Gunpowder and Greed – A Warhammer Fantasy Narrative Battle Report

As Snorri Whitebeard led his company through the winding mountain paths towards the rendezvous, he couldn’t help but feel frustrated. Despite the snow-covered terrain, their spirits remained high as they sang dwarven songs of old, fuelled by the hope and promise that Belegar had given them. He had promised change, a chance to reclaim their lands from Urk, Grobi and Thaggoraki filth, and Snorri had left his father’s side to join him in this quest with many of the younger Dwarfs following his lead.

Snorri’s thoughts drifted to his father, the Lord of the Whitebeard clan, as he marched alongside Belegar. He had heard Belegar’s speech promising change and hope for the future of the dwarves, and for the first time in a long while, he felt a sense of optimism. However, his father would not listen to Belegar’s words. He was a stubborn dwarf who only listened to words that pleased him and was content to watch their lands, and people slowly eroded.

Snorri had argued with his father about the slow decline of the dwarves many times before, but this time was different. Snorri couldn’t help but wonder whether he would ever see eye to eye with him on the matter

As they neared the foothills. Snorri noticed a gyrocopter overhead and couldn’t help but mutter a curse under his breath at the unpredictable engineers who piloted them. Despite this, he recognized the potential usefulness of the contraption for scouting ahead on their journey.

Their arrival at the rendezvous where they were to meet other like minded Dwarfs was met with suspicion from a half-dead looking Manling known as Von Ehrenreich, who claimed they were trespassing on ancestral lands and owed a tithe to his lord. Belegar, however, refused to back down, asserting that these were ancestral dwarf lands and that they owed nothing to the Manling lord. As they made their plans to move forward, Snorri couldn’t help but feel a sense of unease at the unfamiliar cream and purple colours of the messenger and his bodyguards, likely mercenaries.

Their unwelcome guest departed, and Belegar and his captains planned their movements. Belegar and Snorri would head south in the morning towards the Black Mountains, gathering more volunteers from Dwarf settlements en route. The rest of the force would move east to Zhufbar and collect more supporters.

Snorri and Belegar set forth only for their journey to be interrupted by the mercenary company of Captain Dienst, who blocked the road out of the foothills. Snorri noted the poor quality of their equipment and the presence of a hedge wizard, dabbling in Elgi business and likely to come to a bad end. Despite the odds, Belegar refused to back down, demanding that they step aside. Snorri steeled himself for battle, ready to fight their way out and continue their quest to reclaim their lands and restore the glory of the dwarven people.

The Dwarf Plan – Peter

For those who have been following our Tale of Wargamers, you’ll recognise that this force is the one that I’ve put together over the last six months. Belegar, the Gyrocopter and the Ironbreakers along with a Rune of Spellbreaking for Snorri, while also giving the Gyrocopter Vanguard, it all rounded it out nicely to 1,000 points.

With that, Dave challenged me to a game of 8th edition Fantasy, and I gladly accepted! I knew my list wasn’t that competitive with Belegar included and taking up just over 300 points that could be spent on additional troops, but that didn’t matter for the narrative we had in mind. Seeing Dave’s list, I knew the Pistoliers would be a problem, as would his missile troops. My best bet would be to try and remove the Pistoliers early and have the Gyrocopter harrass his missile troops while my footsloggers marched up and beat the crap out of everyone else. Deploying, I decided to try a refused flank on the left, hoping that I could challenge his smaller units before I talked that massive block.

The Empire Plan – Dave

When Pete and I set this game up I mulled over what I fancied playing for a while but as the shape of the campaign started to form in our minds it became clear that Pete’s intrepid dwarfs would be the ‘good’ guys and so I elected to take the ‘baddies’. We were re-learning the game at the same time, and so I wanted to play something that covered all phases of the game but which was not too complex. This led me to my old favourite, the Empire, which can really do pretty much everything(ish).

As my army was travelling into the foothills to confront the dwarfs and given their objective, I thought I would dispense with war machines as they didn’t fit what I had in mind for the narrative and would be another thing to re-learn/remember. For my leadership core, I wanted to take a Captain to leave myself with plenty of points for troops, I definitely wanted a wizard as I know from experience that a well-timed cast can turn a game. I chose a Level 2 as I didn’t want magic to dominate the game as it sometimes can in 8th Edition Warhammer. I decided on Fire for my lore, as I recall it isn’t necessarily the strongest, but it has some great direct damage, some buffs, and one of my favourite spells – Flame Cage. Flame Cage makes units take a Strength 4 hit on every model when they move and then disappears, this can absolutely change games and really mess with the opposing General’s plans (and head). 

