In which Lenihan's expeditionary force, finding themselves waylaid by the dastardly Clan Snickit, call upon the aid of some unusual allies...
Last sunday saw the first meeting of OGRE (Oldhammer Gamers, Region: East Anglia), one of the regional groups that has recently sprung from the womb of the fertile Oldhammer movement. We benefited from the kind hospitality of the Cambridge City Wargames Club, who had booked the scout hut in Logan's Way, Cambridge, for the whole day, and soon the room was ablaze with 3rd edition Warhammer action: Dwarves vs Wood Elves, Brettonians vs Orcs and Goblins, and High/Sea Elves vs Skaven (not to mention the 2nd edition 40k game going on at the same time). This battle report will detail one of those games; an ambush scenario, with my elven troops deployed in marching order in the centre of the table, with Skaven converging around them. All credit to my opponent, who in the best spirit of Oldhammer accomodated my narrative whims (I can't just have a normal battle, can I?) and, as we shall see made great sacrifices in order to ensure that we both had a good game. He also provided the pics for this battle report (more can be found on his blog Snickit's Tail). See, these Skaven get a bad press, don't they? They're much more generous and honourable than we've been led to believe. Seems they're the victim of malicious propaganda! Ok, on with the report.
The march home, mile after mile, day after day. Movement without moving. The same hills, the same trees, the same rocks, again and again, the monotony of the landscape driving you mad. Until finally you see it in front of you, beckoning: the sea. And beyond the sea, home. The waiting ship, the chance for a tired army to sail away and put these lands behind them.
In the midst of the joy and relief, who was the first to notice that they were not alone? Was it the sea elf priest Nemo who first recognised the scratches and high pitched skittering? Was it the sorceress Serellia who saw the rodents scuttling from behind the trees? Was it the commander Lenihan, at the front of the column, who became aware of the rat ogres climbing the hill ahead of them?
Suddenly a noise from behind - two sharp blasts, like cracks of thunder.
(Sidebar: ok ok, I think it's only fair I come clean here. Initially, as can be seen in the pictures above, my Skaven opponent had placed not 2, but 4 jezzails on the hill behind my marching column. In the first turn, all of them rolled to hit, and it quickly became clear that the game was going to be a short lived one; the perfect storm of my deployment in column (due to the nature of the scenario), the proximity of my troops to the jezzails (again due to the nature of the scenario), and, of course, him rolling all 4 to hit, led to him completely wiping out two of my units - and without even bothering to roll for casualties on my shore riders (who would very likely all have been wiped out as well), my opponent suggested, very sportingly, that we should start again. I suggested that we should play with exactly the same starting deployment, except with him fielding only 2 jezzails on the hill behind my marching column instead of 4 so as to give me at least a chance of survival, and being a gentleman, my opponent agreed. Obviously all credit goes to him for ensuring that we both had a fun game that lasted beyond the first turn! And that's the spirit of Oldhammer in a nutshell. More important for both parties to have a fun game than for one to win at all costs. Anyway, the damage inflicted by two jezzails was quite enough, as we shall see...)
While cool heads kept their eyes forward, some of the elves span round to see where the blast had come from. They saw the two jezzails on the hill behind them, heard the screeching laughter of the rats, and, with horror, realised that their brothers in arms lay dead or dying on the ground beside them. Before they had even had a chance to come to terms with what was happening, further casualties were inflicted by a warpfire thrower on the right flank. The sea elf company, the column of warriors, the shore riders, all smashed in a second of smoke and blood. The elven force found itself reduced to half its original strength.
Meanwhile, in the midst of the chaos the sea elf priest Nemo was chanting invocations, calling upon the gods of the oceans to send aid in this moment of trial. His prayers were not in vain: rising from the rock pools came the warriors of the depths - monstrous crabs, man of war jellyfish, squid, even a mighty and fearsome seahorse. The denizens of the waters had answered Nemo's call to arms. The skaven would not just be fighting Nemo and the sea elves; they would be fighting the sea itself.
Sea gribblies come to our aid
Seeing the diseased rat scum close in on all sides, Lenihan gave the order to his shore riders to charge the Rat Ogres and clear the way.
