Thursday, 21 November 2013

Blog-Con Battle Report: Mum-Ho-Thep and the Floating Ziggurat of Doom

When the favoured children of the blood god raise an army, who is arrogant enough to stand in their way?

This is an account of the Battle fought earlier this month over the first day of Blog-Con. In terms of number of models, it was a clash on an epic scale... points wise, probably the biggest battle of 3rd edition Warhammer in 20 years. It was a true spectacle, and a privilege to be a part of it, so I hope this report does some justice to the event. Many many thanks to all who let me use their pictures for this battle report, hopefully the selection of pictures helps people to get a sense of how big and how fun it was. Many oldhammerers brought their forces; Orlygg, Thantsants, Harry, Norse, Golgfag, and Nik (have I left anyone out?) and it was a first chance for me to push my fimir round the table. The battlefield was wonderfully GMed by Warlord Paul, who has given us his report of the battle in two parts, here and here. The narrative he provided beforehand and during the battle really got everyone immersed in what was going on (well it hooked me in, anyway), so let's get back to the story...

The Ziggurat itself; photo by Warlord Paul

The floating Ziggurat of Mum-Ho-Thep. The seers speak of it as more ancient than the earth itself. From point to point, locus to locus, it glides through this mortal realm, joining north and south, east and west in a pattern of movement whose significance is lost in the depths of time. The Ziggurat glides through the realms of man and beast, drifting to the horizon, then blinking out of view, only to reappear elsewhere. Leaving Mum-Ho-Thep's subjects - his worshippers - waiting for his return.

And from the North, the South, the East and West, the loyal servants - the worshippers - were called and gathered together. Each asked to fulfill their debt of honour, to pay their tribute. Each given one clear order: defend Mum-Ho-Thep, defend the Ziggurat. And so they gathered at the town of Locusti: the undead legion of Baron Kraust; the mad monks of Maisontaal; the Fimir of Clan Slea; the goblins of the blighted marshes.

Just some of Mum-Ho-Thep's loyal forces; photo by Orlygg

More than just a defensive force. It was a display of arrogance, of swagger. To show the blood god that he, Mum-Ho-Thep, was immortal, was all-powerful, was god-like, worshipped like a god... no, not just worshipped like a god, he was a god.

Across the battlefield stood the mighty forces of the invaders, the worshippers of the blood-god Khorne. They marched under the generalship of the mighty champion Ulthur Deathfist, known as 'Slambo' to his friends - but did he have any friends? His own band of marauders, thugs, warriors, and beastmen, were supplemented by a Chaos Dwarf mortar team and a host of the living dead. And to help propel them to victory, Khorne had sent a seemingly endless stream of blood red-clad warriors to ally with Ulthur and his companions. At the heart of the force was a mighty war altar, inspiring all who gazed upon it.

The goal of the forces of Khorne: to seize the Daemon blade 'Hatemaker' which was currently held within the walls of Locusti, where the townspeople planned to offer it as tribute to Mum-Ho-Thep. The exact location of the blade was unknown to the forces of Khorne; while Mum-Ho-Thep's allies were entirely in the dark as to Ulthur Deathfist's objective of taking Hatemaker.

But the gods do like their jokes... and so, on the southern flank, appeared a host of hedonistic Slaanesh worshipping dark elves. What were they doing there? What was their motivation? Simply to annoy Khorne? They would fight alongside Ulthur Deathfists army... but even their very presence sowed the seeds of doubt in the minds of the Khornate warriors who, up to that point, had been so confident.

The allies of Ulthur Deathfist, Champion of Khorne... but wait, what are those Slaaneshi Dark Elves doing there? Photo by Orlygg

The field of battle after deployment - Ulthur Deathfist's forces on the left hand side, Mum-Ho-Thep and his allies on the right hand side; photo by Warlord Paul

As Mum-Ho-Thep's Ziggurat glided forward along its ancient path, the battle line of Mum-Ho-Thep's loyalists swarmed forward in accompaniment. Khorne's forces responded by pushing forward across the river - while the Slaanesh worshipping dark elves stood and with skillful aim destroyed a skeletal chariot that was hurtling towards them.

