Weekly Wins: 8

At the beginning of June I decided to sort out my hobby backlog. My aim is that in 52 weeks I want to have my painting backlog down to single figures and a handle on what is hiding away in my cupboards. I very grandly stated in my first post on the subject that I wanted to unleash the potential in my pile.

How’s it all going, I hear you ask. Well, an indication of how well its going could be deduced from the fact that I am now in week 8 of the project and this is the second post! It’s fair to say this doesn’t mean its going badly (and I have been trying to get a book finalised and released in the past couple of weeks), but like so many things in life its not going quite how I imagined.

The aim of the project was for me to be completing things – however, instead I am mainly starting them instead! It could be argued that starting things is an important precursor to finishing things, and I completely agree, so let’s park that awkwardness. That’s not to say things aren’t getting finished – and to prove it I will leave you with my first batch of completed Teutonic Knights, their Grand Master, and some sergeants.

At this rate I might be able to get a game of Saga in soon.

I have a partially completed a 1,500 point force of these guys for War and Conquest, so getting them completed would be great, and my first complete historical project. I’m definitely looking forward to sharing more progress with them over the coming weeks.

The Rose of Amzharr: Chapter 1

An irk sat in the cool canopy of an oak tree, watching a tall lad with broad shoulders, somewhere between his late teens and early twenties, skimming stones across a lake. His brown hair was long and a thick beard hid half of his face. He wore a simple white shirt and pair of trousers, both made from the same worn-out material. The garments were ill-fitting and poorly stitched, made for comfort as opposed to high fashion. The scent of summer jasmine laced the warm afternoon air, making the forest feel fresh and clean. It wasn’t the most compelling of sights. The man wasn’t particularly good at casting the tiny rocks into the cool, crystal waters, and most simply sank on the first splash to be reunited with their friends from the shore. This, however, was not the kind of afternoon that demanded a reason, compelling or otherwise, to simply be.

The irk’s head lazily twitched to one side, a sign of frustration that the man appeared to have spent so many years in this beautiful, blessed enclave, and yet had seemingly failed to achieve anything at all – including the mastery of skimming stones. Almost eighty years had passed since the irk had watched him scrabbling up the hill, over rocks and through the thick thorns that hid the entrance, snarling hounds and angry voices at his heels. The lad, then a boy of no more than twelve summers, had uttered the prayer of sanctuary and the spirits had responded. The Guardian trees had moved to hide him and, faced with a wall of wood that his pursuers could not see a way through, the snarling hounds and angry voices had quickly dissipated.

At the time the irk had been excited by the boy’s arrival. It had been many decades, centuries even, since the Guardian trees had last stirred. The boy had uttered words long forgotten, even to the immortals, and in return had received protection granted so very rarely, and never before to a human. The irk took this as a sign of greatness in the child, spending the next five years observing him. He wondered what powers he might have or grow into. But whatever powers or charms the child might have had, the irk eventually conceded, were at best well hidden – so well hidden that eventually the irk lost all interest in him. The child spent his days throwing rocks into the water and eating as much as he could of the food provided to him by the spirits of the grove. So, the irk began to venture out into the world again, returning frequently in the hope that there would be some significant evolution in his absence. If the evolution had ever happened, the irk told himself following each visit in a bid to keep the embers of his own hopes alive, he had not noticed it, and so his visits became fewer and farther between.

There is no easy way to describe irks. If you imagine a human squeezed into a squirrel, visually, you’d be on the right track. They are small, highly energetic, great climbers, talkative and have, for their size, huge bushy tails. They are long-lived, incredibly precocious, and very nosy. All this, combined with their passion for adventure, means they have a near encyclopaedic knowledge of the world, which they are only too happy to share whether asked to or not.

“Eighty years,” the irk muttered to himself. “Eighty years and he’s barely scraped through puberty. Talk about a disappointment.”

He reached out a small paw in a vain attempt to locate a half-eaten nut lying to one side of him, just outside of his peripheral vision, and something suddenly struck him. Because sometimes, no matter how clearly an image is presented to you, it takes a bit of a nudge to really see the whole picture.

“Oh,” the irk gasped, taken aback by what had been under his nose for so many years now. “That’s not right. Not right at all.”

