Book Review: Horseman by Christina Henry

What is it?

Christina Henry tells a new tale of terror set in the village of Sleepy Hollow.

Who’s the writer?

Christina Henry is a best-selling horror writer who draws inspiration from well-known stories and crafts them into new tales of terror.

What’s it about?

Tales of witchcraft and evil spirits abound in Sleepy Hollow. They always have, but now the village that seems stuck in its ways, where outsiders are rarely seen, finds itself in the grip of a wave of killings.

At the centre of the tale is Ben Van Brunt. Ben’s parents died when Ben was a baby. Ben now lives with grandparents who are wealthy landowners. Born a girl Ben identifies as a boy and must navigate the challenges this throws up in his relationships, particularly with his grandmother, whilst avoiding unwanted attention.

As Ben seeks to find out just what is causing the deaths of children in the village, he starts to uncover more and more about his own family history, including their relationship with the horseman, who has not been seen for some 20 years or more. Has the horseman returned, or is there something else out there?

Is it any good?

Absolutely. Christina Henry has a knack for taking a well-known story and then asking the question “What happened next?” or “What happened before?” or “What would happen if?”. She has shown off this talent previously in titles like Lost Boys and Alice. Horseman is yet another example of her ability to draw the reader into her dark visions and keep us nervously guessing about what wicked creature will come our way next.

Building a Brothermark army for Kings of War: First blows landed

“Plans never survive contact with real life.” were the words of wisdom from my first opponent delivered as my knights (at least what there is of them at the moment) charged into action.

He was right, of course, although the plan was pretty… erm… unique? However, at this stage in the project (yeap a whole week or so in) it’s obviously not really about the winning! It’s about trying to work out what works for me so that maybe, in the far-flung future the Knights of the Order of the Sparce Base (working title) might eek out a victory. So, what have the first couple of games taught me?

Army progress is happening, its just all a bit functional at the moment.

Game 1: Orcs

My first list was always intended to just throw a load of stuff on the table and see what, or how, they worked. The first game was a 2,000 point game of Loot against Orcs. It was quite a dramatic loss, 3:0 to the green dudes, and the list looked like this:

Villain Penitent Horde

Monster Slayer Paladin regiments (2)

Priest

Order of the Abyssal Hunt regiments (2) – one with Sharpness, one with Caterpillar

Villain Skirmishers troops (2)

Regiment of Initiates of the Brothermark

Exemplar Hunter – mounted, the Gauntlet, Gnome Glass Shield

Exemplar Chaplain – mounted, aura of Fury, Inspiring Talisman

High Paladin on Dragon

I think I over thought the tactics a bit and, for reasons I can no longer articulate, put the infantry on a flank and the cavalry in the centre. The Orcs were in their element and stomped all over my lovely clean MDF bases, however, despite this there were some helpful learnings to be had about the units I was using. Most importantly I had a bit of an epiphany about the sort of army I wanted to take and decided, having painted up lots of infantry, to focus on the cavalry. So, with that decision taken I started overhauling the list for my next game against Riftforged Orcs.

Good job I got these guys done.

Game 2: Riftforged Orcs

I was quite excited about playing the newest addition to Panithor, and they certainly didn’t disappoint. They are still Orcs in their hearts and those big infantry hordes just scare the hell out of me, taking them out is currently number one on my list of things to get used to doing. We played Dominate at 2,000 points.

This was a much closer game where a couple of fluffed nerve rolls by a regiment of knights on a regiment of Legionnaires (can’t remember what type) really became the difference between a win and a loss. So, what was the list?

 Villain Penitent Regiment

Order of the Abyssal Hunt regiments (2) – one with Sharpness, one with Jesse’s Boots

Villain Skirmishers troops (2)

Regiments of Initiates of the Brothermark (2) – one with Caterpillar

Exemplar Hunter – mounted, the Gauntlet, The Blade of Beast Slaying

Exemplar Chaplain – mounted, aura of Fury

Exemplar Paladin – mounted, The Scythe of the Harvester

War Wizard – mounted, lightning bolt, Host Shadowbeast

High Paladin on Dragon

Overall, I was really pleased with the way the list played and this is the list that I’ll be aiming to take to my first tournament of 2022, and will serve as the base for my 2,300 list.

But why this list?

When I look at the Brothermark army list as a whole I think there are some really great units and options to draw on. The Northern Kings review of the Clash of Kings 2022 changes talk about these with far more eloquence, experience and competence than I ever could, so if you’re considering a Brothermark army I would massively recommend their Youtube video as a starting place.

Infantry vs Cavalry

The big change between the first and second list was dropping the infantry. That’s not a comment on the infantry, but much more a comment on the direction I want to take. As an on off Basilean player the Monster Slayer Paladins are very similar to Foot Paladins. They are undoubtedly solid troops, but ones that I’ve always felt need to have a bane chant around for, or in the case of the Slayers some rallying if you go for the Crush 1 option that lowers defence from 5 to 4. It’s probably worth remembering that Brothermark do have the option to get characters that will offer Rally 2 to these troops, but that’s expensive points wise. The point for me is to really make the most of these guys some support is required, and put simply, I want to spend points on horseys. That really meant just getting rid of the infantry, but I do think there’s some really good infantry builds which I would love to explore in the future. I just need to get excited about painting legions.

The Cavalry

I think there is a great selection of cavalry, with my favourites being the Initiates. To me they make this army work by filling a dual role of reliable support for the heavy hitters and as all important chaff. Having used Hackpaws a lot with my Ratkin I know just how irritating, and survivable, a move 9, nimble unit can be. Having melee 3 makes them more reliable in combat than the Hackpaws which is mightily welcome.

