in the large valley north of Fikaby. The village quickly mustered every able-bodied fighter and set out to stop the Duskling rampage before it started. The humans (502 points) managed to muster:

  • 1 unit of 11 Soldiers
  • 1 unit of 10 Archers
  • 1 unit of 5 Heavy Cavalry
Facing them was a Duskling horde (500 points) with:
  • 1 unit of 20 SpearOrcs
  • 1 unit of 10 BowOrcs
  • 1 unit of 10 Wolves

The Dusklings had the advantage of the ground and outnumbered the humans. Their archers occupied a hill on their left flank. The spear phalanx was deployed with the archers on one side and a rocky spire on the other, thus ensuring they could not easily be flanked. The wolves were deployed between the rocky spire and a woods. The humans were wholly in the open with their heavy cavalry ready to take on the wolves, their archers in the centre and their soldiers facing the Duskling archers.

I diced to see how much terrain to use (2-4 pieces) and where to place it. The dice favoured the Orcs. I then diced for deployment and placed the units appropriately. The deployment actually kind of makes sense. The BowOrcs will try to shoot up the human soldiers so that the phalanx can easily take them out. The wolves will try to stop the human cavalry. They have numbers but the cavalry will be fearsome if it charges first. I'm not sure how the archers and infantry will cope with each other, but I shall find out. The armies are starting closer together than they would on a full-sized table so the action will start sooner and there will be less manoeuvring.

Dusklings/Orcs at the top of the photo. The blue beads mark unactivated units

Turn 1

Humans win the initiative.

The human archers activate successfully and fire at the Duskling archers who are just in range. 2 hits.

Duskling archers fail to activate but still get to shoot at the human soldiers. The humans form shieldwall but still take 1 hit.

The human soldiers fail to activate and march forward with their shields held up to defend themselves.

The Duskling phalanx fails to activate and marches straight forward towards the human archers.

The heavy cavalry races forward towards the wolves.

The wolves fail to activate and edge slowly towards the heavy cavalry.

Turn 2

Dusklings win initiative.

Duskling archers fail to activate and shoot at the human soldiers. The humans form shieldwall. 1 hit.

The heavy cavalry charges the wolves and scores 8(!!!!!) hits. The wolves score 0 hits in return. Despite the horrendous damage, they pass their morale but are pushed back 1"!

The Duskling phalanx fails to activate and moves straight forward towards the human archers.

The human archers activate and shoot at the phalanx. 2 hits.

The Dusklings have nothing left to activate, so the human soldiers activate and pivot on their officer before marching towards the flank of the Duskling phalanx.

Turn 3

Humans win the initiative

The human soldiers charge the Duskling phalanx in the flank. 4 hits. The Dusklings score 1 hit in return. Both units become disordered and the phalanx is pushed back 1".

The Duskling archers activate and shoot at the human soldiers. 2 hits. This is enough to break the soldiers who flee the field. The human archers watch their fleeing comrades with contempt as the Duskling archers advance off their hill to support their own phalanx.

The human archers activate and shoot at the Duskling phalanx. 2 hits.

The wolves activate, pivot on their leader and race off in an attempt to flee the heavy cavalry.

The heavy cavalry activates, wheels to face the wolves and charges them in the rear. 9 hits. The wolves are roadkill and fail to hit back in return.

The amber bead marks disorder, which is not a Good Thing

Turn 4

Dusklings win the initiative.

The phalanx fails to activate and ambles towards the human archers.

The heavy cavalry moves forward and then wheels to attack the Duskling archers in the flank.

The Duskling archers fail to activate. They pivot on their leader to face the oncoming heavy cavalry. With any luck, they will get a good shot off before they are trampled underfoot.

The human archers activate and shoot at the phalanx. 3 hits. This is too much for the phalanx, which disintegrates and flees.

Turn 5

Humans win the initiative.

The heavy cavalry activates and charges the Duskling archers. 10 hits (!!!!!). The archers are roadkill and are so busy dying that they fail to hit the cavalry at all.

Game over. The humans win.

They think it's all over...


That was fun. The basic system seems simple enough. I like the use of two dice for activations and morale tests, with success being if either die rolls high enough. That reduces the randomness of the game a bit. Of course, it still did not help the poor Duskling/Orc force who failed more activations than they passed.

The fixed number of dice for combat was a bit weird. I took an age checking it up, because the heavy cavalry get 2 dice per figure, but even then, they only get to roll 5 of them and all adjustments start from that 5, so defenders with a shield then reduce that to 4 dice. They still stomped everything they faced, and their high armour rating meant that they took no casualties at all.

Morale is a two step process: first disordered and then destroyed. Passing activation means that you lose the disordered status, which is where the Duskling phalanx went wrong. I like this process and I like that morale recovery is built into the activation system. It's simple and neat.

I am sure I got things wrong, so I shall read the rules again and try another game before moving on to adding characters and spellcasters to the game. This looks like a good way to use more of the figures I have painted for Five Leagues from the Borderlands and to encourage me to paint yet more of my unpainted lead pile. It also looks like a system that will work well solo, possibly with the Charles Grant Programmed Wargames Scenarios book, which has lain untouched on my shelf for an absolute age. It could even form the basis of a mini-campaign.

Speaking of campaigns, another element I particularly like is the move away from monoracial armies. Sure, you can build an Orc/Goblin force or an Elf force, but the campaign system is built around territory instead. Your capital defines the dominant race in the area but you then choose other territories to fill out your kingdom and it is your territories that decide who is in your army, not your leader's race. Maybe your human capital city is ringed around by Orc and Elf suburbs, and then you have a Dwarven city outside that. As the leader of your kingdom, you can then recruit soldiers of any of those races., so Elves could be standing alongside Orcs and Dwarves in a total subversion of more usual fantasy tropes. This is neato!