Saturday, 28 November 2015

Crisis in Caledor! - First Contact. A Warhammer Fantasy Battle Report

So last night 'AVP Shaun' and I played Warhammer Fantasy Battle for the first time in approximately 20 years. It was 4th Edition I'm afraid, so on the borderline between Oldhammer and Middlehammer, but played very much in the spirit of Oldhammer. And it was ace!

Shaun used to play Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay more than I did, and we both played lots of D&D - both DMing for our friends and each other in various campaigns - but as more and more of our gaming friends got into Warhammer 40K it was only really my other mate Boz and I that kept playing WFB, and only for a year or two into our teens. I've always hung on to my minis and rule books however, and have slowly amassed more fantasy models over the years for use in D&D and other fantasy RPGs, always with the hope of getting back into early WFB at some point. Well, The Oldhammer Community has given us both the encouragement we needed so this week we decided to have a very quick skirmish after work on Friday. I had in mind a really basic set up to just remind ourselves of the basic rules of movement and manouvre, melee and missile combat, and the all important psychology! Magic will come later.

Keeping it old school 4th Edition I came up with a simple scenario, with potential to be the start of a campaign, featuring High Elves and Goblinoids, as they were the races featured in the 4th Edition Box Set - which are the models which currently form the mainstay of my painted forces. I had a good idea of what dynamics I wanted to test - smaller better quality and better organised units vs massed troops, rank bonuses, behaviour of units with and without standards and musicians, and something to test out the psychology rules, so drew up too very modest 330 point lists accordingly (see below).

The scene was set.

The pre game set up, though not the actual starting positions - the High Elves are shocked to find greenskins on their shores and quickly shuffle back into a defensive line!
"'Ere Boss!" squeaked the closest thing the gobbo spear-mob had to a leader.

"Wot?" snarled
Hacka the Orc Boss, still staring at the distant goal of the watch tower on the hill, and not liking the idea of running up it into a hail of elf arrows without more back up than a puny bunch of gobbos and a couple of very stupid ogres.

"How come we got to be the ones to run up that hill and get stuck wiv arrers to take out the Elf watchers 'for the rest of 'em get 'ere? Is it coz you lost that bet with da Bigg Boss?"

Hacka rounded on the goblin and roared as he punched it in the face, splintering teeth and sending the tactless creature cartwheeling away.

"Right you 'orrible lot!" the Boss shouted at his troops. "See dem pansy elfs up dere? We gonna smash 'em, right! And den we gonna take dere pointy ears and stick 'em in the fire and turn 'em into crackling! Who wants Elf scratchings to go with dere sour-brew tonight?"

As the cries of the gluttonous goblinoid gastronomes and the
sound of lip smacking grew, Hacka turned to his trusted mob of Orc boys. "Right lads, let dem scrawny runts run up the hill first and get stuck full of arrers while we wait to see where the proper fight's gonna be!"

The scenario dictated the elves would hold the higher ground being on the defensive, but we diced for which side we would command. I got the Elves, Shaun would command the greenskins. He had twice as many units as I did, and it also fit the scenario that the Elves would be deployed first and the goblinoids would be able to position their units accordingly as they sprung their surprise charge.

The Elves however had the initiative, although their first turn was spent holding ground in a very insightful show of 'standing very still for tactical purposes.' Moving even a short distance into the centre would invite a possible charge from a number of greenskin units, and marching up the left flank to rout the small unit of goblin archers on the hill would be slow going and would expose my flank to more greenskin charges. No, standing still was the order of the day on teh left flank. On the right flank however, my archers elected to stand still and hold their ground. But at least they fired their bows. BS4, but the screen of arrow fodder provided by the goblin spear-mob were over half range so the Elves got a minus one to hit. Still 5 out of 10 hit, 4 out of 5 wounded and only one goblin managed to raise its shield in time to stop it becoming an elven pin cushion! First blood to the elves but not quite enough to make the little blighters take a leadership test however.

On the Grenskins turn the goblin spear-mob were pressed forward into the hail of arrows by the ruthless Orc Boss, who repositioned his own mob behind the advancing meat shield (Shaun is no stranger to how you play Orks in 40k after all), while the Ogres moved up in support. The goblin archers fired their shortbows at near maximum range at the High Elf spearmen but all their arrows fell short.

