Quick game review: Odin’s Ravens

Quick game reviews aren’t just quick reviews of board or card games. They are also intended to review games that are quick, both to get to grips with and play. Over the last month or so we’ve been playing Odin’s Ravens, written by Thorsten Gimmler and published by Osprey Games.

This is a racing game that pits Odin’s ravens Huginn and Muninn against each other as they travel the world to bring knowledge back to the Allfather.

Because these reviews are intended to look at games for people with limited time, and equally limited desire or capacity to spend pouring over rulesets they need to be:

Quick to learn – understand the game mechanics within a couple of attempts.

Quick to set up – out the box and ready to play by the time you’ve made a cup of tea.

Quick to play – possible to go from deciding to play to back in the box on the shelf in around an hour.

There is also one more vital ingredient – depth. It needs to have something that will get the brain working and make you want to revisit it again and again.

Deep end first…

I really wasn’t sure how this game would work when I got it home. Card based race games are something I haven’t really come across before, so I was surprised at how simple and engaging it is.

The game includes 5 decks of beautifully illustrated cards that really bring the Norse theme to life. To build the race course there is a deck of land cards. These have different types of terrain and the cards are positioned next to each other to create the course. There are a pair of wooden ravens to represent the players. Then each player receives 2 further decks:

Flight cards – these cards can be drawn at the end of each turn and allow you to fly over specific types of terrain.

Loki cards – of course no Viking theme is ever truly complete without paying appropriate homage to the trickster. This is a much smaller deck of cards that allow you to make actions that can either benefit you or disadvantage your opponent. However, in keeping with the spirit of Loki, these cards can prove to be double edged swords in the long term, so need to be played with care.

The game uses card draws and limits on the number of cards you can hold to create depth. This forces you to make decisions around deck building to create the longest flights possible each turn and how you tackle ground you don’t have the right card to fly over.

Note on kids – the box recommends players are aged at least 8. Other than the rules there is no reading in the game, so with some support learning the rules a younger child can pick this up and be no less ruthless than any of the adults playing!

This game absolutely nails what quick games are about for me. Beautifully illustrated decks of cards that leverage the Norse mythology theme to give it a wonderfully rich narrative that doesn’t need to be spelt out. Combine the backdrop with competitive game play and the only thing I’m left wanting is for Odin to get a few extra ravens to bring more people to the table.

The verdict

Quick to learn – 2 reading and 2 play throughs.

Quick to set up – done before the kettle’s boiled.

Quick to play – off the shelf, on the table, play and back again within the hour.

Depth – interesting mechanics that let you explorer different tactics giving you a reason to come back for another try.

Stealing Shards

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

To the table. Loot. 1995 points.


The Fyrefur Clan

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

2 – Warrior regiment

3 – Hackpaw regiment

4 & 5 – Vermintide regiment

6 – Tunnel Runner regiment with Caterpillar Potion

7 & 8 – Mutant Rat Fiend

9 – Old Mother Cinderpaw – Mother Cryza

10 – Demonspawn

11 – Bludjar – War Chief on Fleabag with Mournful Blade

Forces of Nature

1 – Salamander Prime horde with Brew of Sharpness

2 – Hunters of the Wild regiment with Chalice of Wrath

3 & 4 – Air Elemental regiment

5 & 6 – Air Elemental horde

7 – Great Water Elemental

8 – Druid with Tome of Darkness

9 – Gladewalker Druid

10 – Treeherder

11 – Unicorn with Boomstick

Set up

Turn 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

End of turn 1

Turn 2

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

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

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

End of turn 2

Turn 3

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

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

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

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

End of turn 3

Turn 4

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

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

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

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

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

Turn 5

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

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

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

End of turn 5

As the dust settles

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

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

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

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

Rat of the match

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

Game review: Carcassonne

A lack of wargaming options over lockdown has led to me exploring other ways of getting a gaming fix. I’m really not a computer person, so video games were never going to be an option. My household is generally pretty busy, which ruled out big board games that take a while to get to grips with, let alone play from start to finish.

To that end I’ve been looking for what I’ve started to call quick games. To fit the bill they need to be:

Quick to learn – we must be able to understand the game mechanics within a couple of attempts.

Quick to set up – we must be able to get it out the box and ready to play by the time I’ve made a cup of tea.

Quick to play – it must be possible to go from deciding to play to back in the box on the shelf in around an hour.

There is also one more vital ingredient – depth. It needs to have something that will get the brain working and make you want to revisit it again and again.

For this review I’m looking at Carcassonne by Klaus-Jurgen Wrede, published through Z-MAN games.

According to the box it can be played in 35 minutes, they’ve sold a lot and its suitable for a wide range of ages (7+).

The set I’ve got includes the core game with three sets of additional rules and game pieces to play:


The River

The Abbot

Deep end first…

This is a fantastically straight forward, competitive, world builder. It’s for 2 to 5 players. It works well with 2, but definitely improves with the number of people around the table. The artwork is awesome and it’s an absolute joy to watch medieval cities, roads and monasteries grow in front of you.

The artwork is warm, making the game really inviting.

The scoring system is based on how big you can build your roads, your monasteries and your cities; and yes, there are opportunities to steal other peoples’ hard work (something no good world builder should be without).

The key to winning the game is completing cities (and not always your own), and the scoring mechanic makes it really interesting. As well as focusing on your own builds you might find yourself “helping” other players finish cities in the early part of the game to limit the points they can claim. As time runs down on the game you’re just as likely to “help” them grow their cities to stop them being completed before the end of the game, so destroying their value.

 The extra rules that come with the set are great. They fit perfectly with the spirit of the game adding easily understood rules and extra tweaks that steadily increase depth. The rules for fields increase the value of cities further, whilst the River and the Abbot introduce more options into the game and slightly differently shaped meeple.

Note on kids – the box recommends players are aged at least seven. Other than the rules there is no reading in the game. With some support learning the rules a younger child can pick this up and be no less ruthless than any of the adults playing!

This game absolutely hits the brief as a quick game and punches heavily in the depth category. The box says more than 10 million games and expansions have been sold – I believe it. The cherry on top is definitely a large range of expansions, which I’m always partial too. I have a feeling it won’t be too long before some of them also find their way onto the Wizard’s Bookshelf.

Quick to learn? 2 readings of the rules and 2 play throughs.

Quick to set up? Less time than it takes to make a brew.

Quick to play? No more than an hour.

Depth? If it was a Wizard’s Hat there would be enough space to hide a kangaroo in it.

All in all it definitely does what is says on the box.

Gathering Lockstones

The last few games have been great fun, and an instant reminder of why I enjoy playing Kings of War. In another tentative step towards real(ish) life a friend and I have signed up for a tournament in October. The tournament is a 1,995 point event with a twist. There is a choice of three characters to add to the army. After perusing the tournament pack we decided at least one practice game was in order. Reviewing the character options we both opted for The Maiden, a healing character with Heal (5) and Radiance of Life. The scenario is Plunder.



