Monday, 21 April 2014

For the glory of the Dalek Empire

Align and advance!
Advance and attack!
Attack and destroy!
- Daleks in the First Doctor adventure "The Chase"

Introducing my Imperial Dalek force, assembled and painted for the recent invasion of the Lake District. Back during Blog-Con last year, I was chatting with Thantsants and Warlord Paul and commented on the fact that not only was it the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, but it was also the 25th anniversary of Remembrance of the Daleks, the story that has lodged itself most firmly in my childhood memory.

In that storyline, 1960s Earth becomes the battlefield for a clash between the "purestrain" Renegade Daleks, and the Imperial Daleks, who had been "augmented" with parts of cryogenically frozen bodies... all the while the Seventh Doctor manipulates the Dalek forces in a most Machiavellian manner. Thantsants already had a force of daleks painted up as Renegade Daleks, so we made an agreement that I'd paint up an Imperial Dalek force and fight a Dalek Civil War.

The end result... well, let's just say I never want to have to paint gold and white ever again! I ordered my minis from Black Tree Design during their Black Friday sale back in November. Due to various mix-ups (which in the end Black Tree Designs were very apologetic about), I didn't get hold of them until February, and got to work assembling them. I think the models are lovely, and I've always coveted them since they were made by Harlequin back in the 90s... and at the sale price, they were an absolute bargain. (Black Tree Design seem to have regular sales, so sign up for their newsletter keep an eye out.) Unfortunately, time has not been kind to the moulds, and there's some minor loss of detail and pretty horrible flash, so much of my time was spent cleaning that up. It was impossible to completely clean up the mins due to the locations of the flash between the roundels and deep in the vents. Ideally, they need to make new moulds, but probably they can't do that due to licensing restrictions? Anyway, eventually after filing and cutting for hours, they were ready to put together, and then it was just a matter of painting masses of gold detail! I think I'm going to retire my gold paint now, horrible stuff and I never want to use it again.

All of these gripes aside, I'm actually rather pleased with how the army appears en masse. As with much of my painting, peer a bit closer and the flaws become visible, but having tidied them up a little I'm happy with their appearance all the same.
My force takes a few liberties with the Doctor Who canon (as does Thantsants' force), but what's the point of a long and convoluted history if you can't play around with it and splice it to your own devices? Alongside the classic Imperial Dalek warriors and Heavy Weapons Daleks from Remembrance of the Daleks, I've bought the Dalek Emperor from the Second Doctor story "The Evil of the Daleks" to act as supreme commander of my forces, and I've also got Slythers and Robomen from the First Doctor story "The Dalek Invasion of Earth" to serve as henchmen/ pawns/ all purpose cannon fodder. I especially like the Slyther miniatures because they are such a faithful depiction of a man in a plastic bag costume with some plant matter stuck to him.

For the Dalek Civil war (battle reports to follow in the weeks ahead) we used Daniel Faulconbridge's "Doctor Who: Invasion Earth" rules, published by Harlequin in 1996.

These are a fun, simple and fast moving set of rules - each model has a list of permissable actions (Move/ shoot/ hide/ assault, etc.) to choose from in a game turn; not all models can do all actions (Daleks are useless at hiding, but they can levitate; Engineer Daleks can "fix", etc.), hence each type of model has its own list; weapons are more or less effective at different ranges (from point blank to extreme), with modifiers for cover, moving and shooting, etc. Lots of D6 rolling, but things move swiftly enough to really concentrate on storyline and overall strategy. I think that with repeat playing, one would probably want to augment the rules and add more detail to them; but for the purposes of our mini-campaign they worked very nicely and accomodated everything we needed (land rovers ramming and destroying daleks, heavy weapons blasts wiping out handfuls in a single shot, and so on and so forth). I'm all for the strategic detail of 3rd edition warhammer, but all the same on this occasion it was nice to have a stripped-down ruleset that could really take a back seat to the unfolding story.

All in all, nice to "archaeogame" this 1990s ruleset, and to finally live out my dream of commanding a dalek army. Any of you guys have experience with Doctor Who: Invasion Earth?

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Battle Report: The Poison River

Across the river, the poison river, greedy dwarves with greedy hearts cut deep into the rock. Greedy hands grasp deeper than any mortal should grasp. With every strike of every pick, evil bleeds out into the river. The gods of the river wail. The gods of the river demand satisfaction. The gods of the river thirst for justice. They thirst for blood.

We must quench the thirst of the gods. We must carry the altar across the river, the poison river. Towards the dwarves, the greedy dwarves. Upon our altar, we must bleed their greedy hearts dry.

