[WFB] “My Dark Elf Army Will Destroy You” (1/?)

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?)

Not exactly the stuff of legends, is it?

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.

[WFB] House of Kerithion

Trying a new tack with the Dark Elves – away from the Khainite bias and into something that forces me to adjust my style away from RUN FORWARD SHOUTING.

Lord: Supreme Sorceress: 350
– level 4 wizard
– Pendant of Khaeleth
– Dark Pegasus

Hero: Master: 113
– heavy armour, Sea Dragon cloak
– Crimson Death
– Army General

Hero: Master: 329
– lance, heavy armour, shield, Sea Dragon Cloak
– Manticore
– Ring of Hotek

Core: 39 Warriors: 293
– shields
– standard, musician, champion
– Banner of Murder

Core: 10 Crossbowmen: 105
– musician

Core: 10 Crossbowmen: 105
– musician

Core: 5 Dark Riders: 131
– repeater crossbows
– musician, champion

Core: Assassin: 171
– additional hand weapon
– Rending Stars, Cloak of Twilight, Manbane

Special: 7 Shades: 130
– Bloodshade

Rare: 2 Reaper Bolt Throwers: 200

Overall: 1955
Lords: 350/500
Heroes: 442/500
Core: 805
Special: 130/1000
Rare: 200/500

Another of those ‘the best you can with what you’ve got’ jobs, I’m afraid. I’m acutely conscious that it doesn’t include any of the best stuff (a problem I’ve often had: the financial cost of Rare units and their position at the end of the army list combine to push them out of my awareness when list building), but I feel it should play a decent denial/attrition game, especially with the Lore of Shadows around to drop some hexes and reduce the resilience of key targets.

The Manticore Master and Assassin are both counter-attack units, who can also be recast as artillery/wizard hunters should the need arise. At a pinch, I can also slingshot the Master with Crimson Death out of his unit with Shadow Magic, if there’s something out there that absolutely has to die. Shades and Dark Riders put pressure on the enemy, either by being upfield and chucking out some respectably reliable firepower or just serving as delivery systems for the aforementioned characters. Crossbowmen and Spearmen move up and hold the midfield…

… I’m still not convinced there’s enough hitty in this list. Maybe I need to squash some Chariots in there somehow? What would you drop to fit them in, Internets?

[WFB] Dark Elves vs. Shiny’s Skaven, 1500 points

I played my first game with my new (well, new second hand) Dark Elves last week – 1500 points, vs. Skaven, 1170 to me vs. 877 to him.   Minor victory. I’m well pleased.

I’d managed to write three army lists, none of which was quite in sync with the models I actually own. This was the best I could knock up on the day and there’s some stuff which I know doesn’t quite work.

Master (General) – 150
repeater crossbow
heavy armour
Sea Dragon Cloak
Cold One
Seal of Ghrond

Sorceress – 160
extra magic level
Sacrificial Dagger

Assassin – 166
additional hand weapon
Rune of Khaine
Cloak of Twilight

20 Warriors – 180
full command
War Banner

10 Crossbowmen – 100

5 Dark Riders – 131
repeater crossbows

14 Executioners – 198
full command
(Assassin goes here)

14 Witch Elves – 200
full command
Cry of War
Banner of Murder

2 Repeater Bolt Throwers – 200

My opponent, the learned Dr. Shiny, has been playing Skaven for about fourteen years, much of it with the same collection.  The point I’m making is that he rocks it old-school: yes, he adds a few new tricks to his arsenal with every edition of the book that comes out, but he won’t leap on the new toys like Hell Pit Abominations immediately (not unless he can come up with a good, cheap conversion for them, anyway).

Chieftain (General)
no idea what he had – didn’t even see combat.

Warlock Engineer
level 2 wizard
Warpstone Armour
Warlock-Augmented Weapon

Warlock Engineer
level 2 wizard
Warp-Energy Condenser
Dispel Scroll

30 Clanrats
full command
Warpfire Thrower

30 Clanrats
full command
Ratling Gun

30 Clanrats
full command
Ratling Gun

5 Rat Swarm bases

20 Plague Monks
full command
Banner of the Under-Empire

Terrain – off-centre ridge (hill, open ground) spanning the width of the board, small forests at the corner of the deployment zones.