The irk stopped feeling around for his nut and sat bolt upright. He quickly looked around to confirm the position of his snack. Yes, it was odd that a human who must have been around ninety summers old didn’t look a day past twenty, but not so odd it warranted losing food over.

He wondered if the lad had realised that he had now outlived most humans by about thirty years. He hoped he had, but given the lad’s apparent lack of achievements, including that of simply letting his body age, the irk decided there was a good chance it very well may have escaped his notice. There was, of course, only one way to find out. He scampered around and along a series of branches until he was within shouting distance of the lad.

“You’d have thought after all these years you’d be just a little better at that?” the irk shouted in his high-pitched voice, keeping a branch between them so that he would remain out of sight.

The lad, just about to launch another rock across the pond, stopped and looked around. “What?” he said in a tone that suggested a boredom with his current pursuit, as well as the wider pursuit of existence.

“I’m wondering why, after all these years, the best you can manage is just a couple of skips?” asked the invisible irk.

“I did four once,” the lad replied, seemingly unperturbed by the ownerless voice, determined to put right the slur levied at him. “Anyway, what’s it to you?”

“Just interested,” the irk replied genially before adding, “Exactly how old are you?”

Arm already moving, the man launched the rock in his hand. However, what little investment he had in the activity had disappeared the moment the question reached his ears. The stone plopped listlessly into the water some distance from its companions.

“I don’t really know,” he answered slowly, his initial disinterest in the voice and what it had to say starting to change. “Who are you?”

The man’s tone was now loaded with suspicion. He turned towards the trees, taking a step in what he thought was the direction the voice had come from. “What are you doing here?”

“Show yourself,” he demanded, suspicion starting to give way to anger.

The irk toyed with the idea of introducing himself, but there was something about the mix of fear, paranoia even, and anger that was growing in the man’s voice that suggested they might not immediately hit it off. It was clear that something about what he had said had rattled the lad, and he wondered if there might be an opportunity to provoke some sort of activity in the lazy slob. Deciding that discretion was, for the time being, the better part of valour, the irk withdrew. He returned to his half-eaten nut, interested to see what the lad would do next.

The abrupt silence completed the transformation of fear into paranoia. The man had heard a voice in the forest once before, when he had thought that the sanctuary was a safe place, sealed off from the outside world. That voice had taught him there were far more dangerous things in the world than other humans with hounds and pitchforks. It had taught him nowhere was safe; no matter how hidden, how protected, there was always a way in – old ways, dangerous ways, but ways nonetheless.

He continued to stand, but now he turned erratically on the spot trying to see, or hear, anything that might give away any sign of the owner of the new voice. He waited for more words, but there were none. He wondered what the voice wanted. It didn’t sound the same as the one he’d heard before, so many years ago now, still so memorable, and so chilling.

There had been a coldness that had made him shiver. It had pierced his skin and crept into his veins slowing everything down. Each word had hurt him. Each sentence had felt like a jagged blade pulled slowly across his bare skin. Yes, a price had been offered and paid for his services, but his agreement had been extracted.

He had been twenty when the voice had spoken to him. Old enough to be considered a man, but his lonely years in the sanctuary away from the experiences of the world meant he was only a man in years. He still viewed the world beyond with a child’s naivety so, despite the pain in the agreement, there was an excitement in the adventure that followed and discovery in the journey. There was even a fleeting moment of time where a return to the sanctuary seemed impossible.

Then the job was done. The fee was in his pocket, and he celebrated until he lay in the warm glow of booze and exhausted flesh. But disappointment comes just as certainly as the morning after the night before. The warm glow turned into a throbbing headache and a sticky mess with a terrifying bill to be paid.

Realisation dawned with the sun, and although there were no angry voices, or snarling hounds, the silence turned out to be far worse. Blood soaked the bed he lay on. Limbs reached out towards him from every direction, yet their owners’ heads and torsos were no longer attached to them. He felt something hover at his shoulder. Ethereal talons stretched towards him. Hurriedly he made his escape through a window before the scene could be discovered, and ran for the sanctuary, hoping whatever followed him would not be able to find a way in.

Available as paperback and ebook.

Unleashing the pile’s potential: weekly wins

The vast majority of us have a bit of a collection of things that, it would be fair to say, don’t get done quite as quickly as we would have hope (if at all). I find there tends to be a bit of a glass half full/glass half empty view about this for most people with that collection of “if only I had the time to…” stuff either being considered a pile of shame or potential.