I don’t think there’s much to be said about the other cavalry options simply because they really do exactly what they say on the tin. However, what I think is really important to remember is the precarious nature of cavalry due to their thunderous charge, and the impact of terrain and phalanx. Even the Order of the Abyssal Hunt suffer from being hindered, especially against defence 5 units. So, it’s also important to watch out for the Scorched Earth spell, which can caused real problems (and did in the second game), even for the Abyssal Hunt when they’ve taken their Brew of Sharpness.

The Individuals

I love individuals in Kings of War. I think they add a really interesting dimension to the game, and the Brothermark individuals are no different. In the second list I beefed up my individual count with an Exemplar Paladin and a Wizard with Host Shadow Beast. Taking individuals does eat into the points for scoring units, so in some way it feels slightly counter intuitive. However, the Brothermark lack any fast moving units with a 40mm or 50mm base, think Breast of Nature or Lord on Frostfang. These models, not only score, but also provide really useful support by being able to fit into small gaps to help win combats, and creating awkward threats through side and rear charges.

Brothermark don’t have access to anything that really fills this role so the view I have is that individuals are really important to the Brothermark as a way of doing the same thing. Fortunately, in the Exemplars there are some really useful tools, but they need looking after, at least for the first few turns of the game. Of course there are pros and cons. They’re a lot more flexible in terms of directing their charges and can fit into even smaller spaces, but they don’t score and don’t benefit from the increased attacks to flanks and rears. On the plus side though, as they don’t score it does make some decisions easier where its a decision about potentially losing troops or an individual.

The Paladin is a pretty standard character, so no need to dwell on him.

The Chaplain has his obvious uses, and I think the Fury aura remains as important for a mounted Chaplain as it does for an unmounted one. One of the biggest issues I have with Hackpaw regiments is not their capacity to survive a couple of rounds of combat (because they will if it’s the right combat, in the right place), but the likelihood of them being wavered and not doing anything in the second round (I’m going to estimate this happens about 50% of the time). The Fury aura solves this problem which I expect to regularly encounter with my villeins (and have already in the game against the Riftforged Orcs).

The Hunter is probably the most challenging of them to use well, and its early days. In my first game I made the mistake of using him to hold up units, but you’re not spending loads of points for him to do that, as his profile suggests. A combination of his nerve and a lack of waver mitigation meant he got wavered and then got killed, even with the Gnome Glass Shield. My view is that this guy is all about combat support, and so I’ve tried to tool him up to do this role to the best of his abilities. I think the Gauntlet also makes sense as this gives him two more specific groups of units to target. In a way I think this, and the Slayer enhancement, make up for not having attack increments for flanks and rears. The challenge for me is that he really needs to be able to hit things without being hit back. That means thinking about the fights you put him into, such as putting him into a combat on a different side to which a target unit is already under attack. This also reduces the risk from over run.

The Wiz was a much-needed addition. A little bit of missile power can go a long way. He’s already done me proud with some rewarding end of game lightning bolt action, but I think Host Shadow Beast will go a long way with this army. I went for the eight dice version because that’s what I had points for. When I first chose it, I had the Hunter very much in mind to be the recipient of its benefit, and it certainly proved useful on the Wiz’s first outing, even without a massively spiked roll (I think on average I rolled 3 additional attacks). Its true that with Crushing 2 as opposed to Crushing 1 on the other Exemplars the Hunter will deliver the greatest value, but because all Exemplars have melee 3 and Elite they are all reasonable targets for the spell. This is also appealing so it doesn’t become an eggs in one basket situation where the only other target, if the Hunter meets with an untimely demise, is a banner bearer on foot with a magical lute.

Final thoughts

All in all, the first couple of games have been massive learning curves, albeit highly enjoyable learning curves. I’m not doing much in the way of battle reports at the moment because, well you’ve seen the state of the army. But I’m hoping it won’t be long before I get a bit more flesh on the bones.

Arise Brother Mark: Building a Brothermark army for Kings of War, part 1

The Brothermark appeared as a theme list for Basilea in third edition, just as I had started to build my Basilean army. At the time of building the army its fair to say the Basileans and I weren’t getting along for various reasons and the Brothermark list looked like a way of fixing that, so I started to play around with possible lists.

It didn’t really come to anything, because as much as I liked the idea of a knight army supported by some angry villeins and interesting characters, the lists I put together never quite finished up like that. I found myself seeing the Brothermark list more as an alternative Basilean list that allowed the option of tooled up mounted paladins instead of angels, which didn’t massively appeal.

The biggest smallest winner?

When COK 2022 landed I was absolutely amazed by what had been done to the Brothermark. COK 2022 has given so many more units a chance of getting to the table, but in the case of Brothermark I think it’s given the whole army an improved chance. On that basis I think its probably the army that’s benefited the most from the changes.

 The best things in life are often the smallest and making Villein Penitents regular was probably the best change that could have happened to this army in my view. It gives it a really characterful, not to mention, cheap unlock. And this is really the key for me to wanting to play this force.

Making penitents regular and the addition of Augustus were my favourite changes.

Choosing the look

I normally try to include as much Mantic stuff as a I can in a Kings of War army, but there are quite a few holes in their ranges when it comes to supporting the Brothermark. I know its possible to convert, and much finer hobbyists than me have done so, but I just want something a little more straight-forward. So I opted to make the main body of the army from Fireforge Tuetonic Knights, Mounted Sergeants and Tuetonic Infantry.

They have a great range of plastics and some nice resin character models as well. I was particularly impressed with the “special bits” sprue in the infantry box that had some cloaks with wolf pelts that will help deliver a bit of monster hunting je ne sais quoi.

