Battle for the Boarder

With club nights back in partial swing (the kettle is out of commission) and games under my belt for both my Basileans and Slaves its back to pure Ratkin joy (filth to long suffering Steve). I’ve been playing the mighty rats since I started playing Kings of War a couple of years ago and have loved how they’ve evolved in V3. So, to the table. The scenario is Invade, armies are at 2,500 points.

The armies

The Fyrefur Clan (Ratkin)

1 – Kiitsch Sparkthrower – Warlock with Banechant and Inspiring Talisman

2 – Bludjar – Warchief with Fleabag

3 – Demonspawn

4 – Night Terror with Diadem of Dragonkind

5 – Shock Troops horde with Plague Pot and Brew of Sharpness

6 – Tunnel Runner regiment with Caterpillar Potion

7 – Tunnel Runner regiment with Jesse’s Boots

8 – Tunnel Runner regiment

9 & 10 – Mutant Rat Fiend

11 – Strayrat’s Hackpaw regiment

12 & 13 & 14 – Vermintide regiment

The Orcs

1 & 2 – Ax regiment

3 & 4 – Great Ax regiment with Orcish Skullpole

5 – Long Ax horde

6 & 7 – Morax troop with Orcish Skullpole

8 – Wip’s Playmates

9 – Fight Wagon regiment

10 – Gore Chariot regiment

11 – War Drum

12 & 13 – Giant

14 – Godspeaker with Inspiring Talisman and Fireball

15 – Krusher on Gore

16 – Morax Mansplitter

17 – Wip the Outcast

Set up

Turn 1

Orc raiders were not unusual, Kiitsch Sparkthrower mused, they just weren’t usually this successful. Most of their raiding parties turned back a long way before making it to the entrance tunnels of the Fyrefur Clan. The more information the Scurriers had brought back, the more he was convinced the Orcs arrival was more down to overenthusiasm following their total destruction of Azzighar’s forces than any grand plan to overthrow his clan.

Certainly the intelligence from the clan’s scouts indicated the army had no real supplies with it and depended on raiding for food and resources to keep it going. As what little civilisation there was had ended twenty or thirty miles ago, and the winter snows were setting in, Sparkthrower was certain the army was on the verge of fracturing with only the promise of another fight keeping it going. That it was with the Ratkin was purely coincidental. The force that gathered before him certainly wasn’t sufficient to pose a serious threat to the tunnels, however the Broodmothers were keen the orcs were stopped before they could cause any real damage. To that end Sparkthrower had been dispatched to stop the orcs from progressing into Fyrefur territory.

Despite Sparkthrower’s suspicions about the orc army’s motivation he was not going to underestimate it. He had met Azzighar on a number of occasions and knew from first hand experience the Iron Caster’s reputation for arrogance and short-sightedness were rarely sufficiently exaggerated to come close to the truth. His demise had been no surprise. Of course the misinformation fed to Azzighar by Strayrat, the leader of the Fyrefur hackpaws, and their early abandonment of the field would not have helped the abyssal dwarves, but it was undoubtedly Azzighar’s talents as a leader that had won the day for the orcs.

It was for this reason Sparkthrower had petitioned the Broodmothers for the release of the Fyrefur Demonspawn. A mighty beast, fashioned in the mould of Scudku-z’luk, the Demonspawn of Diew. Between the intelligence presented by the scurriers, and the carefully considered words of the Warlock, the Broodmothers had agreed to the creature’s release, together with the clan’s two Mutant Rat Fiends. The terrible triumvirate were an awesome sight to behold as they stood in the snow, bellowing out in equal measures of anguish and hate at the orcs that moved inexorably towards them. The rats responded in kind, advancing, but more tentatively, with the exceptions of Vermintide regiments that ran ahead of the main battle line.

End of turn 1

Turn 2

The orcs had seemed quite disciplined at first, but as the armies closed the most enthusiastic of their number broke from the ranks hoping to make an early dent in the rat lines. The giant on the rat’s left flank charged into a regiment of Vermintide waving its club around, but the heavy thud of its massive feet hitting the ground was enough to send the giant rats scattering for their homes. In the centre a regiment of Ax attempted to achieve the same against another Vermintide regiment, but this time the response was not quite as final, resulting in the tiny rats wavering.

In response the Tunnel Runners revved their engines and powered into combat. One regiment smashing into the giant on the left flank, whilst a second ploughed into the fight wagons. Despite the weight of the wheels and their massive blades neither regiment was able to cause enough damage to remove their targets. Seeing the failure of the Tunnel Runners on the right flank Strayrat spurred his mount into action. A second giant had burst from the trees in front of him and was threatening the Tunnel Runner’s flank. The Hackpaw leader hoped he would be able to buy the Tunnel Runners, locked in combat with the Fight Wagons, some time.