Possibly controversially, I didn’t choose a Battle Standard Bearer….! A Battle Standard Bearer would give me extra combat resolution for the unit they are in but more importantly, I could reroll any failed leadership checks within 12″. I chose not to take one as I thought a battle this small might not merit it, it would take some of the risk out of the game but I quite liked the idea of just rolling with it and again I wanted to have more points for troops.

Now I was on to what I usually consider the fun stuff! I needed some good bread and butter first, and this would be my main combat block, a big unit of spearman – a horde no less! The spearmen can fight with an extra rank, so this would potentially mean all of them fighting. My general would be in this unit, and I hoped that they would be able to give a unit of dwarf warriors a fairly stiff fight. Basic dwarf warriors would be a tough proposition for my State Troops, but if I could get a buff off from my wizard and get another unit in the flank, I might do OK. I chose another smaller block of State Troops as my second unit, this time halberdiers. Halberdier’s extra pip of strength would really help against the tough dwarfs and their high armour. I hoped to use these in a tag team with the spearmen against any of the hardier dwarf units and grind them down. I decided to pop my wizard in here. This was risky as he is worthless in combat, but I wanted to make sure he had plenty of use out of his spells and would be in range.

I needed a bit of firepower so that if the dwarfs had leaned into shooting I would have some response, to this end I added a unit of handgunners and a unit of crossbowmen, these would chip away at the dwarfs at range and might not threaten large combat blocks but could really work lighter and smaller units.

In my opinion, every Empire Army should have a unit of knights. They are so cool! I took a minimum sized unit of five, which could potentially be a terror to any smaller dwarf units and would threaten the flanks of the more unwieldy dwarf combat blocks. In a pinch, they could also be sacrificed to redirect any angry dwarf lords!

Finally, I added a unit of pistoliers. I really like pistoliers blasting away with their pistols, and as Fast Cavalry, they should be able to run rings around dwarf warrior blocks (if they don’t get shot off first).

I had some points left and I thought I would add a magic item to my wizard to make him a bit more effective so he got the Channeling Staff, with a lucky roll I might get an extra power dice to punch through the dwarf anti-magic.

Looking at Pete’s army when we were setting up, I knew I could be in trouble, I could potentially kill everything else in his army, but Belegar would be an unholy terror. I had to make sure that I had the freedom to move and that my cavalry could delay Pete’s big warrior block with his characters. If I could deal with the dwarfs a piece at a time I might be OK and that meant one thing – the Gyrocopter had to go as it had the movement and firepower to remove my options to do just that.

The Armies

Turn 1

The battlefield erupted with the sounds of clanging metal and thunderous hooves as the humans made their first move, sending their cavalry charging forward to threaten the dwarf left flank. Both sides exchanged volleys of fire, causing chaos and confusion. In the midst of this chaos, Snorri’s heart sank as he watched the gyrocopter he had spotted earlier fall from the sky in a fiery wreckage.

Calling for an advance, Snorri marched his troops forward alongside the Ironbreakers of Karak-Durn. As they moved forward, Snorri felt the tingling of magic in the air, sensing the wizards’ presence too late to stop the first attempt. However, he was ready for the second attempt, quickly responding and expertly stopping the fireball the hedge wizard had summoned with ease.

1st Turn

Turn 2

With the Gyrcopter destroyed, the humans turned their firepower upon the Thunderers, almost wiping the Dwarfs out. “We’ve got to stop the Manlings from turning our left!” Belegar shouted across to him from the other side of the Dwarf Warriors. Snorri nodded, and his warriors, the Greenbite Guard, formed up facing the human Horsemen. What he had first thought to be human knights turned our to be Pistoliers with Knights supporting them. Seeing the Dwarfs turn to face them, the Pistoliers withdrew behind some ruins, leaving the Knights facing off against the angry Dwarves. They had to act quickly, though, as it wouldn’t be long before the human troops would be in a position to flank the Dwarfs.

Feeling the distinctive tingling of Magic once more, Snorri could feel immense power flash through the air. Being unable to counter, Snorri watched helplessly as a fireball consumed more of the Thunderers, despite their losses they held firm.

2nd Turn

Turn 3

The remaining Thunderers having little option, stealed themselves and charged into the Hedge Wizard and his troops hoping to down the Manling before he could inflict any further damage on the Dwarf troops. Thorim Brokkson ordered his Ironbreakers into the Crossbowmen ahead of them, but fighting over the fences and bushes proved troublesome for the stouter Dwarfs and their charge was unexpectedly held in place.