The defensive artillery positioned on the Ziggurat took aim across the valley, while the slow moving troops continued to march in Mum-Ho-Thep's wake.
Some of my fimir joining the advance; photo by Golgfag

But slightly further ahead, the fast moving ethereal cavalry under the command of Baron Kraust gained speed and charged across the river to meet the advancing enemy. The effect was of this charge immediate, as a giant supposedly in the service of Ulthur Deathfist turned tail and ran like a girl, squealing in terror.
Giant turns and legs it; photo by Golgfag
Elves under attack; photo by Warlord Paul

The chariots charging into to dark elves found themselves under a hail of arrows; but even with yet another chariot completely wrecked, the momentum of the other was enough to mince the elves. Much elven blood was spilled in the subsequent rout; the forces of Khorne could not resist a wry smile as they watched their Slaaneshi 'allies' suffer so - even if this had left their southern flank severely weakened.

Yet the elves were not defeated yet; persisting with their tactic of turning the sky black with arrows and crossbow bolts, their aim was rewarded once again as they ripped through and destroyed the carrion riders flapping their way towards them.

While the fast moving cavalry troops continued to deal with the troublesome the dark elves, now the attention of Mum-Ho-Thep's allience was gradually turning their attention to the central block of Khornate forces. This central block, under the stewardship of the Lieutenant Norse, was about to find their nerve severely tested. First, the charge of a horde of skeleton knights caused a seemingly all-powerful block of Chaos Knights to flee. Then, the beastmen who had gathered in the service of Khorne found themselves engulfed in flames as Derach the Demented Dirach launched a fireball from within the mist-covered Fimir contingent. The damage caused by the fireball, combined with earlier deaths caused by direct hits the skull chuckers mounted on top of the Ziggurat, caused the Beastmen to panic; they also turned and fled.

Forces of Chaos in disarray; photo by Warlord Paul

Had the blood god deserted his followers? Now even the followers of Slaanesh seemed to be faring better than Khorne's servants, with a unit of elves mounted on cold ones dealing efficiently with the threat of a Manticore, causing the creature to flee and then subequently turning its retreating body into a pin cushion with a further demonstration of their sharpshooting.

The scene at the northern flank; photo by Shadowking
Ulthur Deathfist had positioned himself and his own loyal warband on the Northern flank. He was somewhat aware of the losses being suffered further along the battle line. It was clear enough that the troops further to the South were not holding their ground. And yet, he remained grimly determined. What did it matter to him if others died? He still had his goal: the daemon-blade. And right now, the only enemy forces that mattered to him were the undead forces that stood between his own cohort and their access to the town of Locusti where that blade lay.

A grin broke across Ulthur Deathfist's face... well, maybe, it's difficult to say given that no face was visible behind his helmet. But one could imagine a grin breaking across his face as he heard the thunderous blast of mortar fire. Darklock the Disembowller and his dwarven mortar crew had landed a direct hit on a fearsome unit of skeletal cavalry, while Leif Spinesplitter gritted his teeth and drove his chariot dead ahead into a skeleton chariot. Time to clear a path into the town of Locusti!
Chariots in head on collision; photo by Warlord Paul

Monsters vs Chaos Warriors; Photo by Warlord Paul
Meanwhile, back at the heart of the battle, a gruesome horde of horrors had been slowly making their way towards the forces of Khorne. Giant scorpions and a giant snake, together with the animated skeletons of long extinct dinosaurs and, worst of all, a fearsome (and, in retrospect, somewhat overpowered) zombie dragon - with marsh crawlers under the command of the Fimir not far behind. The forces of Khorne had steeled themselves for the inevitable onslaught, and - at least initially - found themselves able to hold their own. However, their flank was now becoming badly exposed, with the formidable missle support of the Dark Elves severely diminished as the unit of crossbow armed warriors were routed by a wave of skeleton cavalry.