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

2 – Warrior regiment

3 – Hackpaw regiment

4 & 5 – Vermintide regiment

6 – Tunnel Runner regiment with Caterpillar Potion

7 & 8 – Mutant Rat Fiends

9 – Mother Cryza

10 – Scudku-z’luk, Demonspawn of Diew

11 – War Chief on Fleabag with Mournful Blade

14 – Cassandra – Maiden with Heal (5) and Radiance of Life

Cassandra brings some much needed cleansing to the Ratkin

Kingdoms of Men

1 – Foot Guard horde with Brew of Strength and Indomitable Will

2 & 3 – Pole-Arms Block regiment

4 – Spear Phalanx horde with Hann’s Sanguinary Scripture, Indomitable Will, Pikes

5 – Knights regiment with Caterpillar Potion

6 & 7 – Mounted Scouts troop

8 – Cannon

9 – Mammoth

10 – Giant

11 – Army Standard Bearer with Lute of Insatiable Darkness

12 – Hero on Horse with Blade of Slashing

13 – The Captain on Horse

14 – Maiden with Heal (5) and Radiance of Life

The set up, Lockstone points and the realisation my pictures are all a bit shor

Turn 1

Cassandra had been born within the confines of the Oracle and had spent her entire life growing up there. Not once in the first fifty years of her life had she set foot outside of the building. Not once had she met or spoken with anyone who had not dedicated their life to the Oracle. She had lived in permanent exclusion with no thought of the benignities of everyday life. The Oracle was not a place for idle chatter, garish images or bad smells. Those selected to be there spent their lives in and out of visions and dreams, never quite sure where reality began and ended, or where the past separated from the future and the present. It was an existence like no other, to see everything, but understand nothing.

One day she returned to her room to find a white staff and purple surcoat waiting for her, laid out in the middle of the floor. She had heard these were the trappings of a questing augur; but had never seen or met one in all her time in the Oracle. She was not familiar with jokes, let alone practical ones, but quietly she wished the whole situation was intended to mislead her, briefly, before everything quickly returned to normal. Had she understood the concept of humour she also would have wanted this to be included.

With hesitation turning to trepidation she donned the surcoat and took up the staff. Her journey began.

Not once over the next six months, as she followed her visions, did she question what she had been sent to do. Faith in the greater good was the cornerstone of the Oracle and a way of life for its augurs. It was said the Oracle worked in mysterious ways and the last twenty four hours had made Cassandra really question just how mysterious those ways were. Especially now, as she stood by a crumbling wall surrounded by the stench and sound of ratkin readying for battle. 

On the other side of the battlefield an army of men started its advance, a giant striding ahead of the lines. Cassandra couldn’t help but wonder if she was on the wrong side, but the visions had led her to Mother Cryza, given her the words of the broken rat tongue to offer aid, and protected her from the old broodmother’s accusations of spying and sabotage. Eventually there was acceptance and Cassandra joined the rat warriors on the field where the Lockstones lay.

She assumed the Lockstones were the reason she had been sent. It was clear from Cryza’s rants to her war leaders their recovery was important, but for what reason she didn’t know. The roar of a cannon brought her back to the present. The shot had landed somewhere to her left, instinctively she moved towards it, hating her instincts as she realised where her legs were taking her. Behind her fleabags snarled and leapt from the battle line towards the giant. Smashing into it in the hope of blocking it from causing chaos in the rat lines. The Vermintide regiments also moved forward, attempting to block the enemy from grabbing Lockstones.

The remainder of the army moved forward with the Mutant Rat Fiend on the left flank crossing in front of the Shock Troop horde towards the Pole-Arm Block.

End of turn 1

Turn 2

The giant swung its massive katana, slicing through riders and fleabags with ease, before trampling on those that remained. Beside the Giant the Foot Guard horde charged into the Vermintide sending the tiny rats scurrying back towards their larger cousins.

On the far left of the field the ratkin War Chief on his fleabag had made his way to the small wood hoping to attack the cannon. The Mounted Scouts and Hero spotted him and charged into the woods. The sly old War Chief smiled. He steered his mount into a thicker part of the wood and dodged between branches, using them to shield him from the blows of the cavalry.

On the hill the cannon fired again. The shot clipped Mother Cryza, the old brood mother barely winced, but she reached out to the War Chief ordering him to ignore the horsemen and remove the threat on the hill.

On the right the Mounted Scouts loosed a volley into the remaining Vermintide regiment, but failed to waiver them, instead the rats charged the horsemen in response.

The rapid demise of the Hackpaw regiment left the human army in a strong position with a solid centre and fast-moving regiments on the flank, ready to exploit any opportunities that presented themselves. Suddenly the pressure was on the Mutant Rat Fiend and the Demonspawn to make a move. Weighing their options the creatures seemed to act in graceless unison, lumbering towards the Giant, hoping to bring it down; or at the very least buy time for the Shock Troops to deal with the Foot Guard without the Giant flanking them. Seeing the titans make a move the Tunnel Runners also decided it was time to join the fray. The right flank was starting to dissolve. Whilst the Vermintide were locked in a tit for tat exchange with the Mounted Scouts and the titans had moved to the centre, the Tunnel Runner regiment was suddenly left alone facing a horde of Pikemen, a Pole-Arm Block, a Mammoth and a Knight regiment. The chariots made for the Pole-Arm Block hoping to hold up the Mammoth and Knights for a turn. It was a risky move as the Pole-Arm regiment was hunkered down behind a wall that hindered the chariot’s charge. Unfortunately for the men the wall was not as sturdy as they had hoped. The chariots shattered the wall in front of them turning stones into missiles that flew through the neat ranks. Blades and metal rollers followed quickly, taking their toll, leaving the few survivors running for their lives from the dusty confusion. In the aftermath of the charge the charioteers turned to face the Mammoth, happy their chances of survival had now greatly improved.

Cassandra made her way to the rear of the Shock Troop horde. The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end as she listened to angry chittering. Some helpful, fleeting spirit gave her understanding, as the leader of the Shock Troops berated the lumbering Mutant Rat Fiend that had crossed their front preventing them moving forward far enough to charge the Foot Guard. It was an error that the veteran warrior knew could cost the Ratkin dearly, even if the titans could take down the Giant.

Mother Cryza and the other Mutant Rat Fiend charged the remaining Pole-Arm Block regiment. The injured Brood Mother wasn’t keen to join the melee, but mistakes in how the army had deployed were starting to show and the initiative had to be regained if the Lockstones were to be claimed. Whilst ancient in years the broodmother’s wrath was fresh and keen, alongside the mighty mutant, she swung her staff, lashing deftly at soldiers, utterly destroying the little threat to her they had ever represented.

In the woods the War Chief continued to dodge blows and duck between branches. The cannon was still his target, but one does simply not ride away from a bunch of angry horsemen determined to cut you in half. Steadying himself he saw an opportunity, a poor blow from the Hero meant the man’s sword became tangled in some vines and the rider became a barrier to the Mounted Scouts. Seizing the moment, the rat spurred his fleabag out of the woods and up the hill towards the cannon. Unfortunately, the energy required to leave the combat and charge the cannon was too great, and whilst his blows wavered the gun crew he was unable to stop them completely.

