Tuesday, August 16, 2022

The Eternal Stillmania -introduction

 I have embarked on a long multi-year project. (I actually started this project a bit ago, but I haven't had time to put it to words)

I call this project the Eternal Stillmania!


As some folks may be aware, Stillmania refers to the philosophy/challenge of Nigel Stillman. Famously, (at least among a small number of herohammer nerds) Stillman shared his thoughts on collecting warhammer armies and playing games of warhammer. Collectively, these thoughts are referred to as Stillmania. The tenets of Stillmania are summarized here:

Look here for a more in depth discussion of Stillmania. What I am principally concerned with, right now, are his thoughts on collecting an army. The crux of the idea is that you collect an army and you stick to it. 

Helblitzen of Gusseldorf - halberdiers for my 1000 pt Empire army - using minis I sculpted as proxies

"Okay, but what is Eternal Stillmania?" I hear you ask.

My project is to collect warhammer armies that are compatible with many different editions of warhammer. Each must meet the following conditions:
  1. the army must be compatible with 3rd, Warhammer Armies 4th ed, the Warhammer army books for 4th/5th edition, Ravening Hordes 6th edition, as well as the 6th edition army books. (I imagine others who might take up the mantle of the Eternal Stillmania, might choose their own combination of editions)
  2. the army must be at least 1000 points in each edition (including magic items)
  1. the army cannot have more than 1 unit that is incompatible with a given edition
  2. I don't strictly follow the Warhammer Armies 3rd ed troop requirements - for example, bare minimum Orcs and Goblins must have 20 gobbos, 20 stikkas, 20 arrer boyz, and 20 boyz. Not gonna happen.  
One day, I'd like to host an Eternal Stillmania tournament where people show up with a small 1000 point army compatible with at least 4 of the 8 editions, and with each pairing, the players would roll to see which edition of rules they would play with their army. 

Clanrats for the 1000 pt Skaven army

I see .... but why are you doing this to yourself?

Two big reasons. Warhammer fantasy players are few and far between. Most of my friends that I play with don't have their own armies. This means that I have to provide armies if a game is to happen. Secondly, the broad compatibility of the armies means that I can play a game in any edition that I might want to. The goal is having smallish armies on hand for battling, not necessarily to be quite as rigid and only playing each army as a unique and particular list. 

Two more reasons. Also, it's fun to collect different armies and move on, instead of wallowing in a single army for years. These one-off armies let me paint them up over a year and move my attention before I get too bored. Finally, each edition has different army selection criteria. Taken on their own, these criteria can be used to make unbalanced armies, combined this is much harder to do. Each edition tends to add or take away certain units, and it's typically the more extreme elements that are added or removed, so the armies that result tend to be pretty low-fantasy which is an aesthetic that I enjoy. 

Phoenix Guard for the 1000 pt High Elf army 

🤦... so what's your plan, then?

Thus far I have done
  • High Elves
  • Dark Elves
  • Skaven
  • Empire (not quite, still a WiP, my general on griffon doesn't jibe with 3rd and 6th editions, so I have to make up this difference)
  • Orcs and Goblins (I have like 3000 points of these, but they weren't made for this project so I'm not sure if I should count them or not)
  • Gnomes (I have like 3000 points of these, but they weren't made for this project so I'm not sure if I should count them or not)
Kin'Lath's Slashers - Dark Elf Warriors for my 1000 pt Dark elf army.

I have concretish plans to do the following
  • Wood Elves
  • Bretonnia
  • Lizardmen ("those don't even work for 3rd/4th edition 🙄!"... I know, but I have the 5th ed starter box and a slann mage, so I'm using what I've got))
  • Tomb Kings (Undead that fit 6th ed tomb kings criteria)
Less concrete plans
  • Vampire Counts
  • Chaos (I genuinely need help with this one)
  • Chaos Dwarves? (long hats?)
  • Savage Orcs
  • Night Goblins
  • Dwarves
  • Heroquest Army of Zargon??? (this is more of a situation where I'd have to make rules for the army that would be compatible with each edition)
  • What else am I forgetting?

This is my own personal hobby project, it does not connote any support, endorsement, or officiality by Mr. Stillman or GamesWorkshop. Used without permission. No challenge to their status or rights intended. All rights reserved to their respective owner.

Heroquest: The Book Report of Zargon


No Spoilers Contained in this review (even Zargon wouldn’t be that cruel)



Review of the novels

Review of the Rear contents



Unbeknownst to many Heroquest fans, there exist 3 Heroquest novels. They are written by David Morris. They are titled The Fellowship of Four, The Screaming Spectre, and The Tyrant’s Tomb. They were written as companions to the Heroquest board game. Each book contains a short novel set in the Warhammer/Heroquest world. The Fellowship of Four, the first in the series, follows the story with a 4-character choose your own adventure. And, the later two books, The Screaming Spectre and The Tyrant’s Tomb both have a single-character choose your own adventure as well as a single quest in the back. So there’s a lot to discuss here, 3 short novels, 3 choose your own adventures and 2 quests.