I tend to err on the side of potential, but then I’m not sure mines that big – I can still fit it all in a single wardrobe and there isn’t a new species of plastic-based life forms evolving in the lower layers. That being said I have got to a place where I really want to sort it all out.

I’ve decided to give myself a year to do it, and at the end of that time I want a nice orderly cupboard and a painting backlog in single figures. Is that too ambitious? I hope not.

Weekly Wins

I know that I’m not going to be painting everything I have, so part of the challenge will be about deciding what to get rid of. But to begin with I’m going to start with what I’m going to call weekly wins. These are mini projects to finish of bits of larger projects that lost my focus. I’m hoping this will also help me decide what is useful, can be painted, and so what is staying.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve made a start on these so here’s a little share:

Elohi Horde conversion

I’ve wanted to add another horde to my Basilean list for a while, and wanted them reflect the new options in the army since COK. I’m using the regular models for angels with Celestial Fury and these guys will be used for a unit that retains defence 5. The spears for these conversions came from Basilean men-at-arms and the shields from GW Arcanite warriors.

Villein Skirmishers

Since Clash of Kings 22 dropped I’ve wanted a Brotherhood army. I set out at the being of the year to build one using Fireforge models, but with a growing Basilean army I wondered if there is a more Mantic solution. There is, but I’m a bit stuck on how to represent up to four different types of cavalry. Clearly the solution is proxying in some GW wolves to cover one of the slots.

The last of the men-at-arms

With only a handful of these guys still left unpainted it was a pretty quick job to get these finished up.

So that’s it for now. I look forward to sharing my next bit of progress in the near future.

First Impressions: Pirates of the Dread Sea, by Dead Earth Games

Over the last couple of years I’ve started to really enjoy a skirmish game. I’ve played, and continue to really enjoy, Frost Grave, Burrows and Badger and Stargrave. For me a good skirmish game delivers a really fun narrative experience with an efficient ruleset. Yes, the warbands should be balanced, but unlike mass battle games, I really want to get a feel for the members of my warband and for there to be the potential for each of them to play a part in the story.

How did I end up trying Pirates of the Dread Sea out?

Paul, at Pandemonium Miniatures, dropped me a line to ask if I had some free time to run through the game as he is looking to run a demo at the FLGS. I’m always keen to get a game in so was only too happy to make some time, although I’ll be honest pirates are not a theme I’ve ever really gotten too excited about.

Of course, it always helps when you get introduced to a new game if there are a few nicely painted miniatures on hand and some decent scenery. Bristol Independent Gaming provided the scenery, and Paul brought his fantastically painted crews (and of course the rules knowhow).

The miniatures we used are all the official miniatures for the game, made by Dead Earth Games (just like the game itself), and frankly they’re lovely. However, good miniatures do not necessarily make a good game.

How does Pirates of the Dread Sea play?

The game uses two six-sided dice and some card decks. As you would expect it involves warbands facing off against each other to complete a randomly chosen scenario. The rules were pretty straightforward, and by the third turn I felt I knew enough about the system to be confident on the key actions like combat and shooting.

Something else I really liked was the dynamic between shooting and hand to hand combat. The shooting in the human and dwarf warbands is really short range, and black powder weapons need reloading which means characters can’t stand around on the board edge taking pot shots at each other, which in my view is a very unpiratey behaviour. Hand to hand combat seems much more efficient, which encourages movement.

Throughout the game you can also play random events. Each player holds three cards detailing events throughout the game, which they can use anytime to do all sorts of things from deciding what treasure goes where to stopping an enemy crewmember shooting. I’m a big fan of random events in skirmish games and really liked the way these worked.

The verdict

All in all, I really enjoyed the game we played. Relaxed, fun and really easy to get into, but with far more to explore. I’m definitely taken by the Dwarf crew, the models are lovely. Hopefully it won’t be long until I have another excuse to splice the mainbrace and delve into the secrets of Davey Jones’ locker. I would definitely recommend giving this a go.

Kings of War tournament report: Throne of Ages, High Wycombe

Finally, my first event of the year has come around, and it was all very exciting. I’m taking my Basileans to their first proper tournament after making a last-minute switch to rats at Christmas Carnage in December. So, let’s get into it.