Nightmares charge across the river; photo by Golgfag

Something had to be done to hold off the never ending forces of undeath. The Dark Elves weaved a spell - 'zone of life' - which held the skeletons at a distance. The potency of the spell was demonstrated as several skeletons crumbled to dust as the Ziggurat, unable to halt its endless move onward, drifted into the zone. Yet while the elves had found a way of holding Mum-Ho-Thep's forces at bay, this was only a temporary palliative, as the Fimir warriors - uneffected by the zone of life - positioned themselves to move towards the elves. The situation was even graver in the centre of the battle, where the warriors of Khorne under the stewardship of Norse were reaching the limit of their tolerance. Under the onslaught of the zombie dragon, one of the units of seemingly formidable warriors was routed, while a second unit was suffering severe losses caused by the other unspeakable horrors.

Ulthur 'Slambo' Deathfist in Battle; photo by Warlord Paul

But what of Ulthur Deathfist and his forces to the north? There had been some victories - the eventual destruction of the undead chariot, for one - yet within this zone of battle too, there had been losses.
Nevertheless, the champion of Khorne remained fixed on his task to seize the Hatemaker. It seemed like the blade was even now calling to him, longing for his firm grip... And now, he knew exactly where it was to be found. Having captured an alderman of the town and tortured him, Slambo's forces had extracted detailed instructions on where the daemonic weapon was to be found. Immediately, Ulthur Deathfist dispatched an unit to enter the town and take control of the Hatemaker's location.

In the south, with the zone of life spell still holding the undead forces of Mum-Ho-Thep at bay, the Fimir of Clan Slea were ready to charge the Dark Elf Cold One riders. And yet, with their bloodlust at its height, the Fimm Warriors suddenly found themselves surplus to requirements, as the sorcery of a 'stampede' spell from one of Mum-Ho-Thep's acolytes caused the Cold Ones to panic and flee. The Fimm wailed in frustration as the cold ones carried their riders off the field of battle. Where could get they get their satisfaction? It was little consolation that the Marsh Crawlers the Fimir had summoned had now oozed their disgusting trail into the fight and were even now toying with the Chaos Warriors at the centreof the battlefield.
My marsh crawlers charge the flank of the Chaos Warriors; photo by Warlord Paul

Mum-Ho-Thep, atop his Ziggurat, surveyed the scene before him, and was greatly pleased. See how the forces of the chaos gods were no match for him! Their minions fled from his loyal forces right, left, and centre! The Slaaneshi Dark Elves were vanquished, and even Ulthur Deathfist, who had now thrown himself maniacally into the battle with the undead to the north, seemed greatly overpowered. Yet Mum-Ho-Thep had no idea just how close the forces of Khorne were to their objective. A small unit of Chaos Warriors had infiltrated the town, gradually overcoming the skeletal defences... only the mad monks of Maisontaal now stood between them and the dreadful power of the Hatemaker.

Chaos Warriors on a treasure hunt; photo by Warlord Paul

The Chaos Warriors approach their objective - their destiny. They head towards the storeroom that is now defended by the monks. Victory is within their grasp. Fate seems to be on their side; an undead giant cyclops reaches towards the town, and begins to climb, but cannot hold his grasp and falls, smashing on the rocks below.

The warriors push towards the storeroom and charge the monks. So close now.

Around them, the battle rages on. To the north, Slambo himself, beaten back by the sheer force of numbers facing rank upon rank of undead, flees... only to rally. To the south, the marsh goblin war tortoise is hit by a blast from the Chaos Dwarf mortar. The tortoise runs amok and its remaining crew are unable to hold him back from crashing into their own troops. Not a good day to be a marsh goblin.
War tortoise in blue on blue incident; photo by Warlord Paul
Khorne's 'chosen' in retreat - but WOW what a banner! Photo by Orlygg and, more importantly, amazing freehand painted banner also by Orlygg!

