Stealing Shards

Sometimes it can be fun to really challenge yourself. This battle is between my rats and a flying themed nature army. I’m generally not too bothered by fliers or alpha strike armies, but there’s something about flying shamblers that just scares me. The ease with which they achieve flank and rear charges, combined with a rat defence of 4 means casualties stack up quickly. Still you’re not here to read my excuses, if indeed they are even required…

To the table. Loot. 1995 points.


The Fyrefur Clan

1 – Shock Troop horde with Plague Pot and Brew of Sharpness

2 – Warrior regiment

3 – Hackpaw regiment

4 & 5 – Vermintide regiment

6 – Tunnel Runner regiment with Caterpillar Potion

7 & 8 – Mutant Rat Fiend

9 – Old Mother Cinderpaw – Mother Cryza

10 – Demonspawn

11 – Bludjar – War Chief on Fleabag with Mournful Blade

Forces of Nature

1 – Salamander Prime horde with Brew of Sharpness

2 – Hunters of the Wild regiment with Chalice of Wrath

3 & 4 – Air Elemental regiment

5 & 6 – Air Elemental horde

7 – Great Water Elemental

8 – Druid with Tome of Darkness

9 – Gladewalker Druid

10 – Treeherder

11 – Unicorn with Boomstick

Set up

Turn 1

Old Mother Cinderpaw sniffed the air. Something vexed her. Some ancient riddle her olfactory senses were trying to unravel hung there, hiding in plain sight. There was a hint of sentience mixed with the sky, like a strand of thread that she instinctively knew should not be pulled because it led to… something. Someone? The only thing she was sure of was the malice and discontent within it.

The woodland was ancient. The trees were grey and bent, as though the weight of the world bore down on their arboreal shoulders. Moss and lichen grew heavily around their trunks and limbs like the cloaks of weary travellers. Mother Cinderpaw did her best to focus, but was distracted by little things, tiny movements, natural, but inconsistent. A breeze was growing to a wind; twigs and branches were starting to twitch, yet the direction of each movement indicated one was not the result of the other.

Around Cinderpaw the Fyrefur Clan’s expeditionary force clattered forward, ignorant of the old matriarch’s concerns. From the Tunnel Runners crushing undergrowth beneath their wheels to the Mutant Rat Fiends relentlessly trudging through whatever stood in front of them the subtleties silently slipped by. At this stage in their journey they believed the dangers, such as they had been, were behind them.

They had travelled from the Fyrefur tunnels, across the plains to these ancient woodlands in search of the shards. On the plains lived bandits. Tribes of horsemen, dwarf brock riders and fleabag riding goblins, sometimes all to be found in the same tribe, that made petty theft and thoughtless violence their way of life. But the individual tribes tended to be small, without the stomach or skill for a real fight. They made their living murdering lonely travellers and unguarded merchants, sometimes eating them, but always taking anything of value that remained. It was for this reason Cinderpaw had chosen an expeditionary force of the biggest and most imposing of the clan’s warriors. Intimidation. Time was of the essence. The shards were needed. She had neither time nor appetite to get mixed up with petty bandits, and her entourage was picked to make that message clear.

The shards lay in the West Woods. Three innocuous looking stones embedded in a lay line, staying out of the world’s business.

Cinderpaw had been informed the woods were deserted. Uninhabited by animal or spirit. Numerous Hackpaw and Scurrier missions to the woods had found where the shards lay. Not once had they reported any signs of life, or even movement. Not even a breeze.

The wind was whipping up. The trees’ twitching turned to increasingly larger jerking, twisting motions. The few remaining hairs on Cinderpaw’s neck raised. Trusting her instincts, she motioned to Bludjar and the Hackpaws to form battle lines. The clatter of the ratkin increased to a din of screeched orders and the hurried movement to face a threat that had yet to reveal itself.

As the Ratkin lines drew up, a hundred pairs of beady green eyes stared into the trees ahead. Slowly, where there had been nothing but background the forces of nature emerged. Mother Cinderpaw didn’t wait for the army to gain full substance. She saw an ancient Treeherder striding towards one of the shards and signalled the advance. Despite her enthusiasm to attack, the ratkin were unnerved by the strange force they faced and inched forward, with the exception of the Warriors opposite the Treeherder that sprinted forward. They eagerly claimed the first shard, hoping to drag it away from the clutches of the treeman. In her anger, mainly with her own forces’ reluctance to advance, Cinderpaw hurled a lightening bolt at the Druid, it wounded her, but no sooner had the wounds opened they closed, further infuriating the brood mother.