Location, location, location

I headed down to High Wycombe, which meant a stop at the magical Reading Services on the way, and the event was held at the local games store Tabletop Republic. Venuewise, it was really easy to find, and there was loads of parking within a couple of minutes walk.

The store itself was clean and had good natural light, which is always nice. The town around it was very pleasant with a great range of food places. I opted for a quiet kebab at lunchtime covered in cheese sauce. What could go wrong?

The list

As with all the best tournament lists, I decided to make changes to the list I’ve been practicing with about a week before the event after a single game. So, I spent last week desperately painting a new regiment of mounted paladins and was really happy with how they came out. As a result, the list I took looked like:

Priest with Shroud of the Saint


High Paladin with Scythe of the Harvester


Mounted Paladin regiments (2) one with Caterpillar Potion and one with Sir Jesse’s Boots, both with Aegis Fragments

Elohi Regiment with Celestial Fury

Elohi Horde with Brew of Strength

Spear horde with Hammer of Measured Force

Gur Panther troop

How did the games go?

Game 1

Pillage, vs Elves, loss

My first game was against an Elf army that I’ve faced before, and that I have previously defeated, albeit in a lower point game. The army is a really nice mix of elite warriors and solid elf shooting which meant the pressure went on from turn one and didn’t let up at any point during the game. The biggest frustration for me was Julius getting held up by a troop of light cavalry for three turns as the rest of my army got battered. I’m not saying that having Julius available for more turns would have won me the game, but he is a significant amount of points that could have been more usefully deployed. Despite it all it was a fun game to start the event with.

Game 2

Invade, vs Abyssal Dwarfs, loss

I would have been quite happy with this scenario and match up had the Abyssal Dwarf army not consisted entirely of cavalry and flyers. Since I’ve started playing Basileans I haven’t played another alpha strike list, and I did not cover myself in glory!

A poor set up, combined with some really revolutionary Elohi tactics, bearing in mind most revolutions fail, saw my Basileans swept away in short order. My approach to the game was diabolically bad, but sometimes you just do things wrong. Usefully my opponent asked me about the spearmen in my list, and what their role was. This has been a really useful challenge and has since got me thinking (watch this space).

Game 3

Loot, vs League of Rhordia, win

This was my first game in 3rd edition against the League. It was a nice mixed arms force with a decent number of Halfings supporting, and structurally an army list I’m much more used to playing. All that meant the Basileans did what they do best, using their movement to stay out of the worst of the shooting and pick the combats they thought they had the best chances with.

Final thoughts

As always, I had three fantastic opponents and three very relaxed games. It was an all-round enjoyable event, and I’m looking forward to attending more events around the South-East this year if I can find the time. I would definitely recommend this event to anyone thinking about playing in the South-East.

In terms of results, I’d say I was generally happy. I tend to pick armies based on units I like the look of and according to a loose narrative thread, which means they aren’t often as efficient as they could be. I find when I’m trying to build competitive lists its only when I start playing events with them I start to notice where the gaps are. My list has done well locally, so I’m not going to say it’s a bad list, but there are some improvements to be made. The first being the need to have a good think about whether the small amount of infantry I have are the best fit for the wider list.

So, with that, a final thank you to my opponents, the organisers, and of course all the friendly faces. Not sure how many times I should say this, but its still as true now as it was last year – its good to be back to face-to-face events.

Taking the Initiate: Building a Brothermark army for Kings of War, part 3

The army is coming along nicely. With only seven models now with to do and a bunch of base related hobby it looks as though the Borthermark will be headed to the Throne of Ages at the end of February. I’m super excited. I might also get some updates into the King of Herts hobby campaign, but my approach to this army is proving… well… complicated.

I’m really enjoying this project because, whilst I hate painting cavalry, I’ve always loved the image of knights charging across a field. Let’s face it, it’s a pretty iconic sight and the Lord of the Rings films would never have made it past b-movie status if it wasn’t for the Riders of Rohan doing their thing. I mean there were no big charges in the first movie, then they add them into the next two – clearly this is pandering to the audience.

Cavalry is a really interesting proposition in Kings of War because whilst it can hit hard on the charge most units are not made for grinding, and there’s a whole host of cavalry traps that means a cavalry army is not a point and delete affair (although this can seem very player dependent at times!). The introduction of Scorched Earth is just the latest in a number of options people have to hinder the game’s hard(ish) hitters.