There are options in Fireforge’s wider range to cover off the villein infantry, however, after a bit of thought I decided to try out some Oathmark human warriors. I’m glad I did. The models are great quality for a box of 30 for £25. They have loads of options but retain a beautiful simplicity. What’s best though, is that all the options allow me to use them, not only to throw together some penitents, but also for archers and men-at-arms. There are also a number of character models that will happily cover off wizards and exemplars. The only option the set doesn’t provide is for are crossbows, but if I really feel the need the Tuetonic infantry set can provide those.

The Oathmark Human sprue, simple, but with so many of options.

Aims, timeframes and next steps

As I write I’m currently umming and ahhhing over army lists ahead of my first game using the single-model-blue-tacked-to-a-base school of Kings of Warring. The plan is though that this year Brotherhood will be my tournament army (until I get cold feet and go back to rats). On that basis, I’m aiming to have a full 2k ready to go for the end of Feb for their first outing, which also makes choosing army mainly clothed in two colours (metal and dirty linen) appealing. Despite that it still suddenly feels like a tall order!

2021: A miniature review

So, I think we can all agree that 2021 was a thing, in the same way that 2022 is likely to be a thing, because of wassit’s name. One of the impacts of living in such surreal times are the benefits I find in wargaming and community that supports it.

I’m sure many of us have stories to tell about how helpful online hobby sessions have been to get us through the lockdowns, and then how great it is when we manage to escape for a game and a catch up. My club, the Bristol Bigguns, have been absolutely brilliant. So, as we perch on the entry step to what is likely to be another precarious year, I want to say a massive thank you to my club mates and the wargaming community in general for just being fab in what are truly unfab times.

So, without further ado, let’s get on with looking at my top 5 highlights from the last twelve months:

5 – Face to face gaming

It was so good to get back to gaming this year. Quite apart from the fact I had loads of newly painted stuff for my opponents to remove from the table, it was also nice to get out and about to some of the UK’s premiere locations. I also want to give a shout out to my club, The Bristol Bigguns and Steve Evans for some fun games and enjoyable journeys. Looking forward to more off the same in 2022.

Here are some event reviews from Bristol, Cardiff and Croydon.

4 – Gnomes

So much fun.

This is really short-hand for anything by Northumbrian Tin Soldier. Especially Giant Toad Knights. I fell in love with these models pretty much instantly and trying to find something to play with them led me to giving Frostgrave and Saga a go. They are awesomely fun games, with some great gaming groups in Bristol, that I’m looking forward to playing more of in 2022.

3 – Rats, by Mantic

There has been a lot of rat spam on the twitter feed this year as I set about making my first fully Mantic army from their gorgeous new rat range. In truth this should have been number one, but painting infantry sucks, and, well, rats. The most viewed post of the year also resulted from this army, comparing Mantic’s Ratkin with GW’s Skaven.

2 – Campaigns

I love a good campaign and this year I managed to squeeze in three of them. Stargrave, Frostgrave and Burrows and Badgers. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of watching a band of plucky heroes developing their own narrative.

Playing the new Witch Hunter faction for Burrows and Badgers was particularly fun, and there are a few thoughts in this post.

1 – Clash of Kings 2022 (the book)

The various teams of Kings of War rules creating types have been labouring hard this year to really create something special. Clash of Kings sees every army getting some tinkering with to get neglected units (and armies) more table time. In true Kings style this means giving generals more balanced options, rather than making a bunch of super overpowered hotness that just makes previous army favourites redundant. Most of all though it means I can finally go all in on that Brothermark army I’ve been umming and aahing about since the 3rd edition rules arrived.

Here’s a brief summary of my first impressions of Clash of Kings, the book.

Actual miniatures

With that out the way let’s move on to my favourite models of the year.

This year has seen another awesome collection of models appear on the shelves and some have made it to my painting table. One or two have even made it as far as the finished pile. So, what have been my favs?

By the way, I should probably point out that these models aren’t necessarily new in the shops in 2021, but they hit my painting table in 2021.

Bad Squiddo

Part of a fantastic range, my new year resolution is to paint 3 Bad Squiddo minis in 2022.

Last year I painted one of Annie’s fabulous dwarfs and said I must paint more, so this year I got around to painting two! My favourite was this lovely amazon, who is now a wizard in my Basilean army for Kings of War. Bad Squiddo’s miniature range is fantastic, and service incredibly friendly and efficient. This year I probably need to make some kind of aspiration to paint a few more that are in the to do pile, if only there was a word for that!

Oathsworn

Just fab.

Burrows and Badgers occupies a very special place in my heart. Run by a small company that seem to pretty much excel at every aspect of making a wargame this fox from their Dark, Devout and Heroic kickstarter is yet another example of the great models they produce and my questionable painting.

Mantic

Mantic excelled themselves on this range.

So many cool things have come out of Mantic this year, Rats, Salamanders, Halflings, Orcs on Manticores (because Orcs need encouragement). If I were a rich man I’d be working on about half a dozen new armies at the moment. My favourite model of this year has to be their Brute Enforcer.

Northumbrian Tin Soldier

There are no other words.

Giant Toad Knights. I think this speaks for itself.

So that’s it for 2021. It’s done. So, what are the plans for 2022?

Well, that would be telling. But I would love to hear any thoughts in the comments below about things you might want to see in the blog. Let me know.

And, you’re still reading why not give us a like and a follow!

Happy new year.