In order to minimise further casualties from the jezzails, the rest of the troops fanned out before advancing. Raising their bows, the sea elf company and the warriors peppered the skaven forces with arrows, but luck was against them, and their aim was wayward. The bolt thrower too, whose crew had stayed behind in order to hold off the attacking forces, missed its target. Yet the battle was not yet a lost cause; the sight of two great eagles swooping towards them caused a block of the foul clanrats to turn and flee, while Lenihan and the shore riders found themselves able to push the rat ogres back.
The situation after the charge phase during my first turn; note the clanrats fleeing from the eagles, and the ogres engaged by the shore riders; but also note the massive depletion in number after the jezzails and warpfire throwers blasted our troops
The rats, so used to stripping the flesh from the bodies of the dead, were no strangers to the foul craft of necromancy. The sea elves might have called on the creatures of the ocean for help; but Clan Snickit had raised its own allies from the ground, using their dark arts to animate a fearsome cohort of skeletons. The sight of these skeletons closing in terrified the bolt thrower crew; deciding that it was better to be the last of a dying race than to join a dead race, they abandoned their brave stance holding off the enemy, and ran like hell, leaving the bolt thrower behind. The unit of elven warriors, still reeling from the casualties inflicted by the Skaven war machinery in the first moments of battle, found itself charged and pushed back by the stench of a block of clanrats. The shore riders, led by Lenihan, fared better, slaying all three of the rat ogres and leaving their cowardly handlers to flee.
The battle now hung in the balance, as Lenihan and the shore riders swung round to return to the aid of those brave elves who survived; to the east, the allies of the sea had caused the Clan Snickit gutter runners to flee - but to the west, the unit of elven warriors found itself completely destroyed, overrun by the numeric superiority of the clanrats.
The jezzails hoped to repeat its trick of decimating the elven battle line; but this time one of them overheated and exploded, while the other missed. The warpfire thrower proved more reliable, toasting one of the eagles and leaving the battlefield bathed in a smell not entirely unlike fried chicken.
I feel like eagle tonight, like eagle tonight...
It was perhaps in the excitment of this slaughter that Clan Snickit began to fall into disorder. The unit of Clanrats to the east attempted to turn to face the approaching shore riders; but amidst the noise of battle and the distracting scent of roast eagle, the order was lost, and the Clanrats were left with their flank exposed. It was single moment of weakness, but one which the elves sought to seize upon.
The shore riders charged the clanrats in the flank; in spite of this, the clanrats held. But the sight of the remaining great eagle swooping towards them was too much. Now, the clanrats fled, and in the hurry to leave the battle field, much rodent blood was spilled.
The sea creatures too did their work, sending the crew of a warpfire thrower into flight. Hope began to rise in the hearts of the surviving elves; could they outmaneuvre Clan Snickit and reach their ships?
It would take something dramatic to stop the elves now. The remaining warpfire thrower could not inflict a further hit on the sea elf company. But the crew of the remaining jezzail saw their opportunity. They could hardly believe their luck; the exposed flank of the shore riders, who had been pursuing the clanrats. A single shot in the flank could rip through each and every one of the riders. It would be risky... one jezzail had already overheated... but the opportunity could not be lost. The jezzail team took aim... fired... and missed.
Desperate times called for desperate measures, and Clan Snickit's shaman called a clap of thunder from the skies in the hope that the shore riders' horses and the sea creatures would take fright; yet amidst the roar of battle, a single clap of thunder was hardly noticed.
At this stage, the elves were in a position to make good their escape.
The skaven could try and chase (cue the Benny Hill music), but their chance to close in around the elves and stop them in their tracks had been lost. The remaining jezzail, spying a chance to cook some more eagle, took aim with one last desperate shot, and finally exploded.
The threat had passed. Lenihan and the elven survivors had escaped from the claws and teeth of the foul clan snickit. But aboard their elven longship at last, there was no mood for songs of celebration and victory. The casualties had been too great. Too many lives lost. Too many left to rot on a foreign shore.