Cavalry armies are generally pretty elite, although the Halflings have opened up some interesting avenues to explore with loads of different light cavalry options. Cavalry rely of exploiting their speed and manoeuvrability to deliver multi charges, set up flank/rear charges and grab objectives. It’s an interesting way to play that requires a bit of thought, which is not so great for Sunday evening gaming, but rewarding when mastered (I’ve noticed this from watching my opponents immediately after I’ve been tabled by cavalry armies).

I’m having great fun so far pushing my brave knights down the flanks and crushing whatever is lurking down there under hoof, but that’s only part of the story. After that bit, its fair to say I’m having difficulty with my opponents’ centres – and that’s where I’m giving the games away.

So, I thought I’d dig into last night’s game and have a think about where I went wrong and the new initiate upgrade for Skirmishers. Last night I played a 2,300 point game against Steve’s Zombie Horde, there’s a link to the video battle report at the bottom of the page.

Spoiler alert – I lost. There was the obligatory inconveniently rolled double 1 that meant two regiments of Abyssal Hunt cavalry spent three turns essentially tied up with a legion of Zombies, but I’m not convinced that was what lost me the game.

Playing the scenario

We played push and my plan was to get my tokens into Steve’s half and then capture the central one, ignoring his tokens that were on a zombie troll horde in the centre of the table. The diagram below gives an idea of how I set up. And how the plan would be perfectly executed.

The theory was that I would crush the flanks and then ride around the back and up through the centre crushing skulls and taking tokens. It didn’t happen. What happened instead was my right flank got wiped out and my left flank took so long to chew through the zombies there wasn’t time to get at the central units with the tokens. The game ended looking more like this:

The Brothermark left flank achieves its first goal, but has no time to get the tokens. The right flank doesn’t manage anything.

So the question became – do I tear my list up and try something else – or do I try playing the list a different way?

Talking through the game last night it became apparent that the initiates, that I have two regiments of, may have held the key to a better outcome. The main reason for this being that they have nimble.

Nimble is an expensive ability in the game (check out the Wine of Elvenkind). It’s expensive because Kings of War is a movement game where manoeuvrability opens up so many opportunities from redeployment to flank/rear charges to last-minute objective grabbing. It also makes fast units much faster.

The best short-hand, to me, for the power of nimble in when a dragon moves 20 inches down the side of the table on the first turn, pivots 90 degrees and stares unnervingly down your flanks. It’s not the end of the world in itself, but it can certainly be a solid signal that its on its way if you don’t have a plan to deal with it.

My right flank consisted of 2 regiments of initiates, a dragon, a mounted chaplain and a regiment of Abyssal Hunt. All of these units, with the exception of the Abyssal Hunt, have nimble and move at least 16 inches on the march. That meant I could have brought a lot of troops over to the centre of the board by turn 2 that could have then started to contest the central token, leaving a token force to distract Steve’s shambling troops on my right in the hope of the undead maybe joining the game in a meaningful way in turn 8.

Sending a regiment of Initiates or two, and the dragon, off to hit the central token carriers would have been a lot more useful than doing what I actually did! Hindsight is a beautiful thing.

To add to the nimble, initiates have a nice combination of speed 9, 3+ melee and 14 attacks. That means they should be able to deliver quite a decent number of attacks to where they’re required quickly. I’ve added the Caterpillar potion to one regiment because I think it compliments nimble well, especially for redeployment moves where the double move/single turn is generally preferable to the single move/double turn option which woods and rough ground can force without pathfinder.

There’s obviously a whole lot more to nimble than just a chance to redeploy – there’s also a lot more to the initiates when you add in a chaplain – so I’m looking forward to exploring the opportunities all this presents. I’m hoping having a couple of reasonable combat regiments with nimble will makes it easier to get to grips with, just by virtue of the fact that more units with it should allow more opportunity to use it.

Ideally, I’d like to get to a position where I feel that I could get the full 40 points worth of value out of the Wine of Elvenkind, I’m sure the Order of the Abyssal Hunt wouldn’t mind a pre-game dram. At the moment though it just feels far too “situational” and without the confidence to make those situations happen virtually any item feels like it currently offers more value.

So for now the army list is staying as it is. I have three games lined up before the tournament with the next one being against ogres, which is where the knights should absolutely shine. We’ll see shall we?