In the centre the struggle between the titans continued. The giant’s size belied its nimbleness and discipline as it smoothly blocked and dodged the great blows of the giant rat beasts. The beasts’ gamble had not paid off and the Demonspawn knew they would pay dearly.

End of turn 2

Turn 3

The Mounted Scouts on the right flank remained locked in combat with the rats. In the ranks of the charioteers there were was a moment of relief as they realised that their success had not only allowed them to turn to receive a charge, but had effectively locked up the Knights, meaning only the Mammoth could get at them. The ground shock as the mammoth started its inevitable charge, but the short distance stopped the beast from gathering too much momentum and resulted in the chariots being wavered rather than wiped out in a brutal blur of tusks and stomping feet.

In the centre the horns of the Foot Guard sounded a charge. The troops wheeled neatly before raising their swords and smashing into the flank of the Mutant Rat Fiend. The Giant took the opportunity to step back from the monstrosity and focus all its energy on the Demonspawn. Caught in the flank by so many determined attackers, the Mutant Rat Fiend slowly succumbed to their repeated blows. Despite taking massive damage at the hands of the Giant, against all odds, the Demonspawn managed to survive, and steady itself, ready to deliver its own blows.

On the right flank the mounted Hero turned his horse to face the hill. He saw the War Chief slashing at the cannon and took the opportunity to charge the distracted rat. The hero’s lance hit home, but barely scratched the ugly rat warrior that looked up from its destruction of the cannon and sneered, before returning to finish the job.

The Mounted Scouts sneaked further into the woods. Without the rats noticing they had already managed to recover two of the smaller Lockstones. Happy with their work they sent a volley of arrows into the nearby warrior regiment, but failed to do anything significant other than alert them to their presence.

The Captain watched the battle unfold, happy with progress until he noticed Mother Cryza, surrounded by the dead bodies of his Pole-Arm Block turning her twisted attention on the Mounted Scouts in the woods. Without a second thought he flicked his visor shut on his helmet, drew his sword and spurred his horse. He crashed into the old broodmother who twisted out the way of his attack before swinging back with her staff. The old rat witch did little damage, but he felt a poisonous chill run down his spine simply from being in her presence. He felt his energy ebb, but refused to give into whatever it was making him feel that way and raised his sword for another attack.

Cassandra had put some distance between herself and the fighting. The noise, the blood and the violence had shocked her, driving her back in revulsion and forcing her to question why she had been chosen to support the vile Ratkin. At that moment a warm tingle spread over her. It calmed her racing mind and centred her warring thoughts. Her eyes were drawn toward the injured Mother Cryza battling the Captain. For a moment she no longer saw the vicious, twisted sorcerer, but instead she saw her as a matriarch, a mother, a protector of her children. Cassandra reached out towards her and felt the wounds heal. She closed her eyes.

On the hill the War Chief once again dodged away from the Hero and rained another volley of blows on the cannon and its cowering crew. Watching the mighty rat seem to ignore their Hero convinced the crewmen they had only two ways to escape the beast, by running or dying, they chose the former.

In the woods the rat Warriors charged the mounted scouts but failed to hit them as they fought around trees and thrust swords between branches. In the centre the ratkin were starting to fight back. The death of the Mutant Rat Fiend made the Demonspawn redouble its efforts against the giant. A last desperate attempt for survival saw the Demonspawn grab the Giant’s sword, snap the blade off and ram it into the titan’s neck. As the giant sank to the ground the Shock Troop horde took heart, and with the remaining Mutant Rat Fiend, smashed into the Foot Guard routing them after only a brief exchange of blows.

End of turn 3

Turn 4

Despite its victory against the Giant, the Demonspawn was clearly suffering. The leader of the Pikemen horde took his opportunity and ordered the drummer to sound the charge. The Pikemen marched forward spearing the injured titan, forcing it to the ground.

On the right flank the Mounted Scouts killed the last of the Vermintide whilst the Mammoth overturned the remaining rat wheels and stomped on them for good measure. Finally, the Knights were able to bring their lances to the support of their comrades, but was it too late? On the left the Mounted Scouts drew back from the rat Warriors and fired off another volley that chipped away at their ranks whilst the heroes on the hill continued to exchange blows.

Cassandra’s eyes remained closed, the warmth blanketed her and in her mind she saw the battlefield. She knew what she saw was not the real field of nightmares and destruction, but a cleansed and sanitised illusion, that projected the rats as noble crusaders saving the world from demons disguised as men. She reached towards the warriors, arrows melted out of existence and flesh knitted together. The Warriors charged the Scouts once again. Once again they were hindered by the trees that prevented a decisive end to the skirmish.

The Shock Troops and Mutant Rat Fiend continued their destructive trail across the field dodging between pikes to deliver killing blows. As the last of the pikemen fell to the dirt the Shock Troop’s momentum carried them up the hill and onto a Lockstone that the troopers dragged from the ground and presented to their leader. Happy the giant rock would bring him favour with Mother Cryza he turned his attentions to the Mammoth heading in their direction, hungry for his next trophy.

End of turn 4

Turn 5

The Mammoth started to run, lowering its tusks, before snapping its head back and driving them towards the Mutant Rat Fiend. The mutant twisted away from the sharp spears of ivory, dodging one but finding itself skewered on the other. As the monsters struggled the Mounted Scouts cantered to the site of another Lockstone.

On the left flank the broken combat continued between the Scouts and the rat Warriors. Worried that the rats would eventually gain the upper hand the Captain broke from his combat with Morther Cryza and charged into the rear of the warriors, hoping to break the deadlock, but to no avail.

In her altered state Cassandra reached out again, healing the warriors before their next round of combat. Free of the Captain’s attentions Mother Cryza made her way to the centre of the field and pulled the last of the Lockstones free and placed it in a shoulder bag, before raising her staff and casting Bane Chant on the Shock Troops rushing to the Mutant Rat Fiend’s aid.

The Shock Troops charged into the flank of the Mammoth as it tussled with the mighty mutant. There was no grace in the Shock Troop’s fighting, but its effectiveness was without question and soon they turned to face the remaining cavalry. It was then that the Shock Troop’s leader noticed the Lockstone the Scouts had recovered. He chittered nervously as he realised it was significantly bigger and shinier than his. He cursed, realising he had recovered the wrong one.

End of turn 5

Turn 6

With the Captain unable to distract the rat Warriors in their pursuit of the Mounted Scouts he pulled away from the combat and moved to a position where he could ensure the horsemen held under his stern view.

The Hero on the hill finally cut down the War Chief, emboldened by his triumph he charged into Mother Cryza, but failed to force her to drop her Lockstone. On the right flank the Shock Troops drew back, the Mounted Scouts were preparing to leave, and the knights would easily block them if they tried to chase them. Better to hold on to what they had.

In the woods there was a muffled thud as Cassandra fell to the ground exhausted. The battle was over.