Kings of War battle report: Rats vs Undead

After a pretty hectic year I thought it would be nice to do one final battle report, and since its Christmas/New Year I thought I’d take a list that, for me, was pretty unusual. My Ratkin list was structured around the medium range shooting game where rats really excel. As this was quite an experimental list, I decided to give the newly enhanced Scurriers a run out and some new magic, in the for of the Alchemist’s Curse. I also wanted to try out Shock Troop regiments as I’ve seen them appearing in some well placed rat lists and am generally intrigued – maybe this alternative approach to shocks will stop a horde with sharpness appearing in every list I write?

Points: 2,300

Scenario: Dominate

Armies

Ratkin

1 – Warlock with Knowledgeable and Alchemist Curse

B – Broad Mother with Ranged Attack

Ta – Tangle

Sc – Scud

T – Weapons Teams (2)

TW – Tunnel Runners with Brew of Sharpness

Vt – Vermintide Regiments (2)

Nm – Nightmare Horde with Blessing of the Gods

Hp – Hackpaw Troop

Sc1 – Scurrier Regiment with Blade of Slashing

ST – Shock Troop Regiments (2) both with Plague Pots

Warrior – Warrior Horde with Plague Pots

Undead

1 – Necromancers with Bane Chant (2)

2 – Cursed Pharaoh

3 – Undead Army Standard Bearer

L – Lykanis

B – Balefire Catapults (2)

Wi – Wight Horde with Hanns Sanguinary Scripture

Ww – Werewolf Horde with Chant of Hate

SB – Skeleton Archer Regiment

Mu – Mummy Regiment

Wr – Wraith Regiment

Rev – Revenant Horde with Brew of Strength

Spears – Skeleton Spearmen Horde with Brew of Sharpness

SW – Skeleton Warrior Regiment

If you do the maths the Undead list is a few points short where I’ve left out some items, but the main troops involved are all included.

Terrain
Deployment

The golden sands stretched out as far as the eye could see, with only the occasional clump of palm trees to break up the otherwise featureless landscape. Warlock Trigzered of the Fyrefur Clan stood in silent contemplation, his eyes twitching nervously between a piece of parchment and a non-descript area of sand.

“You’re lost.” Broodmother Chalax scolded.

“Am not.” the warlock replied, although he was pretty sure he was, and if he wasn’t he had no idea where he was meant to be.

“So where is it then?” Chalax asked.

“Well…” Trigzered replied.

“Well?” Chalax pressed.

“Well… we dig.” Trigzered said confidently, knowing that this would buy him some time to work out where they were and which way they should actually be going.

“This better not be another one of your wide rat chases.” Chalanx replied looking suspiciously at the warlock, whilst trying to catch a glimpse of the parchment which she could have sworn was blank.

Before she could issue orders to the ratkin host to begin digging three figures appeared in the distance. They walked slowly towards the rat lines, sand starting to whip up around them. A ragged creature, swathed in soiled bandages, taller than the emaciated men that walked on either side of it wore a tall crown of golden serpents that writhed and hissed. The creature raised its arms and a sandstorm exploded up and out throwing tiny, sharp pieces of grit and sand, cut with a piercing blue light over the entire area forcing the rat warriors to raise their shields in a vain attempt to prevent the sand getting into their eyes and nostrils.

Trigzered and Chalax watched in silence as bleach boned skeletons, and a host of other warriors, a long time lost to the world, rose from the desert and started to shamble towards the ratkin. A catapult in the centre of the undead lines launched a pot of flaming oil that crashed into a regiment of shock troops nearby to Chalax as werewolves ran from a distant hill howling and hungry.

Turn 1

The undead took the first turn and started to shamble forward. The catapult in the centre scored a hit on the Shock Troop regiment at the end of the ratkin line, wavering them. Fortunately, the regiment was out of sight of the second catapult on the hill which had turned in an attempt find something to shoot at.

The rats crept forward whilst the wavered Shock Troop regiment turned to face the werewolves lopping towards the crop of palm trees to their right and a Vermintide regiment moved in front of them. The Broodmother then cast Drain Life, using Eat the Weak, on the Vermintide to restore some of the Shock Troop’s damage.

On the ratkin’s left flank Scud flew forward and, in unison with the warlock, released lightening bolts at the Wights on the end of the undead line.

End of turn 1

Turn 2

The undead continued their slow advance, the catapults once again firing, but this time failing to hit anything.

The rat’s left flank started to push forward with the Hackpaws and Vermintide ranging forward to provoke a response from the silent warriors in front of them, whilst the rat lines opened to allow the Scurriers forward to shoot at the skeleton spears. Finally Scud and the Warlock again launched lightening at the Wights, continuing to chip away at them.

End of turn 2

Turn 3

The undead finally broke ranks in an attempt to close with the rats. The Wights charged forward into the Hackpaws sending them scattering and the Wraiths charged the Shock Troop regiment in the woods wavering them. The Pharaoh also charged into some Vermintide, but failed to remove them this turn.

In response to the removal of the Hackpaws the Nightmares, Weapons Team and Warlock opened fire on the Wights killing them. The undead had exposed two flanks that the rats could not resist. The Tunnel Runners swept down the hill and wiped out the Wraiths whilst Scud ploughed into the side of the Mummies returning them to the sand. Finally, with the Werewolves disappearing around the back of the woods the Vermintide on the right flank charged into the Revenant horde, but failed to do any damage.

End of turn 3

Turn 4

The Skeleton Spears turned to face Scud and the Werewolves emerged from behind the woods to threaten the rat’s right flank. The Revenants destroyed the Vermintide and the Skeleton regiments continued to move up. In an act of defiance the Pharaoh turned and charged Scud in the flank, hurting him and stopping him from flying, but not doing sufficient damage to stop his rampage.