If you’ve read this far and aren’t asleep why not give the like and follow buttons a click. What’s the worst that could happen?

Battle Report link – my Brothermark face off against the Lazy Pirate’s zombie legions.

Brothermark 2,300 army list

Villein Penitent regiment

Order of the Abyssal Hunt regiments (3 with Brew of Sharpness, Brew of Strength, Sir Jesse’s Boots)

 Villein Skirmishers troop (2)

Initiates of the Brothermark regiments (2, 1 with Caterpillar Potion)

Exampler Paladin, mounted with Scythe of the Harvester, Gauntlet

Exampler Chaplain, mounted with Inspiring Talisman, Aura of Fury

Exampler Hunter, mounted with Blade of the Beast Slayer, Gauntlet

War Wizard, mounted with Lightening Bolt and Curse Shadowbeast

High Paladin on Dragon with Blade of Slashing

Shadowbeast: Kings of War fanfiction

The vision was hazy. There was panic. There were horsemen.

The vision cleared.

They would die by their hands if they did not run.

If they ran the horses and spears would bear down on them, blades and hooves slicked with their own blood.

The vision was gone.

The thunderseers watched with the confidence that only those who have already seen their victory will ever know, as the lone knight raised his axe and spurred his horse into a gallop towards them. They would survive.

They watched with contempt as his horned helmet lowered. Fool, they thought as one.

Clods of earth flew from the ground as the rider sped towards them. Tulgurt, the largest of the thunderseers, pushed to the front of their ranks. The great cyclops raised his hammers above his head and let loose a mighty bellow of defiance, naming himself as the champion who would swat this fly aside, so that the seers might prepare for the fight to come. The fight that would see them confront their visions.

Tulgurt found it hard to believe that this upstart had the temerity to ride alone against him and his brothers. He would have seen it as an insult had he not found the sterility of the rider strangely distracting. The knight’s face was hidden by a helmet that closed the window to the rider’s humanity, stopping Tulgurt from seeing the uncertainty and fear that lived in the hearts of the rider’s feeble race. Tulgurt also noticed the rider wore a simple white surcoat and shield, strangely uncluttered by the usual boasts of heraldry that so many men clung to in the face of their own deaths. Something about it unnerved the cyclops.

There were the horns though. Tulgurt allowed himself a brief smile at the horns that had been stuck onto the helmet. They broke the illusion the rider had clearly tried hard to create. The illusion that the knight was somehow above the vanity of lesser men, somehow purer. Somehow better. Tulgurt’s smile became a great roar of laughter. This was just a man, and like every other man he had crushed under foot so this one would fall as well.

He looked again at the horns, smiling, readying his weapons.

The rider was now closer, axe still raised, horse charging directly towards him, but the horns seemed to have grown. Tulgurt looked again. They were longer, sharper, but more than that they no longer looked like decoration stuck onto the helmet. It was as though they grew from it. The helmet itself had changed. No longer a shield to hide the rider’s humanity behind, it had fused with his face and the resulting mess of flesh, bone, and metal exposed and amplified the rider’s rage and fury. There was no humanity, no weakness, only the certainty of violence and death. The rider began to bark threats and challenges, not only to Tulgurt and his brothers, but also to the world. The rider demanded Garkan himself take to the field or be proven a coward for twice the length of eternity.

Panic ignited in Tulgurt and the seer lashed out with his hammers, but the blows fell too soon. They arched down and the horse danced to the right leaving them with nothing to hit, until they thudded into the ground. This brought Tulgurt’s head down. His single precious eye was now at the rider’s shoulder height. The rider raised a corner of their shield as the horse carried on past the cyclops allowing the rider to drive the shield home into Tulgurt’s face, blinding him and flipping him over with the force of the charge. The axe that had been raised dropped down by the rider’s side before arching up into the chin of another of the seers.

Confusion spread quickly through the ranks of the cyclops as the rider lashed out with axe and shield making of each a weapon equalled only by the other. Monster fell upon monster as screams, as much of bestial delight as anguish and pain, filled the air.

On a nearby rise the initiates held their horses steady, spears ready. The paladin leading them watched the hunter through the slits of his helmet. The example had been set. He raised his sword, barked an order and the horses started to canter forward.

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)


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!