The forces of nature’s response was similarly muted, with the exception of the Treeherder and a regiment of Air Elementals that charged into the Warriors holding the first shard. Despite the onslaught the Warriors held their ground, although the rage of the mighty tree spirit left them cowering, and unable to strike back.

End of turn 1

Turn 2

The Hackpaws on the left flank loped forward trying to bait the nearest Air Elemental regiment into combat, but the spirits hovered silently out of reach. As the fleabag riders closed the gap, the elementals whipped themselves over the heads of the riders and landed to their flank, twisting as they came to ground. The Druid raised her arms and sent them surging in. Riders were thrown from mounts and scattered around the field. Job done, the elementals turned silently to face the Demonspawn.

As the Hackpaws had marched to their doom Warchief Bludjar decided it was time to lend his support to the centre of the field. He made his way towards the small clump of trees, skirting behind the Mutant Rat Fiend.

Seeing the first shard at risk of falling to the tree creature the Shock Troops smashed their plague pots and rushed forward. Knowing the size of the challenge they faced Cinderpaw cast Banechant on them, knowing they would need every advantage in the coming fight. Rusty blades swung, but the treeman held its own. Then, as if the sky itself took exception to the Shock Troops’ presence, the air around them erupted with mini hurricanes as a horde of Air Elementals whipped into their front. The Gladewalker Druid ran around the base of the hill as the Air Elemental regiment flew over the Warriors, turning to face the rear of the Shock Troops. In perfect symbiosis, the elementals didn’t even appear to stop moving as the Gladewalker raised its staff and surged them into the fray. The resulting slaughter sent a clear message to the rats – the shards were not to be touched.

End of turn 2

Turn 3

In the midst of the ruined riders and broken mounts that had once been the Hackpaws  the Demonspawn saw an opportunity to finally get to grips with the evasive forest spirits. The beast leapt forward slashing at the Air Elements, dissipating their energy before turning to look along nature’s battle line. The caution of its advance abandoned, the unnatural beast let out a guttural, screeching roar that split rocks and announced it challenge, not just to the forces in front of it, but to nature itself.

On the right of the field the rats were starting to make some gains. The Vermintide charged into the Gladewalker hurting it, but not enough to kill it. The Mutant Rat Fiend barrelled into the front of the Air Elemental horde. Knowing that the horde had to be stopped Cinderpaw raised her staff and charged into its flank. The old witch had an aggressive energy that belied her bent and broken shape. She thrashed at the air spirits with all her might. The elementals were driven back and destroyed. Despite her rage, Cinderpaw continued to act with an apparent clarity of purpose. Seeing how the remaining regiment of Air Elementals was positioned Cinderpaw threw herself backwards, blocking the spirits from advancing on the Mutant Ratfiend, but leaving her flank exposed in the process. Desperate times, bitter experience had taught her, called for desperate measures.

It was now that the Greater Water Elemental made it’s presence felt, charging into the side of the Mutant Rat Fiend. But despite its advantage it was just not able to break the verminous abomination. The Air Elemental regiment faired less well against Cinderpaw, and the rat witch stared contemptuously at them, undaunted by their flailing, ethereal limbs. With a final sweep of a branch the Tree Herder cleared the last of the Warriors before turning to see the Gladewalker dart away from the Vermintide and seek shelter behind the Greater Water Elemental.

Back on the left flank the West Woods responded to the Demonspawn’s challenge. The Hunters of the Wild lurched from a standing start, throwing their limbs at the monster, whipping it with thorny fingers but making little more than scrapes and scratches on its patchwork body. As the Hunters of the Wild attacked, the Air Elementals turned and flew towards the ruined homestead that anchored their line. They drifted past the broken building and turned before a surge of magical energy picked them up and pushed them towards the flank of the Demonspawn, but the wave was not enough for them to reach the creature as it moved to strike back at the Hunters.

End of turn 3

Turn 4

The Demonspawn lashed out at the Hunters. Its aggression seemed to increase as the Mutant Rat Fiend smashed into the back of the regiment. The titans fed off each other’s destruction, tearing through the forest creatures, but somehow, for some reason (double 1) the Hunters simply refused to die and refused to run.

In the centre of the field the Vermintide made a grab for the second shard. As the rats swarmed over the stone the Unicorn unleashed a lightening bolt that rent the sky, and fell to ground directly onto the shard. Sparks and flame shot up as though the stone had exploded. In the heat and chaos the rats were incinerated instantly, leaving only the shard, still in its place, still cool to the touch.