But at the heart of the battle, within the walls of Locusti, all of the noise of battle seems to be drowned out... there is only the screaming of the daemonic blade, the Hatemaker, as the chaotic warriors move closer and closer. At first, they are pushed back by the monks; but then they regain the advantage and extract their share of blood. Everything hangs in the balance.

Even now victory is still within touching distance; photo by Warlord Paul

And then, all at once, everything collapses like a house of cards. The war altar, which had now come under sustained attack from rotting carrion for several hours without any troops thinking to relieve the fanatics within, was desecrated, filled to the brim with foul droppings.

Carrion doing a poo in the cauldron of the altar of the blood god; photo by Warlord Paul

This was too much for Khorne to bear, and in his rage he snatched away his patronage. Ulthur Deathfist - now little more than an elderly warrior - found himself hacked to pieces under the sheer weight of undead numbers - in his dying seconds, he was dragged to the daemonic plane receive judgement at the hands of the blood god. And, at the heart of the battle, the chaotic warriors who had sought to seize the Hatemaker were slain by the monks, one by one, until there were none left.
With the chaotic forces fleeing or slain throughout the field of battle, and the chance to seize the daemonic blade apparently lost, it was now clear that Mum-Ho-Thep was victorious. From the height of his Ziggurat, Mum-Ho-Thep looked down upon what he had wrought; and he saw that it was good.

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair! Photo by Warlord Paul

The blood god was displeased. Displeased with Ulthur Deathfist, yes - 'Slambo' would be punished for his cowardice in battle. But the blood god could oh so easily discard his playthings. Much, much more than that, though, the blood god was displeased with Mum-Ho-Thep, this dessicated man who thought himself a god. But the blood god was sure of one thing: one day, one day, Mum-Ho-Thep would pay for his blasphemy.

Coming soon: day 2 of blog-con - Trouble at Nobridge, some engineering delays, and a completely different kind of battle!

Monday, 11 November 2013

They came from the swamp...

To the marsh they made offerings; and from the marsh they rose. Manifestations of the hunger of the fens, the hunger that sucks the unwary traveller into the endless mud. The demons of the primordial deep.

Having just got back from Blog-con, where I had a whale of a time and fought in two very different battles, I've got a pile of stuff to write up, so watch this space in the couple of weeks ahead. It was a first outing for my fimir force, which is just at its very beginnings. But alongside the fimir were some demonic allies; the embodiment of the fimir's fenland habitat. I'm attracted to the idea that the fimir inhabit a swamp-like environment that has historically been feared and disparaged, the kind of environment that generates folktales about the creatures that suck you in - stories that explain why some people who stumble out onto the marshes never come back. I wanted my force to contain supporting units that played on this cultural horror of the swamp. So, moving along with the fimm warriors were the following fendemons:

Marsh Crawlers

The very soul of the fens is decaying matter. The crawlers are manifestations of this decay, seeking more organic matter to offer the swamp as food. The tendrils which emanate from their mouthpiece paralyse their opponents, allowing the crawlers to carry their victims back to the marsh as a living offering to the depths. The crawlers spread the dreaded fen ague across the battlefield as they move. These are old citadel AD&D carrion crawlers, produced between 1985 and 1987 when Citadel had the license from TSR to produce AD&D minis. For the battles at Blog-Con, these counted as Beasts of Nurgle from The Lost and the Damned (hence the fen ague, which is the fimir-themed equivilent of Nurgle's Rot).

Swamp Vermes

Old wives tales speak of the capacity of a worm to live on as two worms if you cut it in half. These demons carry within them proof of that old wives tale and thus exploit cultural fears. Crawling from the fens in the form of giant putrid worms, playing on the disgust of the ignorant towards the fenland habitat, upon being wounded, the demonic vermes split into two smaller worms.
Unlike the long oop Carrion Crawler minis, these minis are in production and produced by companies doing some sterling work. The larger worms are giant worms from C-P models; the smaller are giant slugs from Heresy miniatures. For the battles at Blog-Con, these counted as pink/blue horrors of Teezntch again from The Lost and the Damned (albeit without the magical abilities), for the simple reason that pink horrors when wounded burst into two blue horrors, which is exactly the mechanic I wanted for these demon worms. All credit to Chico on the oldhammer boards for this "counts as" idea.

