It’s been a while since I last wrote one of these, but now I’ve finally got around to playing my first Halpi’s Rift game it seemed the right time, what with the Mantic back to gaming month and all, to get creative.
It was a relatively straight forward decision on which plane to play on – the first one. I decided to go with my Basileans for this game because it felt a good fit narratively. The army was built through a slow grow campaign that took place on an undiscovered island. The army’s leader, a self appointed Priest named Sha’leis, is a charismatic preacher who walks the fine line between righteous devotee and heresy. In Basilea she would undoubtedly attract the attention of the authorities, but she is largely unheard of in the hegemony because she, and her followers, spend all their time spreading the word of the Shining Ones outside Basilea’s borders. Consequently, the idea of taking a trip to an alternative plane of existence, or several, would undoubtedly be her kind of thing.
I’m trying out a new format to show what’s going on turn by turn. The pictorial representations of the battlefield aren’t precise, but hopefully it will make things a bit clearer than dodgily angled photos – there are also a decent number of pictures as well.
1 – Sha’leis – Priest with Shroud of the Saint
2 – Anyta – War Wizard swapping Fireball for Lightening Bolt, Alchemist’s Curse, Pointy Wizard’s Hat
3 – Mounted Paladin Knights with Aegis Fragment and Caterpillar Potion
4 – Gur Panther regiment
5 – Ogre Palace Guard horde with Brew of Sharpness
6 – Phoenix
7 – Ja’y’ll – Ur Elohi
7 – Sa’y’ll – Ur Elohi
8 – Elohi regiment
9 – Spearman horde
10 – Foot Paladins with the Defender upgrade and Aegis Fragment
1 – Grupp Longnail
2 – Wiz
3 – Fleabag rider sniffs regiment
4 – Mincer Mob troop
5 – Goblin Blaster
6 – Giant
7 – War Trombone
8 – Goblin King mounted on Fleabag
9 – King with Jareth’s Pendent
10 – Rabble horde
11 – Rabble regiment with Mawpup
The army marched as armies are want to do: with purpose. Anyta wandered if the rank and file, or for that matter the sergeants-at-arms and officers who marshalled the neat ranks and columns into place, had even noticed the change as they had crossed from the physical world of Panithor to here. A moment’s reflection led her to conclude there was something decidedly reassuring about the army’s apparent indifference to their new location – after all they were here to fight, not see the sights.
Anyta had been uncertain when she was approached about joining Sha’leis’ expedition to the outer planes of existence. The scarred Priest’s enthusiasm seemed dangerously close to naivety, but the Ur Elohi who attended her, one at each shoulder, indicated her vision and motivation was rooted in something deeper. Besides she thought, how many other mortals would get to see the Material plane?
The landscape was a strangely familiar place. Rooted in the world of mortals, but somehow more. A frozen lake lay to Anyta’s left, with a tap house beyond it, yet this was not a cold place. Far from it, the ground was arid, baked brown by a sun that did not seem to show its face. She wondered briefly about the tap house which looked so out of place in such a lonely landscape.
Anyta’s meditations were interrupted by the flurry of wings. Elohi landed close by. She turned to look at the new arrivals glowing and resplendent in their highly polished armour, flaming blades dancing in their still hands. The Ur Elohi Sa’y’ll approached her, silently extending his arm towards her.
“Take it.” The angel said.
She took the object the angel offered her and inspected it thoroughly. It looked like a battered wizard hat from the stories her gran had told her when she was barely able to walk.
“Put it on.”
As much as she wanted to do as the angel said she could not help but raise an eyebrow, “Surely this is not the time for childish dress ups?”
“Surely you of all people understand that all stories, no matter how childish, are an embellishment of a truth. True, not all wizards wear pointy hats, but one did, and it was that wizard’s wish that I should pass it on to you when you arrived here.” The angel replied.
Anyta stood in shocked silence doing her best to process the implications of the angel’s words. She had known no other wizards. Her magic had not been learnt in a university or college. Her magic had arrived with the wind that had destroyed her village and left her homeless. Was this some pittiful attempt at humour, angels were not known for their wit, or had Sa’y’ll simply made a mistake, something he was also not known to do either.
“I would suggest you put the hat on and focus on the present. Now is not the time to worry about sartorial stereotyping and I can guarantee it’s the last thing on their tiny minds.” said the angel nodding towards the goblin ranks that seemed to have appeared from nowhere on the other side of the plane, “Focus on the present now, and there will be time for the past later.”