There was a kerfuffle in the rat ranks as the Scurriers moved forward to allow the Shock Troops to turn to get out of the way of the Tunnel Runners, allowing them to charge the Skeleton Spears with Scud. Despite the Tunnel Runners being hindered and Scud being impacted by Phalanx, damage already done by the Scurrier’s shooting meant the skeletons quickly collapsed.

End of turn 4

Turn 5

The Revenants turned before being surged into the Tunnel Runners. Despite their best attempt Scud’s presence stopped the rat chariots from fleeing. The Werewolves charged the Shock Troops on the left flank easily wiping them out, despite the original damage from the catapult all being healed by the Brood Mother. The Pharaoh switched its attention to the Warlock, unexcited about being a potential target for the Alchemist’s Curse.

Scud and the Scurriers joined the Tunnel Runners in their fight against the Revenants driving the unit from the field. The Warrior horde charged into the Skeleton Warriors whilst the units at the back of the field ordered themselves to prevent the Werewolves from running riot in the final turn. The Tangle charged the horde, but failed to do any damage whilst the remaining Shock Troops dropped their plague pots to reduce their appeal as a potential target to the Lycan.

End of turn 5

At this point we decided to call the game as the Undead had lost their main scoring units and would have been unlikely to pull the game back even with a seventh turn.

Final Thoughts

This was a really relaxed game which was exactly what I was looking for to try out new units. With the benefits of hindsight both the undead player and I would have done things differently, that being said I would definitely take this army list again.

One of the things I was really glad about was the werewolves deciding to hang back behind the woods until turn 5. This was a pretty big deal because had they pressed their attack sooner  they would have easily overwhelmed the Shock Troop Regiment on the right flank and quickly got into the warriors, which would have put one of my big scoring units in danger.

That’s not to say I didn’t think very much of the Shock Troop regiments. Quite the opposite. With the Tangle and Brood Mother they were incredibly resilient, but by splitting the two regiments it meant the Tangle had to chase between them rather than supporting them both at the same time. If I had placed these units in the middle of the line with the Warriors and Vermintide as flank buffers they would have been far better placed to respond to the Werewolves even if the wolves had started to attack in turn 2 or 3.

I was pleasantly surprised with the Scurriers. They happily plinked away at anything that was in range, and although their only charge was hindered the melee 3 meant they still hit on 4s when they got into the Revenants. I certainly didn’t help them by hiding them behind the lines for the first turn. Whilst they are expensive I can’t help but thinking that Fire Oil would be great little extra for these guys. Yes, its situational, but it would certainly have created an interesting option for dealing with mummies, let alone Pharaohs. I really didn’t use these guys as well as I could have, and some helpful feedback from the rat FB group has given me some useful titbits on how to get a bit more out of them.

So I guess all that’s left to say is that I hope you had a fab Christmas and best wishes for the new year.

Hobby Project: What a difference 30 minutes makes

I’m a bit of a hobby butterfly and over the last few months I’ve built up quite an array of partially finished projects. Having quite so many different things on the go has made it hard to decide what project to focus on and when. So I thought I’d give the 30 day challenge a go to see if I could scratch the surface.

The rules

The 30 day challenge is very simple. Paint for 30 minutes a day for 30 days. However, I decided to add in some extra rules to help me meet my particular goals of moving multiple projects forward. To that end the extra rules I added in were:

1 – Have at least one model from each project on the table at any time – but no more than five

2 – Add paint to each model every session – no matter how little

What to focus on?

The models will come from the following projects:

Ratkin expansion – Mantic – Earlier in the year I completed a 2,300 point fully Mantic Ratkin army. I now want to add in some additional units to give me some more options for gaming.

Heroic Kickstarter  – Burrows and Badgers – This year’s kickstarter was too good not to go all in. At around 30 models it’s far from an overnight job. I’ve finished the Devout group and now I want to make some headway with the Heroes.

Northumbrian Tin Soldier joy – I’m a big fan of NTS so really just want to keep on top of my pile.

Stormcast Eternals – Games Workshop – I’m slowly working through my first 1,000 point army so any advances are welcome.

How did it go?

My first ever video, so please excuse everything!

I have to admit I was really impressed just how much I got through in what felt like quite a small amount of time. With a new year, and no doubt new projects, on the way I’ll definitely use this approach again to hammer through my WIP box and would recommend it to anyone.

Kings of War Event Review: Christmas Carnage

On Saturday I headed down to the local games store for my last event of the year, the perennial Christmas Carnage. Being on home ground, as it were, it was good to have some extra club representation. Not only was Steve Evans playing his Empire of Dust, but another club mate made his debut tournament performance with his Orcs.

The venue was Bristol Independent Gaming, which moved to new premises in September this year. Whilst packed lunches were the order of the day the venue is a definite improvement on the previous warehouse which was a tad on the cold side (the dress code at this time of year used to be hot water bottles and thermals).

For a full event experience, I decided to go sans packed lunch to see what could be scavenged and ended up with a Beef and Tomato Pot Noddle for lunch, an oddly nice blast from the past. Fortunately, there seemed to be a near never ending supply of mince pies on hand which more than made up for the foamy noodle experience.

As expected, the event was well organised by Matt James, who was sadly absent from the event, which meant Nick Oftime stepped into the TO shoes and did a damn good job. Hats off to you both.

Presents

Because it’s crimbo time there were presents in abundance. The marvellous Moonrakers were in attendance with Andy’s massive display board and a box of treats for every player, rivalled only by those provided by Matt. I was massively excited to receive what can only be described as a popular best seller that no home should be without, and a book about Warhammer. I’m hoping no-one will be offended if I regift. Can’t wait to see my wife’s face on Christmas morning. Priceless.

A must have best seller and a Warhammer book.