I've been in a frenzy of painting the past few weeks preparing for a fabulous weekend of battling at the Lakes by invitation of Thantsants - more on that soon - and as a result I haven't yet had time to write up a battle report of the wonderful recent meetup of OGRE on Sunday 23rd March at Cambridge City Wargames Club. Michael (Popevaderii on the oldhammer forum) brought his dwarves and Matt brought his Wood Elves and zoats, so everything was set for a magnificent 3-way struggle. Michael has already provided an excellent and very funny account of events, but here's my attempt to recall what went on.

The scenario:
The run-off from dwarven mineral extraction has severely polluted the River Ooze and its surrounding marshes. Dark materials from deep under the ground that should never have been brought to the light of day have seeped out and are now causing terrible mutations among the creatures dwelling in the river and surrounding wetlands.

The Fimir have been charged by the gods of the marshes to destroy those who have polluted the river. They must reach the mine entrance, destroy the mines, and offer a dwarven blood sacrifice upon their war altar as atonement.

The Wood Elves seek the destruction of the mine, but must also ensure that it does not fall into fimir hands.

The Dwarves' objective is, first and foremost, simply to survive, though ideally they would like to continue their mining operations. At the start of the scenario, part of their force (primarily the miners, with some defensive support) is located around the mine entrance; the remainder of the force enters from the north east as a reinforcement answering the alarm call.

At the start of each turn, roll a D10 to find out what the blighted river has in store. Any creatures introduced by this roll appear at a randomly determined edge of a randomly determined marsh, move randomly in their first turn, and subsequently towards the nearest unit, charging when they get within range.

1. Hallucinogenic gasses rise from the river, causing each unit starting that turn within 6" of the river to believe that a terrifying monster is towering over them - test against cool to see whether they wet themselves in fear and run off.
2. Suffocating gasses rise from the river - all troops starting the turn within 6" of the river suffer a -1 toughness penalty for that turn.
3. A giant snail slimes its way out of one of the marshes.
4. D3 carrion crawlers crawl from one of the marshes (use stats of beasts of nurgle).
5. D3 demon worms crawl from one of the marshes (use stats of pink horrors of tzeentch).
6. A giant spider scuttles out of one of the marshes.
7. A ring of fungi pops from the soil by the side of one of the marshes and fills the air with toxic spores. All units within 6" of the fungi at the start of the turn suffer a strength 3 hit. The fungi remain in play throughout the remains of the game, such that any troops moving within 6" of the fungi automatically suffer a strength 3 hit.
8. A giant scorpion crawls from one of the marshes.
9. A shambling mound rises from the depths of one of the marshes (use stats of a level 5 ogre hero)
10. Intoxicating gasses rise from the river - all troops starting the turn within 6" of the river are subject to frenzy.

Battle Report:

"Can't they get here any bloody faster?" grunted the dwarf lookout from his vantage point in the tower above the mine. To the east, he could see the column of reinforcements he had sent for. Their tiny legs appeared to be moving, but they didn't seem to be getting very far. All the while, the massed forces to the south seemed to be surging forward. "Why don't they fight one another and leave us alone?" The cannon pivoted towards the zoats galloping forward and let off a warning shot.

At the command of the fimir dirach, black demon hounds appeared at the top of the hills like gathering stormclouds.

Trying to hold off the attack while the reinforcements tottered ever so slowly onwards, dwarven cannonballs smashed into the line of fimm warriors, while a dwarf gyrocopter arriving in support scattered grendades among the enemy. The fimm were left somewhat depleted in number, but marched on regardless. Beyond the hill, the demonic hounds passed through a poisonous cloud of spores, followed by the cultists carrying the war altar: weakened, but undeterred.

Unfazed by the approach of a giant mutated spider, the elves begin to take up a position to shoot, causing major casualties among the dwarf relief force.

Dwarf slayers roar promises of revenge and charge across the swamps towards the elves; but their way is blocked first by a shambling mound rising from the oozing marsh - then by the poison sting of a giant scorpion.

First to reach the mines were the demonic hounds. They launched themselves towards the necks of the miners, teeth dripping with spit, hungry for flesh.

While one unit of fimm warriors marched steadily towards their objective, the second unit found their willpower severely tested; to the east, they could see the effeminate prancing of the elven wardancers, hips gyrating in the midday sun. Experiencing a strange mixture of confusion, desire, and disgust, they found the temptation too great, and turned their menacing attentions towards the the elven force. While the elves tried to reorganise themselves to deal with the new threat, they found themselves thrown into further disarray by the pffut pffut pffut of the dwarf gyrocopter overhead. "Take that, ye tree-huggers" screamed the pilot, lobbing grenades into the midst of their forces.