Almost as soon as the angel had stopped talking the horns sounded the advance. Anyta was hardly surprised Sha’leis had taken the initiative. She’leis was not one to hold back, and the superior training of the Basileans meant they were prepared far quicker than the goblins, who even as the armoured warriors moved forward, seemed to still be milling around deciding what would go where. The confusion was most evidence around the giant’s feet where a mount king pointed frantically, yet never in the same direction twice, which resulted in the giant either hitting or standing on each of the units around him. Only the King managed to escape, instinctively wheeling his mawbeast away from the flailing giant.
As the drama around the giant died down, the goblin army suddenly seemed to realise the humans had started their advance. They responded slowly, moving forward, firing off a flew poorly aimed arrows that for the most part either fell against the rocks in the ground or thudded into shields.
The mounted paladins and panthers on the left flank had ranged forward of the infantry and found themselves facing a bewildering array of war machines. Thinking better of going head to head with the mincers the panthers charged the war trombone sending the crew fleeing from the field. The paladins charged the blaster in the entirely accurate belief that anything with that amount of gun powder in it and a goblin in charge should be the first on the kill list.
Sa’y’ll watched the cavalry strike, breaking their targets. Concerned that the paladins had left their flank exposed to the rabble horde the Ur Elohi charged into their front flaming sword slashing left and right, holding the goblins at bay.
Inspired by Sa’y’ll the Elohi regiment on the far right charged a regiment of rabble cutting a handful down, but failing to route them.
The goblin attack was now gaining momentum. The giant let out a savage battle cry as it smashed into the spearmen. Despite the initial impact the soldier’s training and experience kicked in allowing them to quickly reform and prepare to fight back. To their right the foot paladins received a charge from the fleabag sniffs, raising their shields to fend off the slavering beasts.
The mincers started their blades spinning and began their relentless march forward. The mob on the right piled into the flank of the Elohi, shredding the angels leaving broken wings and golden blood on golden armour. The mob on the left charged into the front of the panthers scattering the creatures and sending them running from the field. Spurred on by the success of the mincers the sniffs and their king charged the mounted paladins, but failed to make the same mark on the armoured warriors.
Ja’y’ll felt a surge of energy rush through him (+5 attacks in melee as a result of the channelling table). Raising his sword above his head he flew into the flank of the central rabble horde. Despite being caught between the two angels the goblins managed to stand their ground and muster the courage to fight back against Sa’y’ll, knocking him to the ground.
Concerned by the menacing mincer to their left the mounted paladins counter charged the sniffs, routing them before wheeling out of their field of view. Seeing the mincer was now unable to charge the knights in a rare moment of leadership and heroism the goblin king on foot charged into the front of the paladins, holding them up while the mincers positioned themselves for the next charge.
With Sha’leis and the Pheonix casting heal to keep her loyal soldiers fighting, and the spearmen and foot paladins locked in their respective combats Anyta watched the goblin forces on the right flank advance. Only the ogre horde stood ready to stop their advance, and whilst these brutal warriors would fight to the last and take many of the creatures down with them she knew they would eventually be overrun. She set out towards them preparing to cast a lightening bolt, but as she uttered the words of the spell she felt a far greater power stir within her. An energy rushed through her, setting her spine ablaze, but despite the raw power there was something comforting and familiar. The warmth of a bed time story blanketed her mind and she heard her gran’s voice speaking unfamiliar words. Without thinking she repeated each word and the fire in her spine spread to her chest, then to her arms, exiting her body through her hands. Whatever this was it was no lightening bolt. a swirling vortex of orange and white energy flew from her hands and smashed into the war trombone. As the smoke from the explosion cleared Anyta was shocked to see the crew and weapon remained but no longer moved, their flesh stripped away and recast in bronze.
Anyta took a sharp breathe as she surveyed the goblin statue. The removal of the war engine combined with a surge of magical energy (+5 attacks in melee from the channelling table) gave the ogres the opening they had been waiting for. They rushed forward hitting the mincer head on. Blows rained down on the goblin machine, and despite it’s heavily armoured front it eventually gave way and collapsed. Despite the ogre’s victory they were now surrounded by goblins. Anyta reached out and let her gran’s words guide her, seconds later the rabble regiment on the ogre’s flank would stand ready to charge for eternity.