Order of the day

The programme for the day was… eerm… ambitious. Four 2,300 point games, 50 mins each side (a ten minute reduction on the time allowed for Clash of Kings games). Wow. It definitely impacted my army choice. I had been thinking about playing Basilieans, but they’re still a relatively new army for me and completely different to my rats. After a few practice games it became painfully apparent that if I wanted to get further than turn three, in any of my games, I would need to use something a bit more familiar, so the rat wheels were dusted off.

My list

The list I settled on was pretty much my Clash of Kings (the event) list with a couple of swaps. After Clash I had a bit of a reflection on the games and what other rat players had taken. The main issues seemed to be an over reliance on a Warlock with Boomstick to deal with fast movers like flying titans and werewolves, as well as a general feeling I didn’t have enough units on the table (particularly to deal with Loot Counter scenarios). I felt my suspicions were confirmed when I had a look at the other rat armies in attendance to find that, at 14 units, I had the lowest unit count. So, the Warlock went, as did the Master Scurrier, and a Brute Enforcer, Vermintide Regiment and Hackpaw Troop were added in their place, leaving the list looking like this:

Scud

Warchief mounted on a fleabag with Blade of Slashing

Tangle

Brute Enforcer with Mace of Crushing

Warrior Horde with Plague Pot

Shock Troops Horde with Plague Pot and Brew of Sharpness

Hackpaw Regiments (2)

Hackpaw Troop

Tunnel Runner Regiment with Potion of the Caterpillar

Weapons Teams (2)

Vermintide Regiments (2)

Mutant Rat Fiend

Clash Rats 2.0.

Game 1, Control, Ratkin – loss

This is my first ever time playing against Ratkin, and what a way to start. The army was very different to mine, including the new shooting formation and no less than 4 infantry hordes (also no more, so basically exactly 4 infantry hordes). It was undoubtedly a hard slog that gave me a really useful insight into how annoying Broodmothers are. It was a real nail biter down to the final whistle where a turn 7 may well have swung the result, but didn’t get rolled. All in all, it was massively enjoyable and a great start to the day.

Game 2, Push, Nightstalkers – loss

Nightstalkers is another army I haven’t played against that much and it was absolutely rammed full of fliers. An early failure by my Hackpaw Troop to injure one of the flying units resulted in a Void Lurker and a Soulflayer Regiment finding their way behind my army and pulling it all apart. It didn’t help that the army was powered by one of the mighty Moonrakers which basically meant it became a bit of a masterclass in rat removal. Lots of lessons learnt, and each one painful!

Game 3, Pillage, Imperial Dwarfs – loss

Mistakes and bad dice followed me into this game from the last. In my second turn I mistakenly opened up a flank on a Hackpaw Regiment to a Brock Rider Troop (although to be fair the Brocks took about three turns to kill them which was the one respite in this game). My Warrior Horde then got taken down a turn earlier than expected thanks to a roll of double nine on the nerve test which opened up lots of flanks for Dwarf Regiments to get stuck into. Then to top it all off Scud failed to deal with a Dwarf Lord on a Beast before the Lord dealt with him in 2 turns. Basically, another tough game, which I have to admit, following the previous game, didn’t exactly have me jumping with joy.

Game 4, Dominate, Orcs – win

With everything going south for the rats I sort of knew that this match up was on the cards, and it wasn’t one I was looking forward too. The army belongs to friend from my local club, and I’ve found it a really tough list to pull apart. Losing to this list with my Basileans was what convinced me to go with my rats.

The game was really close, with some great Ork movement shenanigans that prevented my Shock Troops from doing as much damage as they usually would and meant that the Orcs probably would have taken the win if they didn’t time out. I’m never a fan of winning on a time out, but I guess it is as much a component of competitive play as scenarios and list building. It did mean though that I finished the day as it started, a closely fought game. My favourite kind.

Final thoughts

I came away with quite a few final thoughts, mainly around tournament prep. My first thought was just how differently my army behaved with the changes I made. Having the extra unit count definitely felt better, although half the time I had no idea what to do with the Brute and the additional Vermintide Troop. It was something of an odd experience to have them wandering around the board not really doing very much. It almost felt like some sort of practice might have been useful.

Connected to this was the issue that I hadn’t played with my rats since Clash of Kings. I don’t think this in itself was a problem, but because I’d been playing with Basileans I wasn’t as close to the army as I should have been. There were a couple of times I overlooked my shooting, amongst other things, which might have had an impact.

All in all, it was good to see so many faces, which in my second proper year of Kings of Warring, I’m happy to say are now becoming familiar and friendly. My fingers are crossed for lots more events in 2022 (I’m already booked into a doubles in January with Steve and have something lined up for February).

Thanks to the extension of the season, it means that I have managed to complete my Moonraker’s bingo card, playing and loosing to all four. So, a big thanks to everyone involved in making that ambition a reality.

And finally, a big thanks to Matt and Nick, and all the people I got to play Simon, Leo, Dan and Ken (I really did enjoy the day although, I might have been a little bit grumpy during games two and three). Now I’m off to fiddle with some new rat lists.

Merry Christmas everybody.

Exploring the Mortal Realms

This year Age of Sigmar’s third edition arrived in the world and after years of not quite getting round to giving the game a try I thought I’d take the plunge. With my Stormcast army starting to come together and a couple of intro games under my belt these are my first impressions.

The Dominion Boxset

Whatever you think about Games Workshop their models are fab, so when temptation finally got the better of me and I picked up a boxset what I found inside was frankly brilliant. I think, like a lot of people, Yndrasta was a huge draw for me. As centre piece models go, she’s probably one of my out and out favourite models from any company from the past year.

Yndrasta is a beautiful model so I’m taking time to get her right.