End of turn 6

After the dust settles

Victory went to Kingdoms of Men scoring 4 points against 3 for the Ratkin. This was a great game that highlighted the importance of remembering which token you put where. It was also a game where the woods on the rat’s left flank played a massive part, so let’s get into a couple of post-game observations:

Use terrain to your advantage – both the rats and the men used the woods to protect units. The War Chief sheltered in them on his way to the cannon so if he was charged, which he was, attacks would be at -1 to hit. The Mounted Scouts later took advantage of the woods by backing away from the warriors and shooting. As the scouts backed out of the woods the rat warriors had to make new charges meaning they were repeatedly hitting on sixes. This minimised the damage the warriors could do, especially important as the Lockstones the scouts carried reduced their speed and removed their nimble limiting their options to flee.

Remember which tokens have which points – whilst I remembered to play the scenario, I forgot where I placed the second 2 point objective (yes I did place it). Consequently, when my Shock Troops picked up their objective I was convinced it was worth 2 points, it wasn’t until the end of turn 5 I realised it wasn’t and then, even with a 7th turn it was too late to do anything. At that point my only hope was to kill the Mounted Scouts fighting my rat Warriors, but my opponent’s skillful use of the woods made this all but impossible.

Capitalise on the chaff – I stand by my decision to move the Mutant Rat Fiend across the front of the Shock Troops, the redeployment had to happen as, in retrospect, my deployment of these units was wrong. However, by doing this the Shock troops were unable to capitalise on the sacrifice of the Vermintide which would have fundamentally altered the flow of combat in the centre.

Cassandra – The Maiden offered an interesting additional dimension to the army by providing healing support. This turned out to be invaluable for keeping the rat Warriors in the fight in the wood and Mother Cryza refreshed, not something I’m used to. I’m not sure this will convince me to explore Broodmothers for this army build, although I do want to try more of a grinding rat build in the near future. But I think I have a good idea of how she fits into my force ahead of the tournament.

Rat of the Match

The Tunnel Runners – this is a new troop type for me, having only used them for three games, but I’m very impressed with their speed, attacks and how they complement the rest of my force. In this case they excelled. I had not expected them to destroy the Pole arm block, let alone go on to withstand the Mammoth’s charge. Essentially taking the Knights out of the game was just a rat flavoured cherry on top of a furry cup cake.

Battle for the Boarder

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

The armies

The Fyrefur Clan (Ratkin)

1 – Kiitsch Sparkthrower – Warlock with Banechant and Inspiring Talisman

2 – Bludjar – Warchief with Fleabag

3 – Demonspawn

4 – Night Terror with Diadem of Dragonkind

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

6 – Tunnel Runner regiment with Caterpillar Potion

7 – Tunnel Runner regiment with Jesse’s Boots

8 – Tunnel Runner regiment

9 & 10 – Mutant Rat Fiend

11 – Strayrat’s Hackpaw regiment

12 & 13 & 14 – Vermintide regiment

The Orcs

1 & 2 – Ax regiment

3 & 4 – Great Ax regiment with Orcish Skullpole

5 – Long Ax horde

6 & 7 – Morax troop with Orcish Skullpole

8 – Wip’s Playmates

9 – Fight Wagon regiment

10 – Gore Chariot regiment

11 – War Drum

12 & 13 – Giant

14 – Godspeaker with Inspiring Talisman and Fireball

15 – Krusher on Gore

16 – Morax Mansplitter

17 – Wip the Outcast

Set up

Turn 1

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

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

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

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

End of turn 1

Turn 2

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

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

End of turn 2

Turn 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

End of turn 3

Turn 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

End of turn 4

Turn 5

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

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

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

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

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

End of turn 5

Turn 6

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

End of turn 6

As the dust settles

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rat of the match

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

Tales from the Fyreside

Having had a little break to enjoy the hot weather the next battle report is not quite where it needs to be (which sounds better than admitting I haven’t really done anything). So for anyone wanting a bit a narrative fix I thought I’d share my submission from last year’s Mantic story competition. This also neatly introduces Kiitsch Sparkthrower, the scheming Warlock of my homebrew Ratkin clan, Clan Fyrefur, who will be making an appearance next week.

The Survivor

“Would be leaders and survivors have much in common.” The Master Warlock of the Fyrefur Clan had said to his apprentice, Kiitsch Sparkthrower. “They both involve clinging to a dream with a single minded, near obsessive belief that it can be attained. The only real difference is for one the dream is survival, for the other it is the survival of the dream.”

Those words ran around Kiitsch’s mind igniting a smug smile. He watched with immense self-satisfaction as the Ratkin Shock Troops slaughtered the last of the Kin’s chariot hordes. The blood that splattered their bronze armour, slicked their great axes and was starting to dry in dark patches, matting their bright orange fur, was his blood, just as their victory would be his victory.

His careful placement of the warriors in front of his Shock Troops had taken the impetus out of those nasty Elven carts that so easily broke the lines of weaker clans and weaker races. As the chariots had ploughed into the poorly disciplined warriors, scything through ragged bodies, they had started to slow. The smooth turning of their wheels had been interrupted by broken limbs and discarded weapons jamming into wheel spokes. The horses’ hooves found less and less purchase on the soft corpses beneath them.

It was then the drums of the Shock Troops began. Slowly at first as the elite rat warriors started to move forwards. The drums picked up pace broadcasting the heartbeats of Ratmen and Elves to the battlefield. Eyes narrowed, a thousand great axes raised, two thousand clawed feet skittered towards the chariots.

A light rain of crossbow bolts fell on the ratmen, but there was far too few fired too quickly to create even a minor impediment. Their charge gathered such pace that even the handful of troopers who had been mortally wounded by the bolts did not realise until they reached the enemy and fell with their axes. Victory was brutal and decisive, but not without its losses. As the last of the Kin were trampled under claw the drum started to sound again; a slower beat calling them together for the next fight.

It was then Kiitsch saw it. A darkness, an absence, a void in the sky falling irresistibly towards the flank of the Shock Troops. Thinking it might be some kind of magic Kiitsch closed his eyes and focused, drawing deep into his dark soul, searching.

A sound like a thousand screeching gargoyles split the din of the battle, shaking Kiitsch to his core and destroying his concentration. He looked to the sky and realised the void was some kind of dragon. He watched helplessly as the creature barrelled into the Shock Troops sending troopers flying, breaking and disordering their ranks.

Kiitsch watched the troopers waiver. The drum started pounding erratically, desperately calling for any kind of order. Kiitsch screamed in rage. This was not how it was meant to go. He had been on the verge of victory. The few remaining pockets of resistance were being dispatched by bands of Nightmares whilst the Shock Troops held the centre ground. A dragon tearing through his troops risked giving the remaining Kin hope, and hope could make even a beaten enemy dangerous.

Kiitsch hesitated. He had always been a survivor and right now the survivor in him wanted to run. But the dream, his dream, needed him to fight. To lose today would destroy the support he had won in the Clan, not to mention making the murder of his master pointless; wasteful even. A victory would bring the loyalty of more tribes and warbands, increasing his standing in the Clan, bringing his dream closer.

Taking a deep breath and closing his eyes the Warlock reached out towards the dragon. Green sparks started to fly around his claw like irritable fireflies. The intensity of the light grew, his claw started to glow, his eyes snapped open. Green lightening surged from his claw, lashing the dragon, sending it reeling away from the Shock Troops.