Across the river, the dwarf thunderers took aim at the wardancers, cursing as the bullets seemed to bounce off their sparkly warpaint. The volley of arrows sent in retalliation by the elves was merciless, nearly wiping out a whole unit of crossbowmen - the remaining crossbowman immediately took the slayer oath, vowing to avenge the deaths of his comrades. Charging into the marsh he became embroiled in the same struggle as the other slayers, who were still trying to handle the mutated inhabitants of the swamp.

The miners were locked in battle with the black demonic hounds, pushing towards an eventual triumph, while the heroic guard of the mines lobbed dynamite into the midst of the fimm warriors who were now advancing across the river. If they wanted to get to the mines, they'd have to take him on... which is exactly what they did.

The elves continued to rain down pointy death - first robbing the slayers of glory by killing the swamp creatures they had been battling with, then, adding injury to insult, killing the slayers with a further wave of arrows. At the same time, the pilot of the dwarven gyrocopter was blinded by missle fire and crashed his machine into a swamp. Then, a sound like the cracking of a whip, only a hundred times louder... followed by the sounds of screaming and the crumbling of masonry. The battle seemed to fall silent for a second. What had happened?

All eyes turned towards the tower at the head of the mine - or rather, the place where the tower had been only seconds before. Suddenly reduced to rubble by the chanting of a Zoat priest intoning the word "Raze" in an ancient tongue. As the structure crumbled, the dwarf cannon and its crew, as well as the dwarven guard, were killed, with several of the fimm warriors at the foot of the tower also crushed to death.

The mine was destroyed. The elves had achieved their goal. But the Fimir were not satisfied; they had not yet made the offering of blood that would please the obscure gods of the marshes. And so they resolved to push on. Until they looked up and suddenly saw towering above them a FIFTY FOOT DRAGON WITH SEVENTEEN FEROCIOUS DEMONIC HEADS AND TWENTY WILLIES THAT HISSED LIKE SNAKES AND CLAWS LIKE GIANT MEATHOOKS AND A WALL OF CRAWLING MAGGOTS WHERE THEIR SKIN OUGHT TO BE!!!!!

In fact they saw nothing of the sort. What they were experiencing was simply a hallucination brought on by the gasses emanating from the polluted river. But it was a bloody powerful hallucination, causing almost the entire fimir force to flee. Both units of fimm, and even their Warlord Gislea, turned and ran in terror. Only the cultists accompanying the remained to advance.

By the time the fimm warriors rallied, they found themselves in danger's way. One unit of fimm found themselves under further threat from a shambling mound. Just a little further to the east, the unit of fimm warriors closest to the wood elves were within charge range of the zoats, who having achieved their objective of destroying the mine, now sought to achieve their secondary objective of stopping the fimir. Driven to frenzy by the chanting of their priest, the zoats ploughed into the fimm and began to hack at them - they were soon joined by a giant scorpion scuttling towards the flank of the fimm.

Elsewhere, the elven wardancers charged into the dwarf handgunners to remove that threat, while the Fimir Warlord, finally recovering from the effects of the hallucinogenic gas, now found himself alone and exposed to the bright light of the sun. Away from the protective mist generated by the rest of his clan, he stumbled blindly like an idiot - straight into the field of poisonous mushrooms. (He failed his stupidity test on a double 6, which we deemed a critical fail, so felt he had to do something really stupid.)

Struck by a severe case of the munchies, he leaned over to take a bite - a snack that brought him nearly to death's door. (He was left with only one wound after this error of judgement.)

Seeing that most of the fimir were now otherwise engaged, and that the elves were increasingly turning their attention to the one-eyed enemy, the dwarves began to hold the line, and move their reinforcements ever closer to the collapsed entrance of the mine. The fimir cultists, carrying their war altar, charged the miners. They would have their blood, or die trying. The dwarven reinforcements were edging nearer, unmolested by the fimm warriors still locked in combat; yet very few could survive the continued harassment of the elven arrows.

With the altar guard struggling to dispatch the miners in a timely fashion, they were charged by the Dwarven General. All hung in the balance. The cultists struggled to survive the attentions of the Dwarven General's vampiric blade, while the plucky dwarf seemed to grow in stature with every blow - almost reaching the height of 5 foot, it seemed. Gislea, suddenly brought to his senses by his light lunch on poisonous fungi, but still feeling thoroughly wretched, made his way to the ruins of the mine. The snarling dwarf general fought on, but he was no match for his cylopean foe.

The last thing the dwarven general heard was the wailing of a fimir cultist as his wrists were chained to the altar. "Godsss of the river, godss of the marsshhhess, restore yourselvess! Drink deep of the blood that issss rightly yours!"

Then all was darkness.