End of turn 2

Turn 3

Strayrat’s intervention worked. The giant grabbed at fleabags, missing the mutts as they darted around defensively trying to avoid its hungry, grabbing hand. Some of the fleabags weren’t quite fast enough and two of their number were plucked out and stuffed unceremoniously into the monster’s great maw. The sight of the giant’s open mouth chewing, combined with the shower of warm flesh and blood that fell as it tried to eat, fight and bawl at the same time was too much for Strayrat and his pets who promptly waivered, equally disgusted and entranced by the spectacle. The Tunnel Runners locked in combat with the Fight Wagons fared less well and soon lay in pieces, much to the excitement of the orc crews.

In the centre the Ax regiment swung at the few remaining rats, forcing them from around their feet. Any joy was short lived as the smartest amongst them noticed not only the Shock Troops in front of them, but also the Night Terror slinking along to their left. Whilst their brethren prepared for a last stand a Morax troop could no longer contain their excitement. With whoops and hollers of blood curdling delight they sprinted forward towards the biggest target they could find, unfortunately for them it was the Demonspawn. Their excitement ceased very abruptly, not long after their charge.

On the left flank the Tunnel Runners that had bravely, but also stupidly, underestimated the giant heard the gleeful chuckling of Wip’s friends joining the fray. With blows from the Giant’s club raining down on them and spiteful Orclings jabbing them with their small spears the drivers decided it was time to abandon their machines.

Warchief Bludjar, overseeing the right flank, looked unimpressed as his forces seemed to be pulled apart before his very eyes. In defiance he smashed his blades together, attracting the attention of the Mutant Rat Fiend closest to him. He gestured towards the giant and without any further command the drawling brute charged headlong into its flank. The mutant lowered its shoulder as it made contact, driving up hard into the giant’s great rib cage. There was an ear splitting snap as massive rib bones cracked and fractured, but the blow seemed to do little more than further enrage the titan. Always looking for an excuse to meet the foe in combat Bludjar beat his fleabag into a charge against the fight wagons. His fleabag leapt through the wreckage of the Tunnel Runners, catching the orcs off guard, allowing Bludjar to kill the crews, taking the strange orcish contraptions out of action.

There was an ear splitting snap as massive rib bones cracked and fractured…

In the centre the Shock Troops and Night Terror rapidly finished off the Ax whilst the other Mutant Rat Fiend bundled into the remaining Ax regiment which saw heavy losses, but not enough to destroy it.

End of turn 3

Turn 4

Seeing the Morax perish at the hands of the Demonspawn the Krusher spurred his mount into action in the foolish hope of a glorious victory over the beast. Meanwhile, the Giant and Wip’s friends ambled towards the centre of the field.

In the centre the orcs were starting to get bogged down in the mud, blood and bodies that were an inevitable by-product of the fighting. Morax Mansplitter took it upon himself to try and break the deadlock, running into combat against the Mutant Rat Fiend. The horde of Long Ax, on the other hand, decided to hold their ground. Charging the Night Terror would have opened them to a counter charge from both the Shock Troops and the Demonspawn, a fight not even orcs were excited by. By holding back, the rocks to their left and the combat to their right denied the opportunity for both units to attack them.

On the left the beleaguered Giant found a moment of brief relief in the combat as the Gore Chariots made their way out of the forest and flank charged the Hackpaws. Whilst Strayrat decided his job was done and headed for home the Mutant Rat Fiend continued to rain blows on the broken giant. The titan finally gave up. It collapsed to its knees, before keeling over into the woods, trees snapping and splintering under its dead weight.

In the centre the Night Terror was weighing up just what the differences between a rock and a hard place were. The creature stood nervously twitching between the Shock Troops and the Long Ax, it was time to move, but its options were limited to either the remaining Giant or the frolicking Orclings that had taken to blowing raspberries and bearing their dirty little green bottoms at it. Feeling the ground start to shake as the Shock Troops began their charge the creature decided the Orclings were probably the most inviting target and made straight for them.

The impact of the Shock Troops surprised the Long Ax. Humanoid for humanoid the orcs were bigger, but the rats had a vicious streak that exposed itself in their twisted smiles and frothing mouths as their blades found their way around shields and under armour. The ferocity of the attack shocked the orcs, wavering them.

The second Mutant Rat Fiend was unimpressed with Morax Mansplitter, it wanted to get back to picking apart the Ax regiment. It grabbed the orc hero and hurled him into the side of the house with such force a sickening wet splat was clearly heard by the Ax regiment. Sadly, for the fiend, it ran out of momentum before reaching the Ax regiment Mansplitter had been blocking.

The orc Krusher’s bid for glory ended before any fighting even began. Catching sight of the last Giant lumbering towards its flank the Demonspawn turned, its tail whipped out, smashing the orc’s grunta from underneath him and breaking its stout neck. To add insult to injury, as the Krusher’s brain caught up with what was happening it became suddenly aware of the dead weight of the grunta. The dead mount had landed on his legs, preventing him from taking any further part in the battle.