The lightening stopped. The dragon twitched. It was injured, disorientated, but far from dead. Its massive head turned towards Kiitsch. He reached out with his claw once again, drawing another breath. As the air filled his lungs he knew the survival of his dream now depended on his survival. He heard the drum start to beat quickly. As the next blast of lightening rolled over the great, black beast he allowed himself the briefest of smiles. He was, after all, a survivor.

Ratkin vs Orcs

I think it’s fair to say the Ratkin Slave list for Kings of War is not considered the most competitive. In some ways that makes it ideal for me. I’m not the world’s most competitive player (after 1 game in the tournament season starting in 2019 I’m the 123rd player in the UK – even without Covid I wouldn’t have expected that to change much).  As a committed Ratkin player the Slave list is a relatively quick way of putting together another army to play, whilst also making me think how easy it would be stretch to a full Abyssal Dwarf army (it’s almost like there might be some sort of marketing strategy going on at Mantic HQ). So now I’ve given my reasons/excuses for using them… here’s the game.

The Armies

Ratkin Slaves

1 & 2 – Slave Warrior regiments with The Last Breath

3 – Slave Warrior regiment with The Crystal Pendent of Retribution

4 – Immortal Guard regiment with Brew of Strength and Throwing Mastiff

5 – Immortal Guard regiment with Throwing Mastiff

6 – Decimator troop

7 – Slave Nightmares horde with Blessing of the Gods

8 – Slave Nightmares horde

9 – Slave Tunnel Runner regiment with Potion of the Caterpillar

10 – Slave Tunnel Runner regiment with Brew of Sharpness

11 – Slavedriver with Diadem of Dragonkind

12 – Iron-Caster

13 – Abyssal Halfbreed Champion with Mournful Blade

14 – Golekh Skinflayer

15 – Allied Hackpaws



1 & 2 – Morax troops

3 & 4 – Longax regiments

5 – Ax horde

6 – Gore Rider regiment with Jesse’s Boots

7 – Gore Rider regiment with Potion of the Caterpillar

8 & 9 – Skulk Outrider troops

10 & 11 – Orcling regiments

12 – War Drum

13 – Giant

14 – Krudger on Winged Slasher with Brew of Haste

15 – Flagger with Lute of Insatiable Darkness

16 – Krusher on Gore

17 – Gakamak

Turn 1

Azzirghar, Iron Caster of the Golden Caste Keep, lazily flicked his hand. A fly that had been busily buzzing near him exploded in a tiny ball of purple flame. The day was warm and unobjectionable, even for Azzirghar, other than the minor matter of a few smelly orcs that needed to be dealt with. He sniffed the air, rummaged around in a pouch and fished out a small golden box. He took a generous pinch of the orange powder inside and snorted it. The powder burnt the inside of his nose, but the respite from the stench of the orcs combined with the far from wholesome reek of rotten rat flesh was worth it.  

“Right,” Azzirghar shouted “Let’s get this over with. Kill the scum.”

Inspirational it was not, but sadly representative of Azzirghar’s abilities as a general. Around him whips began to crack and the host moved forward.

On the left flank Golekh urged his chariot forward. The Tunnel Runners moved up whilst the allied Hackpaws scouted ahead of the main line. Golekh didn’t trust the Hackpaws. Rats could be vicious to each other, but he had observed they had a powerful and perverse loyalty to each other. The idea that these scouts had joined the army to support his noble people just didn’t feel right. However, there was no time to dwell on it, there were far bigger things to worry about, like the massive hill that occupied much his deployment area. From the noise and the presence of the towering orc giant it was obvious a substantial part of the enemy was hidden behind it.

Golekh had questioned Azzirghar’s orders to deploy the chariots here, after all chariots did their best work on flat ground, riding against a slow and highly visible enemy. Azzirghar had agreed, in principal, but pointed out that there was undoubtedly little requirement for optimal performance, given the sub optimal nature of the enemy. He was also greatly concerned that he should not have to run the risk of walking up hills in pursuit of victory, regardless of how great the victory was. The conversation moved on, Golekh’s stunned silence taken as awed agreement.

Gakamak smiled a broad toothy grin. He grunted and motioned with his axe. The orc cavalry eased forward knowing they had the advantage of speed on their flank. The Skulks sent a small volley or arrows into one of the Rat Warrior regiments, but their fear of the slavers’ whips was far greater than their fear of a few pointed sticks. The slavering Winged Crusher leapt into the sky with its rider holding tightly to his saddle. It was not a graceful creature, but there was clearly a certain artistry of motion as it lurched awkwardly from left to right until it found an air stream to support it and send it swooping down the rat’s right flank, curious to see what was on the menu.

Orc set up and Rat movement

Turn 2

A gout of green flame shot from the blight cannons of one of the Nightmare hordes into a troop of Skulks, but it did little to dampen the orc’s enthusiasm for the fight. Meanwhile, Azzighar was now aware of the large amount of orc cavalry that had materialised to his right. He calmly issued orders to his slave driver who set about forcing the other Nightmare horde to turn to face the emerging threat. By contrast the Decimators and one of the Immortal Guard regiments moved neatly in response to single word commands to meet the same threat.

In the centre of the field one of the Rat Warrior regiments charged a unit of Orclings waivering it, inadvertently blocking one of the few clear paths for the chariots to the enemy. Golekh cursed as his chariot and Tunnel Runners milled around trying to find the best ways to position themselves around the hill. As accomplished Azzirghar was as a magician Golekh was now convinced beyond any doubt his military skills really were as poor as he had heard.

The Tunnel Runners desperate attempts to organise themselves inevitably opened up gaps which the battle hardened orcs recognised and exploited immediately. The Krusher on the far left of the orc line spurred his mount into action letting out a mighty roar as he smashed into a regiment of Tunnel Runners. The drivers sneered at the stupidity of the orc before realising that the lone rider had co-ordinated his charge with a regiment of Orclings that had snuck around their flank. Suddenly they found themselves bogged down as the Giant lumbered towards them.

On the right the orc cavalry struck. The Gore Riders and the Slasher rushed in against the horde of nightmares that had turned to face them, tearing them limb from limb. Gakamak and the other regiment of Gore Riders struck at the Nightmares, but under the heavy glare of the slave driver they refused to back down, despite taking heavy losses. The troops of Skulks both grasped opportunities, with one troop charging a regiment of warriors in the flank and the other attempting to bring down the lone slave driver in the middle of what was rapidly developing into a desperate melee. However, both charges failed to deliver, with their respective targets managing to survive.

End of turn 2

Turn 3

It was now the Skulk’s turn to face their enemies’ blows. The slave driver withdrew from his combat signalling desperately for the Immortal Guard to help him. The stoic gold clad warriors did as they were ordered, and the resulting fight lasted mere moments with the Outriders deciding discretion was the better part of valour, dissolving in the direction of the Orc camp. The other Skulks were flank charged by a regiment of Rat Warriors. With nowhere to run to the troop quickly met a bloody end at the points of the warriors’ spears.