The new Stormcast are a great aesthetic advance on their previous incarnations. I’ve loved the concept of Stormcast from their inception and each wave really does seem to get better. As a faction they have been a big part in me making the jump from watching the Mortal Realms develop from afar to deciding to make time to get some games in.

Each wave of Stormcast have got better and better.

Playing the game

Full disclosure, I played a couple of games of first edition Age of Sigmar and something about is just didn’t click for me. I couldn’t really tell you what that was, but for some reason getting my first couple of games of third edition in was just so much more enjoyable. It may simply be a case of having a much more defined community around the game which made it easy to organise games with experienced, enthusiastic, friendly players who just made me feel welcome. This, to me, is huge. I find increasingly the community around a game is a massively important part of what I choose to play so this definitely made a difference.

Getting to grips with the complex bits

The core game rules for Age of Sigmar seem really simple, and this definitely makes for a great gaming experience for a complete novice. That being said, there does seem to be quite a bit of complexity in picking an army. As a Stormcast player not only is there a huge choice of units, but working through different abilities, battalion formations and synergies certainly takes some time. I think this is definitely going to be my “needs improvement” area for quite a while.

Complex but characterful

Whilst the list building element is taking some getting to grips with, I get the impression it allows a lot of unique lists to be created. There certainly seems to be options within the Stormcast army lists to create armies with a wide variety of play styles without feeling there isn’t the abilities and synergies to support them.

I’ve decided to go with a Hallowed Knights army and couldn’t be happier with their Stormchamber specific rules. In addition, the wider Stormcast options that allow me to include some Cities of Sigmar units are something I look forward to giving a try.

I’m really enjoying working through my first 1,000 points.

So where am I and what’s next?

At the moment I’m working my way through my first 1,000 points and absolutely loving how its coming along. My next 1,000 points is slowly getting purchased and I’m hoping my first 2,000 point battle, with a fully painted army, won’t be too far away.

Clash of Kings: Brothermark, apparently the natural next step on from Ratkin

Let’s get the obvious stuff out the way. This year’s Clash of Kings is rammed full of stuff. So much in fact, I am fully expecting there will be things I don’t get a chance to try out or face off against before the next Clash of Kings is unleashed. But that’s no bad thing. Choice is great, after all.

As I’m starting to fight with and against the new stuff, as well as getting some battle reports watched, my general feeling is that the book very much continues in the spirit of the game I know and enjoy. That opinion has been reinforced reading through a number of facebook exchanges within the community about some of the different changes that have been made. These have given me some useful insights into armies that I don’t generally encounter, and how those changes are being received, which seems to be really positive. I’ll admit, at a glance, there have been a couple of scary looking bits amongst the updates, but in my mind the real challenge of Kings of War is finding the right tools to deal with whatever the enemy brings to the table. So, it would be a bit disappointing if there weren’t one or two things I wasn’t a bit worried about stumbling across on a dark night.

The greatest benefit for me is not so much about any specific changes that have been made, more the general benefits such a sweeping set of changes brings when collecting an army. When I build an army I really want to be able to delve into the lore and pick units that excite me because of their fluff and representation on the table (yes, I like my toys to look pretty) as much as how competitive they are. That being said I don’t want to paint up units that will just fold to the slightest breeze. Consequently, I’d much rather see improvements to units that mean more of the twenty plus options in most armies are up for consideration when I start building a list. This is preferable to having a situation where unpopular units are buffed to the extent that it makes current popular choices unappealing. That doesn’t solve the problem, it just recreates it in a different place, and Clash of Kings didn’t set out to do this, and doesn’t.

My favourite three

So, with my eye firmly on stuff what I like, as opposed to tactics, strategy, and such, here’s my top three updates:

Scout type unit melee buffs – affecting units like Gladestalkers and Scurriers who have had their melee scores moved to three. I really like this idea. I think it creates a point of differentiation and reflects all those images of elite fighters creeping forward to undertake special forces style shenanigans (I mean yeah, rat ninja, if I’m being completely honest). I’m currently finishing off a second regiment of Scurriers in order to give them a whirl, although I’m not sure quite how they’ll feature in the army, or what I’ll do with them once they’re on the table, but I’m yet to see that as a valid reason to not put something in a list.

A bit of Banechant and some lightening could be the perfect support for Scurriers. Master Scurriers just look cool.

That being said I think there are reasons to be optimistic. In the case of Scurriers, specifically, I think it will make them harder units to ignore, just in case they manage to get a flank charge off, especially if there is any of that super reliable Banechant (3) hanging around. Additionally, plague pots will make them just that little bit harder to root out, meaning they could tie up some units a bit longer than would otherwise be expected. Of course, they remain expensive, and I’m still wrangling with that age old question… what do they replace?

Gorp’s Explodo’matic Bangstiks – I love light cavalry and think this is an exceptionally fun formation the Goblins have been blessed with. I have nothing further to say really, other than – why couldn’t the Hackpaws have had this?

Bangstik Hackpaws would have been the must have seasonal pairing with a Mutant Rat Friend.

The Brothermark – I’ve always had one eye on the Brothermark since third edition arrived because of the Examplar Hunters and the Order of the Abyssal Hunt. I’ve played Brothermark a couple of times, but the lists I ended up with always made me feel as though the difference between them and their master list really just boiled down to what flavour of cavalry I wanted with my ogres, ease of pronunciation, and whether a side order of angels was on the menu or not. Not so anymore!

I really like the Brothermark changes and now I’ve had time to properly mull them over an army is definitely on the cards for next year. Weirdly, the more I play with lists the more the amount of rally, movement 9 nimble cavalry, fury auras, etc, starts to feel oddly familiar (squeak, squeak). So in a sort of Freaky Friday moment I’m going to have ago at translating my most recent Ratkin list across and see how it works (more on that in the future though).