The second turn for the Elves was pretty much a repeat of the first. The Spearmen held their ground not wanting to expose themselves to multiple charges so early in the game, and the archers having no choice but to fire at the advancing screen of the goblin spear-mob. Another excellent round of shooting saw 6 hits, 4 wounds and only 1 goblin make their save of 6+. This time they had to make a break test. As we wanted to test as many different aspects of teh rules as we could within the confines of our very simple game, we decided that our unit champions could be treated as our Army Generals, so the gobbos tested against Boss Hacka's improved Ld of 7 rather than their own cowardly 5. As it turns out they passed "like a Boss!" and would have made it even without the nearby threat of their Orc Boss. The prospect of Elf ear crackling must be a really powerful motivator for goblins.

End of Turn two. The Greenskin advance is beginning to cause concern, despite the Goblin spear mob being down to nearly half numbers.
Shaun's second turn saw him experiment with manouvres. Both his Orc boys and Goblin spear-mob wheeled to prepare for a potential charge next turn. The Ogres moved up behind the expanding line of green. Still at long range the goblin archers manged to land a single hit but the distinctive green scale mail of the High Elves of Caledor turned the crude goblin arrow head aside.

Turn three then. The Elven spearmen were getting twitchy that they were going to be charged by multiple units at once, and I really didnt want to have to elect to shoot into hand to hand combat and risk killing my own troops as this just didn't seem in keeping with the philosophy of the High Elves. I also tried a manouvre. I turned in place 90 degrees to the right, loosing 25% of my move and exposing my flank in doing so, while moving to the base of the hill. The intention was to take up a defensive position on the lower terrace of the hill to receive the greenskin charge NEXT turn. The archers continued to pepper the Goblin spear-mob with all 10 hitting, but the scrawny gits must have finally remembered to hold their shields up as only two goblins fell to the barrage after a poor round of rolling on my part and a valiant save from Shaun, meaning the gobbos yet again escaped having to test against their leadership.

On Shaun's turn his Gobbos wheeled again to face the base of the hill, where they were judged to be in hard cover due to their diminutive size, and the ledge of the hill (probably not in keeping with how it would be interpretted in Hero-Hammer type play, but this was 4th Edition Oldhammer style). The Orcs however moved forward normally - a mistake I thought, my Elves might get a chance to charge valiantly after all! WRONG! The Ogres now had clear space in front of them, and they could charge a full 12"! Shit.

The Ogres charge the High Elven Spearmen in the flank! - This is a good shot to show the different variety of Oldhammer-esque minis we used. A mixture of 3rd and 4th Edition plastics and a few metal command for the elven spearmen, a few more plastic orcs pressganged in from HeroQuest, and two Ogres from Bloodbowl who do double duty as Ogryns in 40K.
I have to confess that when I put the lists together I took two Ogres for three reasons: 1) I had two Ogres painted up and ready to go. 2) I knew they caused fear and we wanted to test the psychology rules a bit 3) I needed to spend 80 points and didnt want to take LOADS more goblin troops (the only other things I had painted up). I had not really read the stat lines very closely and had forgotten that they moved so much further than the rest of Shaun's troops.

Now Ogres cause fear and my spearmen could obviously sense my panic as they only just passed their Ld test with a roll of 7 and just about holding their ground. Now, it seems that the Ogres were not used to this kind of bravery on the part of their oponents as they got a bit flumoxed and fumbled their attacks spectacularly rolling four 1s! To be honest I think we forgot to rol lfor the Elven side of this combat on this turn in the aftermath of this epic Ogre fail, but it still proved to be one of the turning points of the game.

Double Snake Eyes!

The beginning of the 4th turn saw the Elven Archers fall back and elect to shoot the unengaged Orc Boys out in the open rather than the goblin spearmen cowering in cover at the base of the hill (still not sure we got that rule right, but we fell back on our 2nd Ed. 40K training in the heat of battle). However, their 'tactical fighting retreat' had put them over half range again so the ywere at minus one to hit. Three managed to score a it but the resilient hide of the orc boys meant they all failed to wound.

Now the spearmen got to attack the Ogres! In a stunning round of combat 5 of the 6 hits scored on the Ogres wounded the huge beasts, killing one outright and leaving the other on just one wound. In its rage the remaining Ogre struck out and killed two elves, and passed its break test as the red mist descended.

The whiley Orc Boss finally saw his opportunity and charged the Elven spearmen, using his wider (but less deep) formation to lap around and attack the flank, forcing them to take a leadership test which they only just pass on an 8! The spearmen are hard pressed now and are clearly rattled, and that is before any combat this round. Meanwhile the goblin archers stow their bows and march out to take up a postion in the centre of the field ready to support the other mobs (or to be closer to the scrum for ears when the Elves finally go down more like!)