Azzirghar was starting to feel the pressure, he hoped that Volekh was fairing better on the left flank, there was a good chance he would need rescuing. He was now barking confused orders, trying to pull together some semblance of a co-ordinated defence. By luck, more than judgement the Decimators, the Slave Driver, Azzighar and the Immortal Guard regiment not in combat managed to fire at the same time towards the oncoming Gore Riders, waivering them. The Decimators started to reload their weapons, but the Winged Slasher swept in and ate them whilst the Gore Riders engaged with the Nightmares finished them off.

It was at this point that Gakamak got bored. His cavalry was more than a match for the dwarfs, and he saw no reason to compete for scraps with his own warriors when other, more glorious opportunities awaited him on the other side of the field. Manoeuvring around Rat Warrior regiments charging his infantry he rode towards the Tunnel Runners, smashing into their side and battering one of the great metal wheels. Whilst the attack did little physical damage the satisfaction of a new, more challenging opponent filled Gakamak with joy.

The Abyssal Halfbreed Champion watched, shaking his head with great irritation, as the Tunnel Runners counter charged the Orc Krusher whilst the Orclings stabbed their little spears into cogs and gears, slowly pulling the machines apart.

“Filthy useless slaves.” The champion snarled, “You can give ‘em all the weird and wonderful war machines in the world, but they’re still just slaves.” The veteran of many battles could tell the tide was turning very quickly against the rats, as chariots and tunnel runners were charged and bogged down. Even the master charioteer Volekh had been outwitted by a regiment of Longax who had charge down the bloody hill and were now pressing the charioteer for all he was worth. Despairing of the situation he looked around to see the Giant poised to join the combat. Wherever the creature went it would wreak absolute havoc; it had to be stopped. The Halfbreed raised his hammer and charged head long into the creature. There was desperation in the action, but on balance, no more than was proportionate given the situation.

End of turn 3

Turn 4

Volekh’s mind and body worked overtime as he tried to find a way out of the battle that was rapidly descending into a wholesale slaughter of Azzighar’s forces. He noticed a small band of rag tag orcs just to the right of the Long Ax he was currently engaged with. If he could break through them he would stand a chance of escaping the battle in one piece, even if his beloved chariot, and pride, was somewhat more dented than it had previously been. With a lot of furious whipping of orcs, as much as the Night Terror pulling his chariot, he extricated himself from the combat and charged at the troop of Morax at the very top of the hill. A combination of the damage to his chariot and the energy he had already expended meant he was tired by the time he reached the Morax. The resulting combat was short and decidedly not in Volekh’s favour.

The remaining Tunnel Runners also succumbed to the orc regiments that now crowded around them with only the Halfbreed holding on as he furiously dodged the heavy blows that rained down from the Giant.

On the right flank, things were only going marginally better for Azzighar. A flurry of disorganised shooting wounded but failed to rout, or waiver, either regiment of Gore Riders. A regiment of Immortal Guard charged the Winged Slasher wounding it only enough to anger it sufficiently that the beast tore into their armoured ranks splitting tall helmets and swallowing so many that no real resistance remained.

End of turn 4

Turn 5

It was now more by luck than any of Azzighar’s planning, or tactical genius, that pockets of dwarfs remained fighting. A troop of Morax on the right flank had been badly damaged by the Pendent of Retribution, triggered as the slave warriors that had carried it fled the field. The slave driver targeted them with his Diodem of Dragonkind flaming the last of their number out of existence. The remaining Immortal Guards finally routed one of the Gore Rider regiments, only to see the other race past them charging into Azzighar with the Slasher.

End of turn 5

Turn 6 and 7

At this point the Abyssal Dwarfs had been all but wiped out. The Slasher had developed quite a taste for dwarf flesh after finishing of Azzighar and charged the remaining Immortal Guard regiment with Gakamak. The Guards stood to the last, managing to slay Gakamak, but were ultimately overcome as Gore Riders smashed into their flank. And finally the Halfbreed Champion succumbed to a mixture of exhaustion, wounds and repeated battering by the giant’s club. Azzighar had, in some ways been successful in his planning, there had indeed been a great victory and he had not had to walk up any hills for it to be achieved.

End of turn 7 – spot the rat, or dwarf…

The dust settles

This was an undeniable loss and there’s pretty much no getting away from that. My list was not the best, partially due to a limited selection of units, but there were definitely some other issues. Probably the most important issue was the poor set up with the hill preventing the Tunnel Runners playing to their strengths.

Credit where its due

Small shooty units – whilst I didn’t quite pull it off in this game the flexibility and responsiveness Decimator troops and throwing doggos can provide is pretty powerful. When the Gore Riders made their initial approach, after riding down the nightmares, I split my fire between both Gore regiments hoping I could remove both of them. It didn’t work and I paid for it.

The Abysssal Halfbreed Champion – what a tough character this guy is managing to tie up a giant for 3 or 4 turns, enough said.

BTW – everything I write are my own opinions, no matter how misguided or flat out wrong they may be. They definitely don’t reflect the views and opinions of anyone or anything else. Anything meaningful, useful or otherwise worthwhile is purely co-incidental.

A little reflection then a big jump in…

Basileans Vs. Ogres

It’s fair to say this blog hasn’t worked out the way I’d planned. There just never seems to be enough time. After a period of reflection, also known as a pandemic lockdown, I’ve decided to give this blog another shot. I’ll be writing across a range of subjects, all tied together by the fantasy theme. In addition to reading, I enjoy writing and playing tabletop games. The last two tie up quite nicely with games providing material for writing (writing is way easier when you don’t have to invent a story). So without further ado I present my first post – the telling of a battle between the knights of Basilea and some ogres.

The battle is fought using Kings of War rules with 1,995 points aside and the scenario is Invade.

The armies

Sha’leis’ Mission

1 – Sha’leis – Priest with Shroud of the Saint

2 & 3 – Ja’y’ll and Sa’y’ll – 2 Ur Elohi

4 – Phoenix

5 – Ogre Palace Guard horde with Brew of Sharpness

6 – Ogre Palace Guard horde with Jesse’s Boots

7 – Paladin Knights regiment with Caterpillar Potion and Aegis Fragment

8 – Gur Panther regiment

9 – Paladin Defender regiment with Brew of Strength

10 – Spearmen horde

The Ogres

1 & 2 – 2 Ogre Battle Standard Bearers

3 – Kuzlo and Madfall

4 & 5 – 2 Siege Breaker hordes

6 & 7 – 2 Boomer hordes

8 – Warrior Chariot regiment with Caterpillar Potion

9 – Red Goblin Slasher

10 & 11 – 2 Red Goblin Scout troops

12 Red Goblin Rabble horde

Starting places

Turn 1

Sha’leis stood between the ranks of Palace Guard and Spearmen. She clutched her hammer tightly as she read aloud from the pages of the Shining Road. Despite the darkening clouds overhead the light from the mighty Phoenix illuminated her pages. The mighty creature towered over her. An inferno wreathed its body and flowered from its feathers, but Sha’leis never felt more than a comforting glow no matter how close she stood.