As I write up battle reports from Saturday and Sunday's action, you'll see these demonic allies in action alongside my fimir.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Blog-con at the Foundry: Clan Slea's fealty

(Fimir illustration by Paul Bonner from White Dwarf 102)

Derach the Demented Dirach crouched in his makeshift home. He could see nothing. Past battles had made sure of that. Cruel revenge at the hands of those who captured him and tortured him as punishment for the deeds of his clan had left him without his eye, his horns sawed off, his head and body hideously scarred. Freed after the village where he was held captive was razed, he was left an outcast, a source of disgust and horror.

Shunned, now he lived in a crude shelter cut into the bank of a plundered burial mound. His only task to wait. Not to return to the clan until he had news. News that Mum-Ho-Thep was in this land once more.

He could see nothing. But he could feel the damp around him, he could smell the rot. And he could hear. Hear the wind in the reeds, hear the splashing movements of the fish and fowl in the swamps around. And through the wind, across the swamp, he heard it. A humming. The sound of an ancient and alien energy, moving steadily closer, growing louder until it was unmistakable.

A manic grin broke across the face of Derech the Demented Dirach. "Hhhe hassss returned! Hhe hassss RETURNED!"

He clambered out of the mound, staggering through the marsh like a drunkard, staggering towards the homes of his clan, hissing all the time with greater and greater anxiousness. "Hhhhe hassssss RETURNED!"

The fimm of Clan Slea gathered at the edge of the settlement to see the Dirach stumble towards them. Some turned away in digust, some mocked and laughed. Until at last Derach the Demented Dirach reached the Warlord's chamber.

"It isss true?"

"Yessssss. Hhhe hassssssss returned. Our tithe is due. It isss TIME."

"Ssso. After all these years, it sssseems we must once again give tribute and prove our fealty. To show Mum-Ho-Thep that we are willing to repay our ancient debt. To fulfil the terms of our oath. Oh yesssssssss, we will pay our tithe, pay it indeed. We will pay it IN BLOOD."

The Fimm raised their weapons and roared. Somewhere in the distance, Mum-Ho-Thep's ziggurat floated along its ancient course towards the horizon and blinked out of view.

So next weekend I'm heading back to the foundry at Nottingham to take part in Blog-Con. (Yes, I do have a blog. You're looking at it. So I figure I'm eligible to go!) I loved the oldhammer weekend so much, it's nice to have an opportunity to reacquaint myself with the Foundry so soon. Warlord Paul is running a 3rd edition warhammer scenario, Mum-Ho-Thep and the Floating Ziggurat of Doom - see more details about the background and scenario on his blog, it's very cool sounding indeed - and I'll be bringing along the start of my new oldhammer force, which is in its very early stages: a clan of the fimir.

The central unit in my force will be these fellas (photographed a little while ago before I started painting - I'm working on them now and will be painting right up until the day of Blog-Con, as per usual):
Mostly heroquest fimir with some modifications - I bought a bunch of these on ebay that had already been converted a fair bit, and I've now rebased them and done more conversions of my own. There's also the ARBBL Chaotic Warrior from Impact Miniatures, and a Privateer Press Hordes mini that I managed to pick up cheap - chopped off his snout, put a beaky face on him, and generally tried to make him more fimir like.

Aside from this lot, there'll also be a suitable Warlord figure, and the contingent will also have some more unusual elements in the form of various swamp demons - I will introduce some of these to readers of this blog in the days and weeks ahead, and chat a bit about my vision for the fimir clan more generally.

But starting to feel excited about next weekend, so thought I'd post this just to give a little introduction to Clan Slea, and to feed into Warlord Paul's excellent narrative for the scenario!