Kaboom! Every being on the battlefield was laid low by a mighty explosion that almost deafened all those in the valley. Snorri, seeing double as he staggered to his feet. The humans were retreating now, and leaving the Dwarfs were they lay as they recovered from the explosion. “My King, they retreat!” Snorri called to Belegar, but there was no response…

3rd Turn

Ruger Dienst blinked the dust from his eyes, the afterimages from the blast still seared there in purples and pinks. They had succeeded in spite of everything, the Dwarf Lord was trussed up and being hauled on a wagon as quick as they dared on these mountain paths. However, things could not have been said to have gone to plan. Jensch, the Fire Wizard, was gone and while he expected losses, this was a surprise. The Wizard had been with him since Altdorf and though he had always been unstable that damn staff he had received from Von Ehrenreich’s representative, Thanamann, had done something to him, tipped him over the edge it seemed as he had been heard chattering to it in the night. The explosion, or whatever it was, had killed most of the heavy cavalry and most of the halberdiers but it had flattened everyone around it long enough for the pistoliers to dash in and net the dwarf.

The Dwarf flying machine had been put down, a malfunction or a lucky shot, thank Ranald if that thing had been aloft they would have had no chance. As it was, he knew the situation, he needed to get the dwarf to Von Ehrenreich and his part in this was over, he could use the gold from this job to provision for the journey to the Border Princes and rejoin the Boss there. Ruger trudged down into the valley towards the camp and the rest of his men filtering in to the rendezvous, he could see it had grown somewhat, more men disaffected or disgruntled tempted to the life of adventure the Boss offered. Better to take a chance of glory in the Princes, in his view, than a nothing life on the farm – that was the deal he had taken. Dienst mused on his chances, he couldn’t abandon the artillery and baggage and run for the Noble’s Manor, turning up with no artillery and a starved band would likely get him killed if he ever even reached the Princes. He would need to hope the Dwarfs couldn’t reinforce and catch him with the numbers to stop him in time, he had campaigned with them before – over a day a man might outpace them but they would never tire and the odds slowly tuned their way. No, he would move swiftly but cautiously with a fighting rearguard behind. Then, Von Ehrenreich could deal with the horde of angry dwarfs on his doorstep and he would be away with a full purse.

Dwaft After Game Thoughts

Wow! What a game. I don’t think Dave or myself had quite remembered what an affect Dimensional Cascade could have. In a way it worked out well for me in that respect as Dave had to throw quite a few dice at each spell to make sure that I couldn’t dispel them. This resulted in two irresistible force rolls during the three turns of the game, the first knocking a single wound of his wizard and the next one essentially knocking out a good portion of his army.

My plan didn’t quite work out, as Dave took out the Gyrocopter very early doors after I stupidly gave the first turn away – hoping that by bringing him closer it would make it easier for me. After that he could pick off the Thunderers without reply and then focus eventually on the foot troops.

During the entire game I killed precisely 5 models which were three Handgunners and two crossbowmen after my Ironbreakers completely whiffed in that final turn! That meant with Dimensional Cascade, Dave actually killed more Empire Mercenary troops than I did, with his count at 16 models!

Great fun either way, now to plan Belegar’s rescue..

Empire After Game Thoughts

Wow! That was great fun and such a blast (tee-hee). Despite almost annihilating two of my own units and my wizard becoming best friends with Tzeentch, things actually kind of worked somehow. The crossbowmen were heroes for finishing off the Gyrocopter, picking off a few of the Ironbreakers, and actually holding them up. They were certainly going to lose, but they had bought time. The handgunners worked out too, though I wonder if I shouldn’t have switched them out for some skirmishing archers and put the wizard in there…… ahem.

Speaking of the wizard, he got off a good fireball and some buffs before invalidating local maps. Maybe it is the Skaven player in me, but I was still happy with him! The pistoliers also did well for me. With the gyrocopter gone, they could really get to work chipping at Pete’s Thunderers and jamming things up. I have never actually tried Outriders, so another time I might go for those, but I was pleased with pistoliers (maybe a unit of each?). The spearmen and General didn’t end up in a scrap, but could they have won…… well, maybe. I think it might have ended with the last dwarf warrior falling to the spearmen and then Belegar just killing away until his Mom called him home for tea.

Next time, we are planning a slightly bigger game, so what do you think I should I add or switch out?

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