The din of growls and drums from the other side of the plain focused her mind on the ogres and goblins that stood half hidden by the hill that also protected her own forces. A great beast with a giant crossbow strapped to its back let out a hungry, guttural roar which seemed to be the signal for the horde to advance.

On the left of the field, standing to the right of a pyramid Ja’y’ll, one of the Ur Elohi sent to guide and protect Sha’leis, looked across at the chariots slowly moving into position. He noticed movement, followed by the unmistakeable celestial ripple of magic. A goblin on a giant lizard had launched an attack on the Gur Panthers. He heard them roar in pain and confusion as they seemed to be grabbed and dragged forward, but the spell seemed to wear off before it could do any lasting damage. Angered by the impudence of the midget magician Ja’y’ll took to the skies. It wasn’t only him who hurried to the aid of the panthers. Seconds later both Ja’y’ll and his brother Sa’y’ll crashed into the goblin caster. Burning swords fell, bringing the diminutive magician’s tricks to an immediate end. Seeing the angels push forward drove the panthers to action. They charged into the chariots. Little damage was done. If the panthers had considered their action it was, at best, a selfless act intended to protect those who had protected them.

In the centre of the field Goblin Scouts crested the hill on either side of the Slasher. The Slasher loosed a bolt into the Paladin Defenders but it clattered harmlessly to ground somewhere behind their ranks. The response to the appearance of the goblins was immediate. The Paladin Knights and one of the Palace Guard hordes charged up the hill and smashed into the monster. Lances puncturing its thick skin and heavy ogre blades chopping at its legs, cutting it to the bone, making it shriek in pain. It bucked and thrashed trying to find a way to escape. Its goblin riders were thrown to the ground, and not much later the beast found its way out, stampeding from the battlefield desperately searching for some way to make the pain stop. The Slasher’s rout left a hole in the skirmish line which the Phoenix sought to exploit by launching a series of fireballs at the goblin Scouts. Shocked by the heat of the creature’s magic and disgusted, even by their own standards, by the sight and smell of two of their number being melted caused the troop facing down the Palace Guard to waiver.

End of turn 1

Turn 2

On the left of the field the panthers ran from the charioteers, unable to resist the ferocity of the drivers’ blows or the lashes of their cruel whips. Sa’y’ll saw the remaining cats break and flew into the chariots, snuffing out any intentions they had of joining the main battle before they even had the chance to kindled in their minds . Ja’y’ll’s first instinct was to follow his brother, but he sensed his help would be needed in the centre. He turned to see a horde of Siege Breakers stomping up the hill and bludgeoned they’re way into the Paladin Knights. Scimiters and heavy shields swung into horses caving skulls, snapping necks and sending fully armoured riders flying. Ja’y’ll moved to intervene but he reached the fight too late. The knights had been destroyed.

Despite being too late for the Knights Ja’y’ll’s charge brought confusion to the ogres. Only moments before they had destroyed their enemy and expected a momentary lull in the fighting as they eyed their next target. The angel used the confusion to his advantage. He sliced through shield arms and hacked at flesh that rolled out between ill fitting armour plates, but on his advantage was quickly lost, and he drew back as the Siege Breakers started to regroup.

On the right side of the battlefield the Rabble ran towards the Spearmen stopping just short of the tips of their weapons. There seemed to be an audible sigh of relief from the men. It was sharply dismissed by the loud crack of hand cannons opening fire from the Boomers standing behind the goblins. The Spearmen braced expecting the worst. As the sound dissipated, turning into ringing in their ears, they started to mutter thanks to the Shining Ones under their breathe as the damage seemed to be minimal.

As the Spearmen surveyed the scene it quickly became apparent that the ogres’ shooting had been split. Whilst the Spearmen had largely been untouched, the Palace Guard on the hill had taken heavy casualties. A handful of guards stood waivered on the hill, surrounded by bleeding bodies slumped in broken armour.

Sha’leis surveyed the carnage the guns had wrought. Undaunted she put her faith in those that had led her to the hill. She raised her voice and begged the Shining Ones for aid. A familiar warmth coursed through her body. It channelled itself through her and into the broken Basilean ogres restoring flesh, bone and metal, restoring the horde to its full compliment.

The damage and subsequent healing of the guards on the hill spurred the other horde of Palace Guard and Spearmen into action. They charged together into the Rabble which disintegrated under their boots.

End of turn 2

Turn 3

The Siege Breakers on the hill now separated with one horde charging into the Palace Guard in front of them with the goblin scouts. The other horde, that had been badly damaged by Ja’y’ll, decided to find an alternative target to the angry angel and ran towards the Paladin Defenders. The Defenders held their own against the weakened Siege Breakers striking back with cool, deliberate hammer blows that found their way between the gaps in their mighty shields and smashed what little resolve they had left. On the hill the Palace Guard faired less well, with many returning to the mud for the second time that day.

On the right the Boomers and their army standard bearer charged the spears and remaining Palace Guard. One horde of Boomers and their standard bearer traded blows with the Spearmen, neither side gaining any real advantage. Next to them, however, the Palace Guard quickly put the other Boomer horde to the sword. Swift punishment for their impudence.

In the sky the Phoenix wheeled gently before bearing down on the remaining scouts, fireballs driving them from the field.

End of turn 3

Turn 4

Having waivered the chariots in the previous turn Sa’y’ll now raised his sword in silent triumph over their burning remains. He turned to see Ja’y’ll dodging the heavy blows of an ogre standard bearer, struggling to make his own connect.

The rest of the battlefield was starting to thin out now. The remaining Boomers had gained an upper hand against the spearmen sending them running from the field, whilst the Boomer’s standard bearer made a brave, but ultimately disastrous attempt to hold up the Palace Guard. Whilst a charge was prevented the Palace Guard trampled the banner bearer into the ground as they advanced on the real threat. In a move that echoed the bravery, or stupidity, of the ogre banner bearer the Phoenix descended to the battlefield and settled in front of the remaining Siege Breakers bathing them in fire.

This was unlikely to end well

Turn 5

The Boomers charged and hacked at the Palace Guard, but their moral was failing. Despite taking some damage the guard fought back, breaking the Boomers before turning to see the flames of the Phoenix extinguished. Clearing the way for the final show down.

Sensing the end drawing near Sha’leis once again channelled the Shining Ones to ensure the Palace Guard were best placed to stand against the final, inevitable charge of the Siege Breakers.

Turn 6

Sa’y’ll and Ja’y’ll had turned from the body of the broken banner bearer before it hit the ground. They heard the Siege Breakers smash into the Palace Guard. Dust and noise obscured the melee. The Ur Elohi held each other’s gaze for mere moments. There could be no waiting for this combat to be resolved. Ja’y’ll looked his brother up and down. His beautiful brother was wounded, the blood of ogre and angel slicked his armour, mixing with the desert dust. “Stay.” Ja’y’ll said before taking to the skies and barrelling into the rear of the Siege Breakers.

Of Ogres and Angels
End of turn 6

The dust settles

 This was a close game. Had the Palace Guard horde not survived the Seige Breaker’s charge it would have been unlikely a win could have been salvaged even in if it had gone to a seventh turn.