Initiates of the Grey Order prepare to be treated exactly like Hackpaws.

Final thoughts

I guess it’s going to be a while before we really get a solid picture of just how all the changes impact what hits the table. One of the very real considerations of improving units to be in line with (relatively speaking) better/more popular units is that players will have to make room for these other units in their line ups. So far, I’m certainly seeing that happening around me and, I’m really looking forward to my next tournament in a couple of weeks to see just how much newy newness makes the cut.

Kings of War event review: Rumble in the Cronx

As events have slowly starting to return the Lazy Pirate, Mr. Steve Evans, and I have been keeping an eye out for any reasonably local one-day events. Although I’m Bristol based, day trips to London and Surrey used to be a regular work thing, so a trip to Croydon for a day of gaming wasn’t a big ask.

You always know when you’re in London when the first drinks order you hear being made includes a Chai Latte! The venue was the back bar of a local café and worked out to be the perfect size for a small tournament with ten participants. The event wasn’t a scoring event, in the sense that results would contribute to season rankings, and the atmosphere was really friendly and relaxed, not that I find Kings of War tournaments to have edgy, unhealthily competitive atmospheres anyway.

The format of the day was simple enough 1,495 point armies and the new Clash of Kings book was in play, very exciting. There were three games, each with a very generous couple of hours to play which meant there was plenty of time for rolling dice and general chatter.

The gaming bit

I’m having a bit of a hiatus from rats, so I decided to take my Basileans. My list looked exactly like:

Spear Horde

Gur Panther Troop

Ogre Palace Guard Horde with Boots of Striding

Mounted Paladin Regiment with Caterpillar Potion

Elohi Regiment

Priest with Shroud of the Saint

Mounted High Paladin with Scythe of the Harvester

High Paladin on Dragon with Pipes of Terror

Ready for action

Game 1 against Elves, Pillage

One of the reasons I enjoy events is getting to play armies I’ve never played before. Admittedly, the list is now getting shorter but Elves were one of them. The army in question was a really nicely balanced mixed arms force centred around a horde of Palace Guard and horde of Spears.

His shooting certainly had an impact, almost taking off my Elohi in the first turn. Fortunately, for me, they survived and managed to get a second turn charge off against the mage with boomstick, ending his shooting career. This also carried them behind the enemy lines where they proceeded to make a general nuisance of themselves.

The Elohi and the Dragon between them created so much of a problem the Elf line eventually started to break up in an attempt to ward off multiple charges from different angles, which ultimately led to their downfall and a three, nil win to Basilea.

Game 2 against Dwarfs, Push

I’ve noticed I sometimes have a tendency to get over excited about certain things, and then not really put any thought into everything else that’s happening on the table.

In this game I had a great couple of opening turns, including getting my tokens into my opponent’s half and removing anything that could potentially reach them for the rest of the game. I think because I’m so hopeless at loot counter scenarios I got a little carried away with that achievement. That resulted in me thinking it was a good idea to put my dragon into the front of a Shield Breaker horde who were then successfully bane chanted. Yes, it went exactly how you would expect it to. To add insult to injury, my undamaged Elohi got taken out in the same turn as a result of a throwing mastiff causing four wounds, and two nerve checks each rolling out double sixes (this has led me to call the concept of karma into question, because I reminded the Dwarf player about the mastiffs).

This set back did get my focus back on the rest of the table, however. But by then it was too little too late. His Ironguard had the central token, and his other tokens were well away from the rest of my force. Had the game gone to seven turns there was a small chance my spear horde would have been able to get the regiment holding his other two tokens off the table, but it didn’t, so they couldn’t. The game ended six points to four, and a win for the Dwarfs.

Game 3 against Orcs, Control, Draw

God, Orc armies look so damn scary! There is something about those huge regiment and horde bases which just absolutely throw me every time. The main body of this army comprised of two hordes of Great Ax and two regiments of Morax which seemed to cover half the deployment zone, and just sat there making grrrr sounds (in my head).

The Orc player did a really good job of shutting down opportunities for my fliers to get into his ranks, and I had to delve deep into my box of Basilean shenanigans to find a way to start breaking his line down. Fortunately, my knights and mounted High Paladin were able to knock a hole through one of the Morax Regiments. Then a Great Ax charge that didn’t quite get rid of my Spears set them up for a flank charge by the dragon, and the tables started to turn

The game was incredibly closely fought and in the end we both ended up with a single point each from the areas we held and a mere five points between us on kills. Got to say I do love a good draw.

Final thoughts

The first and only thing that needs to be said about yesterday is thank you, although that won’t stop me banging on for another few lines.

A massive thanks to Robert James for being a fab TO. The event ran really smoothly, the venue was lovely, and pre-event questions were answered promptly. What was also really in the spirit of the event was that, based on scores, I should have been playing Steve (my fellow Bristolian) in the last game, however Robert and the other players involved were all happy for us to play other, non-Bristolian, people. This was massively appreciated by both of us.

The prizes for the event were awesome with everyone taking a vanguard starter box away (first choice went to the strongest player, occasionally known as the one with the fewest points, in the spirit of the event). It also turns out the main Pannithor brewery is located somewhere near Croydon. So, a big thanks to Mantic and Robert for sorting those out.

A huge thanks has to go out to the lovely people I got to play. All were fab, friendly opponents and I hope to see you all at other events in the not too distant future.

And finally, a massive thanks to Reading Services for just existing, because it turns out it’s my favourite service station and I’m hoping there will be more Kings of War related reasons to visit in the near future.

Everyone’s a winner