We didn’t take photos and long battle reports without photos aren’t very clear/good/fun, so here are the edited highlights.

I botched my deployment, badly. The Dark Riders ended up on the side of the board covered by two Ratling Guns, with no space to move where they wouldn’t get shot up, while my combat units would limit the Bolt Throwers’ line of sight if they moved forward (and one of the Bolt Throwers regularly blocked the other from shooting the same target: must remember to stagger one of them back a little bit if they’re both in the same corner).

Shiny relies on his Rat Swarms to hold an enemy unit down long enough for the Plague Monks to outflank them and start rolling down the line. The Clanrats play it cagey, standing off and protecting the Ratling Guns and Warlocks unless they’re needed to fight something. It doesn’t work, though, if the Rat Swarms charge a unit of Witch Elves who proceed to butcher them in short order and roll on into his Plague Monks. Those units deadlocked for a turn while the armies shuffled back and forth for position and the Executioners moved around to set up a flank charge threat for any Skaven that dared to cross the last open ground into the Dark Elf lines. Alas, the Witch Elves couldn’t quite crack Plague Monk toughness, and the Monks overran into the Executioners’ flank.

I’d taken enough casualties from Skaven magic and shooting (lost all the Dark Riders, half the Spearmen and a wound off my General) to be tempted to call it there, but we have this policy. If any one of us is thinking about conceding, the other two have to explain how the game could still be turned around. Dave and Shiny and I are all regular victims of the Face – the baleful visage of defeat and complaining which says doom is certain and we should call the game there – but we all forget that a few good rolls can turn a game right around, and the Executioners weren’t dead yet. They ran, but the Monks didn’t catch them; they rallied, and the Monks fared less well by charging them in the front.

Once the Plague Monks were gone, the Executioners were in a position to roll up the Clanrat line, aided by my Sorceress throwing out clinical Blade Winds into unengaged units. I was very impressed with the Sacrificial Dagger and the Dark Magic spells in general; one second level wizard became enough to test Shiny’s about-average magic defences. She couldn’t quite hold him back (a few Scorches got through, wounding my General, stripping a rank off the Spearmen and Panicking the Dark Riders off the board), but she kept the Howling Warpgale nonsense in check and helped the Bolt Throwers whittle his General’s unit down.

My general spent most of the game chasing Ratling Guns (charge, fear test, Ratling Gun runs for the hills) and running away from Clanrat charges (failed charge leaves him caught between two Clanrat units’ charge arcs, he flees, Clanrats stall for a turn). While I was pleased with this spoiling role he performed, and his ability to absorb Ratling Gun fire, it wasn’t exactly reliable (Stupidity and all that) and I’m not convinced that something else wouldn’t serve me better.

The Assassin is obscenely good, and compensates for the Executioners’ low attacks characteristic very nicely.  Says Shiny: get in front of them, you’re dead. Manbane felt like overkill, but I don’t believe in list tailoring and I think I’d be glad of it against stuff with higher armour saves and Toughness stats, so it stays for now. He only got one crack at the Cloak of Twilight: again, it’s in there to handle artillery (like Dave’s damn accurate stone thrower), so it stays for now. If points are shaved, though, it’s likely to be from the Assassin’s gear and the War Banner on the Spearmen (pointless: they’re ablative wounds and Power dice for the Sorceress, nothing more).

Also, I want a Cauldron of Blood, badly. While the Executioners and Assassin did very well for themselves, both the Witch Elves and Executioners failed Break tests which they’d have passed with Stubborn. Not quite sure how I’d fit one in at 1500 points – maybe I couldn’t – but it’s definitely something to bear in mind for the future, and it definitely fits in with all the other Khainite nonsense I have going on.

Many of my units were under half strength at the end, and both my characters were wounded, which gave away about 350 victory points and stopped me contesting table quarters (bagging Shiny another 100). Still – minor victory! Not bad for my first time out.