Whilst a win is always welcome, it’s still worth picking out some learning points. Basileans are a new army to me and this was my first outing at 2,000 points. Retelling the battle, even in a narrative form highlighted a few things to bear in mind for the future:

Must improve my deployment – the Paladin Defenders blocked up the horde of Palace Guard with Brew of Sharpness in turn two limiting their charge options. Given the circumstances they probably ended up going the right way, but its nice to have choices! Also, putting the Spearman horde opposite the Boomers was not the best plan, I was lucky my opponent decided to split their fire in the second turn. Losing the spears too early would have opened up my right flank to those cannon toting maniacs. I should really have had an Ur Elohi hanging around on the right somewhere, or even better tried to the match the spears against the chariots, with the panthers and the Ur Elohi facing the Boomers.

Paladin Defenders probably aren’t the best fit for this army – one of the reasons I went for Basileans was because I wanted an excuse to use these models (more about them in a future blog). I love ’em, but I just don’t think they fit my play style. Yes, they’re sturdy and can hold objectives, but so can my Ogres, Spearmen and Ur Elohi, so I think its time to do a bit of soul searching…

Credit where its due

Yes, there was some stuff that wasn’t great, but there was a win though so that means more stuff went right than wrong! So, what went right?

Angels of the match – Ja’y’ll and Sa’y’ll worked together brilliantly. Between them they kept the chariots away from the main battle lines, killed Kuzlo, killed a standard bearer, assured the destruction of both hordes of Seige Breakers with flank and rear charges and ensured there was a scoring unit in the enemy half. Not too bad a showing.

The Phoenix – the Flaming Death Chicken, as its known locally, definitely needs a name. I think support pieces can be quite difficult to get to grips with, but I feel like I’m getting there with this one and had a better idea of when to use heal and when to use fireball. Still more to get to grips with though before I can claim to be a Flaming Death Chicken master though.

BTW – everything I write are my own opinions and interpretations, no matter how misguided or flat out wrong they may be. They definitely don’t reflect the views and opinions of anyone or anything else. Anything meaningful, useful or otherwise worthwhile is purely co-incidental.

Happy New Year is a state of mind.

I love a good calendar and the smell of a brand new diary, but its not enough to make me want to hold hands with a stranger and sing Auld Lang Syne.

I find New Year, the celebration as opposed to the inevitable flow of days, problematic. I think there is something massively disingenuous about forcing myself into the party spirit simply because I’m getting a new calendar. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good calendar and the smell of a brand new diary, but its not enough to make me want to hold hands with a stranger and sing Auld Lang Syne. Aside from anything it makes visits to WHSmiths and the Calendar Shop really awkward.

Add to this personal experience. Usually, I seem to get hit by a double whammy of sickness and ridiculous work requests that makes January feel like the dumping ground for the previous year rather than start of a new adventure.

However, one of the great things about the human condition is our capacity to learn from experience and create change. Whilst a frustrating pattern has, for me, built up around New Year I still think having a period of reflection and renewal every so often is incredibly helpful. The changing of the calendar is a helpful prompt. So, over the past couple of years I have come to accept that the start of January isn’t my time for this and that’s okay. That it happens is far more important than when it happens. Consequently, my New Year is now late January to early February. In previous years, finding time to reflect on my previous 365 days on the planet and set some goals for the next 365 days has not only given me a sense of achievement, based on actual achievements, but also helped me get excited for the year ahead.

So, what about this year ahead? What’s going to get me through? This year is very much the year of the blog. Expect to see more of my brief thoughts I really want to share. And books, books will continue to be a big thing.

To be a bit more specific Christina Henry has two titles coming out this year. In early March (I want to say the 3rd) a dark fairy tale will appear in a short story collection called Cursed, alongside work from the likes of Neil Gaiman (I’m sure I know that name from somewhere) and Charlie Jane Anders. In April (21st apparently) we get the chance to return to Alice’s dark and disturbing world with the release of a novella collection called Looking Glass.

But because I believe you can get as excited about books you haven’t read as shiny new titles I’m also looking forward to:

  • Starting the final book of Andrew Caldecott’s Rotherwierd trilogy Lost Acre.
  • Having just finished Joe Abercrombie’s Half a King and started Half a World one of my goals is to get up to date with his work with Half a War and A Little Hatred.
  • I also have on order a “new to me” author Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon The Ninth.

So, whilst the first few days of this new year could be charitably described as a write off, one calmly reflective blog later and I feel confident I can finally say “Happy New Year”.  

Golden opportunity? You might think it sucks, but it might be best not to bite!

True Mina isn’t Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Lara Croft…

There can be nothing more exciting for an author than having a movie made of your book. It must genuinely be one of the best feelings to think you have produced a story so compelling it’s worth transitioning into a completely different media (not to mention spending millions of dollars on doing so). I would certainly be excited. Admittedly, I am still to complete the first step in this process: writing a book! Despite the excitement for the author, there is an all too familiar concern raised by readers – what if the film isn’t any good?

Earlier this year I read Bram Stoker’s Dracula for the first time. It is, I admit, the first time I have read a book after watching the film, in this case the Francis Ford Coppola version. I remember loving the film, with its tagline of “Love never dies”. Oldman, Ryder, Hopkins and Reeves led the cast guaranteeing some fantastic acting. What grabbed me most about the film was the use of the Count’s origin story and his pursuit of Mina to create a character that was almost sympathetic. This complexity made this film much more than a simple good vs. bad vampire hunting flick.

However, as I read through Bram Stoker’s opus, excited to see this love story played out in its original state it became apparent that it wasn’t there. There was no great love story stretching across the ages. In fact, I would go as far as to say there were no redeeming features to the Count. He was simply a bloody beast of legend and superstition. However, the more I read the more I understood that this book was not simply a clash of good and evil. Far more than that, this is a tale about the confrontation of old and new, science against superstition. Mina’s role becomes far more interesting in the book than the film. Rather than playing the love interest, her relationship with Jonathon Harker is more of a partnership. Her engagement with, and enjoyment of, new technology marking her out as a modern woman. True she isn’t Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Lara Croft, but her role in the book is central and multi-faceted. Its no surprise that at the end of the book it is Mina, the men of science, the lawyer and the former soldier turned businessman that stand triumphant whilst the Count and the Texan hunter fall; the modern world wins.

The book truly intrigued and excited me. I found myself wondering if I had been blinded by the shiny special effects of Hollywood and a few big names? I did the only thing I could do, watched the film again. It was still awesome. I have written about retellings of stories before, and now more than ever I stand by those thoughts. Using the same characters the storytellers have created very different stories, both of which are compelling, complex and well suited to the media they have been told in.

Yes, it’s easy to spot the difference between most films and the books they have been inspired by. What is difficult, particularly with books we love, is seeing the story told differently to what we expect. If I ever get around to writing that book, the one someone wants to turn into a film, I think I will be excited. However, when I turn up for the premiere, I will probably do my best to forget what I wrote. That way I can enjoy the film for what it is.