End of turn 4

Turn 5

The Gore Chariots were faced with a dilemma. Unable to reach the surviving regiment of Tunnel Runners their only other option was a front charge into the Mutant Rat Fiend. Covered in giant blood and seething with rage neither the gruntas or their orc masters wanted to risk a combat with a questionable outcome that could see them flank charged by the rat wheels, fear turned to indecision and they held their ground.

The Giant eyed up the Demonspawn in the woods, but a momentary glance suggested a far easier option than going toe to toe with the other worldly abomination. Striding past the woods, and the Demonspawn, screeching what must have been pained insults at the massive orc, the Giant raised its club and took a leisurely swing at the rear of the Shock Troops engaged with the Long Ax. Now it was the rats turn to waver.

The regiment of Ax saw no other choice but to press in on the Mutant Rat Fiend in front of them, this time their persistence was rewarded, and the beast feel.

Sensing the excitement of the orcs in the centre, seeing their foes take such heavy damage the orc Shaman and Wip both let out lightening bolts that struck at the Demonspawn leaving the creature confused and wavered.

With the Night Terror at a stalemate with the Orclings and the Rat’s centre wavered there was little to be done. The Tunnel Runners on the left gunned their engines for a final charge into the chariots which saw the rickety carts and their riders reduced to splinters.

End of turn 5

Turn 6

Sensing a win the Long Ax surged into the Shock Troops finally breaking them. Unfortunately, the enthusiasm of the orcs resulted in the Long Ax and Ax getting tangled up and stuck between the rocks and the house that marked the gateway to the Fyrefur Clan’s territory, preventing them from entering. Sparkthrower smirked, “Technically speaking no orc ever crossed our border, another set of orders carried out to the letter.”

End of turn 6

As the dust settles

Unfortunately for my opponent the terrain prevented his infantry in the centre from crossing the mid-point with the majority of his bases leaving his Orclings and Giant giving him 2 victory points whilst my Mutant Rat Fiend and Chariots edged rats into the lead with 3 victory points.

This was a great game and, on reflection, highlighted just how rusty I am after a long hiatus from gaming over lockdown. My main learning points:

Watch the flanks and the rear – after the first regiment of Ax was removed I had options with the Night Terror to either charge the Giant or the Orclings. I opted for the Orclings on the basis they seemed a squishier target and the charge into the Giant would be hindered and unlikely to do very much to it. From a scenario point of view this was justified on the basis that the Orclings were a scoring unit in my half. Looking back now I realise I should have been much smarter about checking my flanks and rears. Not only to prevent the rear charge into the Shock Troops, but also it would have stopped the giant getting the first blows in on my Demonspawn, had it set sights on that instead. Now I have more time to think about it, this was probably the worst decision of the game on so many levels… I need to move on, quickly.

Probably the worst decision in the game… for the not orc player, obvs

Leader points, woods and important minor details – Mantic have an incredible ability to create games you think you know after playing them a couple of times. But they also have massive tactical and strategic depth. A lot of that depth comes from movement rules and scenery interactions. When we set up the terrain, the wood in my deployment zone was designated as two woods with a small gap between them. Foolishly I shrugged and carried on placing my Demonspawn with his leader point between the woods, when I could have moved him down a bit, starting his leader point in the woods in front of him. In reality this had limited impact on this game, other than resulting in cover modifiers for his first round of lightening bolt shooting. But who knows how many wounds he missed out as a result of that pesky cover modifier (I do, and its none, but it’s still a learning point)? On a shootier army though, like my Slave list this could be far more problematic.

Plague pots – I know many in the rat community love these little pots of joy, but I’m still not completely convinced. This has more to do with my play style and army build than the game mechanism itself, which I really like. That being said I am trying them out because my army largely depends on its big hitters to one shot as much as possible. I simply don’t have the number of units to play more of a grind style. Consequently, where I see the pots coming into their own is dropping them on the turn of a charge against something that might survive so their next round of combat will be at -1 to hit, increasing the survivability of my Shock Troops. The Long Ax horde supported by the War Drum definitely meets that criteria, and I completely forgot about the bloody pot! Of course, they’re no protection against a rear charge from a Giant, and yes the Long Ax were waivered, but in a world where I get fundamental decisions wrong… well, every little helps.

Rat of the match

This has to be shared between my Warchief who manged to wound the damaged fight wagons with four of his five attacks and remove them from the board, and Strayrat and his Hackpaws for holding up the giant long enough to allow a flank charge from a Mutant Rat Fiend, something very few things in the game respond well to!

Published by Eddie Bar

Fantasy storyteller, reader and wargamer.

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