Following their victory the ogres had drawn back behind the wall, which meant when the rabble horde charged them they were force to fight around the obstacle, breaking the little coherency they had making no impact on the ogres.
In the centre the impasse continued. The giant had been joined by the mounted goblin King, but the reinvigorating powers of Sha’leis’ words and the Pheonix kept the spearmen in the fight. The foot paladins shared the relentless battering of the men-at-arms, finally routing the sniffs, only to take a charge from another rabble regiment.
Grupp had been spent much of the battle skulking besides the central rabble horde. As they finally broke, enthusiasm and bodies burnt by Ja’y’ll’s blade Grupp charged the angel punching indiscriminately with her armoured gloves. The angel was unable to block every blow and those that landed sent electric waves surging through his body, tangling with the sounds of breaking men and horses as the mincer ploughed into the rear of the mounted paladins, shaking him to his core.
As the goblins flooded across the plane Sha’leis felt defeat reach out to her. She bowed her head and prayed that her soldiers would be protected whatever fate had in store for her. As she spoke the Pheonix flared and flew towards the centre of the plane. The creature had felt the energy of the ancients and sent its healing energies towards Ja’y’ll (the spell reached it’s target due to an additional 6 inch range provided by the channelling table). Refreshed, Ja’y’ll struck back at Grupp, but with his mind still affected by the shock from the gloves he failed to do any meaningful damage. Seeing the wiz in trouble the goblin King, buoyed by what would soon be the legend of how he defeated a regiment of mounted paladins single handedly, went to her aid, but even with the combined efforts of the goblin leaders the angel endured.
Things took a desperate turn in the centre as a regiment of rabble joined the melee against the spearmen. The sheer weight of opponents finally proved too much for the men at arms and the spear block crumbled. On the right the ogres remained bogged down as the horde of rabble refused run despite the terrible damage inflicted upon them, but hope only requires the smallest of cracks to allow her shoots to grow. And so it was, that the foot paladins put the last of the rabble in front of them to the sword and surged forward in triumph bidding their bothers in arms to follow them.
The Pheonix burned brighter than ever Sha’leis had seen it. Somehow the bird had made a connection with the plane and once again its energy course through its molten veins (+5 attacks in melee from the channelling table). The bird shrieked before soaring towards the last mincer, grabbing it in it talons, soaring into the sky and dropping it. The machine broke apart as it hit the ground showering the immediate area with chunks of metal, splintered wood and any number of screws and nails.
On the right the ogres finally broke the rabble horde, running forward to ensure every last one of the escaping goblins were cut down.
Seeing the tide turning Ja’y’ll broke from his combat and ran for the shelter of the woods in case the goblin leaders tried to take their frustration out on him.
That was one hell of a close game and despite Basilea winning 8:5 it really was on a knife’s edge because the sheer number of goblins meant they were able to keep the Basileans in their own half for most of the game. In fact, because this was a 6 turn game the orges had to remove the goblins from the table and roll a 4+ on the follow up move to secure the win (thanks to Sha’lei’s prayer they managed to roll a 6!).
Overall the setting was massively fun to play. It’s a really nice alternative to the standard game and I’ll definitely be taking the Basileans onto another plane. What I found interesting about this game was army choices. My opponent choose a pretty regular force without any of the goodies from the campaign magic items section, or the plane specific spell and magic item lists. I, on the other hand, decided to lean pretty heavily into the setting. For the first time not only did I take a war wizard, but also tooled her up with the pointy hat to give her an extra magic level and the Alchemist Curse spell on its highest setting, dropping a second ogre horde to accommodate the change.
It’s arguable that the magic gave my force the edge. I had more channeling dice and a spell capable of doing up to 12, piercing 4 hits a turn. Certainly I felt on three occasions the channeling dice could not have landed more perfectly: the additional range to the healing spell that kept Ja’y’ll in the game and the extra attacks for the orges and the Pheonix that allowed them to one shot the mincers. That being said, if my opponent had spent more points on items and spells this would have been at the expense of boots on the ground, so… I think we all know this is the not even a scratch on the surface of post game analysis that could occupy months and provide no meaningful outcome. So I’m going to stop right there. So whilst this is a wholly insignificant sample size of one my first impression of Halpi’s Rift is massively positive, as for me it delivers on flavour, whilst maintaining some wholesome balance.
I’m really looking forward to the next adventure.