On the right flank Bludjar and Cinderpaw charged the Treeherder in a final push to bring it to its knees, but the warlord’s blows failed to penetrate the treeman’s gnarled and knotted skin, whilst Cinderpaw’s blows simply weren’t enough.

The Mutant Rat Fiend charged the Air Elemental regiment, smashing at the spirits but failing to do significant damage, before the elementals swung back with their own driving blows. The Greater Water Elemental pondered its next move, weighing up the combats that surrounded it. Pushing the Gladewalker to one side it flowed smoothly towards Cinderpaw, surging the final few meters, before rising above the old broodmother and smashing down on her. The cold, bludgeoning blows of the elemental knocked her from her feet just as a strike from the treeman’s massive fist robbed her of her consciousness.

Seeing the verminous titans locked in combat with the Hunters the Air Elemental horde and Salamander Primes took the initiative, stealing rear charges into the fleshy constructs. Fresh and keen for blood the Salamanders made short work of the fiend, but the Air Elementals and the Hunters seemed slow and tired in comparison and the Demonspawn screeched defiance once again, preparing a brutal riposte.

Turn 5

The Demonspawn turned and attacked the elementals. Despite its size and raw power, heavy injuries had stolen its strength and what remained of its primal rodent brain now started to take control. Its blows fell wide of their target and its focus shifted to survival, and finding a way out of the fight.

As the Mutant Rat Fiend sunk to the ground the Salamanders reformed to face the Tunner Runners that had started to rumble towards them. Gathering speed and momentum the wheels crunched into the lizardmen. The reptilian ranks braced for impact using their shields and strength to limit the damage from the contraptions. Their co-ordinated response stopped the chariots dead in their tracks, turning them into sitting targets for the Salamanders to dismantle at their leisure.

On the right flank the treeman struck Bludjar, wavering the Warchief. The remaining Mutant Rat Fiend continued to pound at the Air Elemental regiment. They were now massively damaged, but somehow (double 1) they held on, locking the fiend in combat as the Greater Water Elemental surged into its flank, knocking it to the ground and carrying it from the battle field.

End of turn 5

As the dust settles

Due to a combination of time and a lack of rat units on the table we decided to call the game at that point. Whilst, on the surface this looked like a complete wash out I left the table feeling a lot happier than I was at the beginning of the game, believe it or not!

Breaking in a new force – for a number of reasons, I haven’t had the opportunity to play many games with rats in V3. The loss of Blight, new synergies and points changes have had a significant impact on my army and its dynamics. As a result I’m still very much getting to grips with how the army should work. I’m also trying out Tunnel Runners, which are new units for me. All this means I’m not as comfortable with how it all works together as I would like to be. Having faced this army before with the Brothermark I’m well aware of just how responsive it is and how easily flying shamblers can get into flanks. Whilst Air Elementals don’t have any enhanced strength skills, double or treble attacks at melee 3 against defence 4 quickly take their toll. If anything, this game really brought home the difference between defence 4 and 5 with Cinderpaw and the Demonspawn fairing well. In addition, flank and rear charges negate benefits from plague pots and ensnare, the other defensive tools at the rat’s disposal. In short this felt like a bad match up, but until the double 1s I felt I was fairing much better than I had expected.

Double 1s – I have no issues with double 1s as a mechanic and believe that most games can be salvaged. In this game the double 1s really came at the wrongest (don’t care, its a word now) of times, although shambling, nimble and fly make predicting quite what the elementals would have done had the Hunters and Air Elementals been finished off difficult to predict. The big take away from this was that removing the double 1s would have made a significant difference to what was on the table and given me more of a chance than I had expected of claiming a win.

Finding the extra mileage – one of the great things about writing these reports is stepping back through the battle with the benefit of hindsight and pictures. The Hackpaws and Warchief were definitely not in the best starting places. They could have achieved at least the same impact by being closer to the centre and likely played a greater role in the battle overall. For example, had the Warchief been placed more centrally its likely he would have joined the combat with the Gladewalker, likely removing a vital source of surge and limiting the impact of the Greater Water Elemental. Knowing where and why the army didn’t perform is a massive positive, because making those changes could have given me the extra mileage needed to overcome the double ones. Knowing where that extra mileage can be found puts me in a positive place going forward.

Rat of the match

This can only go to the Demonspawn. Surviving a rear and frontal charge is rare, so this is well deserved.

Published by Eddie Bar

Fantasy storyteller, reader and wargamer.

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