Back where the action is the Elven spearmen show their superior skill at arms and manage to kill the wounded Ogre, and in the other combat they are involved with they kill just one orc but the cumulative bonus from the exta ranks and their unit standard means the Elves win the combat despite being charged and force the orcs to take a break test. The Orc Boss must have been distracted from giving orders as his boys failed with a roll of 10 and fled 7". The Elven Spearmen gambled on pursuit, at last taking some aggressive action despite the risk a failed pursuit and a subsequent Orc rally could leave them badly exposed. The gamble paid off and the Elves rolled a 9 to follow up and destroy the unit of orc boys as they fled. Now this is one of the most contested rules in 4th Edition, with man feeling that this is just too absolute, favouring the 'free hacks' system of WFB 3rd Edition instead. I have to say I have some sympathy with this view, the orcs had proved really tough to kill all game and it didn't seem right that the eleves would be able to wipe them out automatically like that. Equally, if the elven pursuit had failed, and the Orcs rallied, then the next turn would have been very interesting, so it's not like there aren't potentially interesting game dynamics tied up in this rule and it does seem like a quick and easy way to resolve things - something whcih is a virtue of 4th Edition. We got round this by saying that routed and caught units were likely half butchered, with the rest scattered beyond reforming (at least until the next battle or two, something which would be noted for campaign play).

With the Boss gone panic spread through the goblin lines and the archers and spear mob broke 8" and 11" respectively. A positive rout was under way!

The greenskin rout in full flood!
The start of the 5th turn was expected to see the end of the greenskin raiders. The Spearmen charge the fleeing goblin archers, who only manage to escape a further 4" and are subsequently caught by the avenging Elves. Up on the hill the archers advance and shoot at the fleeing spear-mob. Showing their martial prowess again 5 hit even with a minus one having moved the same round, scoring two kills. Remarkably the Goblin spear-mob rally and charge the High Elf spearmen in the rear, jabbing at them hitting twice but failing to wound. Returning their attentions the elves manage to kill a goblin and win the combat soundly, but the stubborn goblin spear-mob hang in their passing their Ld test with a cool snake eyes (Shaun's skill at rolling ones finally paying off!).

And so the game went the full 6 turns! The combat in the centre grinds on, a goblin falling while the sole high elf wounded by a goblin spear is saved by his armour. The goblin situation is so desperate that they need a one on 2D6 to pass teir Ld test, but we agree that these frantic little buggers had proved resilient enough to ang in thee if they rolled another double one. Snake eyes again! The final round of comabt then, and despite loving how the story with the crazy goblin spear-mob was playing out, I really wanted a decisive victory for the elves. Five of the remaining spearmen hit, but only two managed to wound and one of the damn gobbos managed to block with his shield (from ones to sixes! The dice gods were with Shaun, but luckily only for this one unit). Down to just a few goblins now they fought back desperately and hit two elves, wounding one and managing to get up under his armour to score a mortal wound. These little guys are clearly going to have to be written up with some special rules if we play on again! Thankfully though that combat was enough ot finally break the unit and although they fled 7" (back towards the now advancing archers!) the spearmen followed up 10" and caught them.

We didn't bother to count up victory points, as it was obvious what the result was, although we should have done as we were supposed to be relearning the rules. 6 turns had seen the complete rout of the Orcs and Goblins, while only four Elves lay dead on the small battlefield. "They're bloody Space Marines with pointy ears!" exclaimed Shaun more than once during the game, and I can see his point - its why I like them quality not quantity. I don't want that to make it sound like he was moaning, he was a really good sport we both had a great time, and the fact taht we got 6 turns done is about 2 hours on a Friday night along side a curry and a beer means that we are definitely going to be plaing again!

Which is a good job, as Shaun went home and bought a Mantic Undead Army Starter pack (amazing value!), and these chaps arrived in the post after I scored some bargains on Evil Bay!
31 more 4th Edition Night Goblin Archers and another 31 Spears plus a Goblin Doom Diver on the left!


  1. Glad you had fun!

    One little hint is that Charges must be declared right at the start of the turn and moved first so the ogres would not have charged. A small thing and didn't prevent the fun time that seemed to be had. :)

    1. Ah! Good point, thanks. I am going to put that down to the stupid Ogres not knowing the rules ;)