I’ve been on the old White Dwarfs again. An ‘orrible manifestation of Nurgle laid me low over the New Year period and kept me at home, bundled up with even less capacity for joined up thinking than usual. Naturally, in between coughing fits I spent the time comfort reading, and after my second Kim Newman novel I wanted something familiar to batten my brain on.
So it was that I spent some time with the works of the great prophet Stihlma’an, an heretical figure from an ancient civilisation who had a great deal to say on the topic of selecting, collecting, assembling and otherwise aligning one’s toymens for battle. In particular, I wheezed my way through his articles on raising armies by the division or levy (ably supported by one Rikmaninus Priesterlijk’s dissertation on banging out regiments quick sharp), and his later chronicles of efforts toward a fully Bretonnian lifestyle. (Airbornegrove over at Give ‘Em Lead has already done the retrospective on these so I don’t feel compelled to drag you all through it, let there be much rejoicing etc.)
Old Nige’s Bretonnian army was, you see, thought out; fully enslaved to the Narrative which was to be Forged and thought about with an almost roleplayerish attitude to what would make sense and look good together. He also (and this bit’s important) had a charmingly basic approach to painting, throwing dip around years before it became fashionable. I’d forgotten how many of my techniques (layering paint straight onto metal, the rough prime and ink approach to basecoating) were derived from Stihlma’an’s blasphemous scrolls in the first place, and in this age of Contrast paints and what have you there’s every chance the same approaches will look rather better.
And all of this set me to thinking. See, I’ve basically finished my Vampire Counts, and while I remain very fond of them I would like an away-game army that doesn’t involve quite so many damn models or quite so much running repair work. I started some Tomb Kings, but painting the same bastard Skeleton forty times just to have a single viable unit isn’t an option with my wrists in the declining state they’re in. So I was left to cast around. I wanted something I’d played before and already had a rough idea how to use; something with a low model count; something tactically flexible that has a presence in unaccustomed phases of the game. And then it hit me.
See, I hate High Elves. I really hate High Elves. I’ve been on the wrong end of High Elf armies for my entire Warhammer career. You’d have to go a long way to find someone who hates High Elves as much as I do. All the way to the frozen north, where the men are men and the women are very extremely women (except for the slaves, who are getting sacrificed any day now). Here dwells an army of small, elite, hard-hitting, tactically flexible, extremely stylish absolute filthmongers who, as a plus, hate High Elves as a lifestyle choice.
I’ve played them before, at the very tail end of seventh edition and the very beginning of eighth. I wanted to collect them all the way back in fifth, as a teenager, but never really got started. And, as a bonus, I still have some Dark Elf models lying around; ten plastic Harpies and a metal Sorceress from Avatars of War, plus a Repeater Bolt Thrower from the sixth edition Citadel range and a passable Assassin (I mean, what else do you do with a Mordheim Dramatis Persona your warband can’t even hire?)
Most of the Citadel plastics are still available and, while quite expensive, I won’t need too many of them. (After my experiences with the Tomb Kings, I intend to avoid Mantic’s mixed medium kits for the foreseeable, and I don’t know of another firm that does plastic elves). I’ll need a general, and will probably have to pay eBay gouge prices for the figure I want, but if it’s only the one model I’ll live.
I already have a notion of what I want in the army. My rough vision is a General and low level Wizard to start off, a couple of City Guard or Corsair units to form my base line, my single Bolt Thrower (I remember one of the chaps in Collecting And Painting Wargames Armies named his the Inescapable Destiny, and that’s more or less how I feel about them too), and then some Dark Riders and Cold One Knights to go out and do damage. Plus the Harpies if I can fit them in. Under fifth edition rules that’s about 1000 points and should be a good start.
I intend to work toward the Ultimate Spirit of Wargaming, as is only proper for a Stillmania project: a 2000 point army, ideally viable under Tournament Battle restrictions, to be picked and painted and varnished and never messed with again. My wizard in particular will level up as I go along (level 2 for 1500 point games, level 3 for 2000). I’m going to experiment with troops along the way, though, and give myself a chance to learn the ropes before I rush out and buy the whole force.
I also have the beginnings of a background sketched out…
After a failed bid for the throne of Hag Graef, Princess Kerithion was given a simple choice; get out, or be fed to the Cold Ones quick sharp. Being disinclined to throw herself to the lizards, the Princess rounded up what remained of her loyal followers and set off. With her Black Ark seized and impounded, Kerithion was forced to make the long and dangerous trek along the coastline of the Chaos Wastes…
One midnight-sun summer day later, Kerithion and her associates stumbled down the fjord of Niðavellir and face first into the local Norse tribe. Lacking the elfpower to outright enslave the locals, Kerithion was forced to broker a tentative alliance with Jarl Bjorn Beorgson (who knew on what side his smorgasbord was spread and didn’t exactly fancy being riddled with crossbow bolts himself).
To everyone’s surprise, it’s worked out quite nicely. The Norscans are grateful for the additional firepower, skilled heavy cavalry and magical support Kerithion’s Druchii can bring to their raiding parties, while the Princess finds access to their longboats opens up new opportunities to pillage, plunder, pilfer and otherwise keep herself in the manner to which she’s accustomed. It’s not exactly Naggaroth’s second city, but she’s become rather attached to Dökkálfheim, and the carefully wrought displays of intrigue and brinkmanship between herself and the Jarl keep life interesting…
Of course, from a certain point of view this is entirely an excuse for me to paint up and field some Chaos allies or the Bearmen of Urslo; a skimpy piece of fluff with which I adorn my enormous and unkempt beard. To such nasty nimini-pimini little accusations I merely scoff. I mean, it’s true, but I’m willing to go the distance here and only enlist the appropriate troops to pursue my vision (Greater Daemons, for instance, will be few and far between), as well as making an effort to hang their appearance together and so on. My patron Stihlma’an would expect nothing less!
How hard I lean on this concept remains to be seen; I might want to go full Cult of Slaanesh, amassing the sort of forces necessary for that combined-arms sort of endeavour, or I might stick to the Bearmen and remain within the Tournament Battle guidelines. We’ll see what comes about.