The Novels

The Fellowship of Four

This story introduces us to the central protagonists of Heroquest – Fortunato, the wizard, Eildonas, the Elf, Asgrim, the Barbarian, and Anvil, the Dwarf. Each character’s introduction is flavored after their respective characters. Fortunato’s is a slightly cerebral magical quandary. Eildonas is presented as a mischievous elf who delights in disturbing trolls. Asgrim has a sordid history among his northern tribe involving oaths, hospitality, honor, and swords. Anvil’s centers around his crafting being interrupted by pesky orcs. All thematically proper.

This novel does a really good job referencing the game mechanics of Heroquest in a way that doesn’t feel altogether forced. Players of the game will recognize the spells used by Fortunato in the dungeons, pit traps, stairs, narrative turn taking of the heroes as they fight etc.

The Screaming Spectre

The sequel throws all the cast out the window. None of the central Heroquest heroes are mentioned in this book. Instead, we are introduced to a new cast of personages: three apprentices, an archmage and their butler. This story is a sort of mystery novel that takes place in a single location. There are no dungeons and few of the board game’s mechanics are incorporated into the story.

The Tyrant’s Tomb

Asgrim returns as the central protagonist of this final installment. He is joined by an unsavory miscreant named Flugle that he meets in Bretonnia. Together they go in search of the Tyrant’s tomb in the dessert. This story has us back in a dungeon. There are a few references to game mechanics like traps. In the end, Asgrim must defeat the Tyrant by using his mind points rather than his attack dice.


I have mixed feelings about the Heroquest novels.

The biggest issue is that it’s not at all clear who the intended audience is. My girlfriend (with masters degrees in education and history) and I (JD and masters degree in economics) regularly found ourselves consulting the dictionary as we read these books. There were all sorts of obscure words like catafalque, manse, athame, gonfalons etc. On the other hand, the board game is for ages 9+ and clearly marketed for children. Further, the plots aren’t altogether complex or compelling; you sorta get what’s on the tin: Heroquest.

Oddly, none of the books seem to tie into the plot of Heroquest itself. There’s no reference to the Empire, Zargon/Morcar, or any of the various named monsters/allies in the quest book. So it’s Heroquest in the loose sense that it nominally takes place in the Warhammer world, and one of the books has four heroes matching the archetypes dungeoneering together.

The only other complaint about the works is that many of the mysteries or “ah-ha!” moments are not well telegraphed. There are few Chekov’s guns or clues so that the reader can put things together ahead of the action/conclusion and feel smart. Rather, much of the action seems to just happen because it’s what the story needs to happen.

All that negativity aside, they are fun reads. I have been reading them to my girlfriend’s children at night. They love heroquest and these books scratch that itch just a little more. Some of the writing is quite clever. It’s easy to imagine and follow the stories.

I enjoyed the Fellowship of Four the most. It felt like the most true novelization of the board game since it had all of the core heroes, had the most involved dungeoneering sequence. It is a toss up between the other two. I enjoyed the mystery aspect of the Screaming Spectre.  I particularly enjoy mysteries set in a single setting, like Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window and the game Clue. Closed universes provide the best space for the reader to put the clues together. The depth of the mystery in the Screaming Spectre is about on par with some of the mysteries contained in the Harry Potter stories but much condensed, so don’t get your hopes too high. Recently, I’ve been on a bit of a Conan the Barbarian kick, and the Tyrant’s Tomb scratched that itch a little bit. It also had the return to a dungeon and minor problem solving.

Review of the Choose-your-own-Adventures

These are top-notch choose-your-own-adventures.

These adventures have a few features that set them apart. Each of the characters in the adventure have their own character sheet like in a game of Heroquest. The player (or players) are asked to keep track of their inventory, gold, and vital stats. During combat sequences players are asked to roll dice and fight out the combats rather than simply picking and turning to a predetermined page. Further, players are allowed to “shop” and acquire items that change the outcome of various plot points. Further, our playing of these adventures never resulted in a circular loop or story contradiction. Such story loops are infrequent but jarring in the Endless Quest series by TSR.

Since these quests don’t require much more than photocopies of the character sheets, pencils, and dice (and the book), they would probably be a fun alternative to Heroquest when Heroquest would otherwise be impracticable (such as road trips, camping, a quiet bar with friends, a romantic date with your significant other at a park, or by yourself during toilet breaks – clearly, in all other circumstances Heroquest would be practical and therefore the default activity).

Review of the Quests

So far my girlfriend and I have only had a chance to go through the quest contained in the Tyrant’s Tomb, A Growl of Thunder. This quest is devilishly impossible. You are a single barbarian set on conquering a dungeon all on your own. Even playing as Zargon, (that is, being able to see the entire map) it is not entirely clear how the Barbarian is meant to win – perhaps if they completed the first 13 quests they would have sufficient gear to take on this quest.

 Glancing at the quest from the Screaming Spectre, Running the Gauntlet, this quest appears similarly difficult. The wizard alone must navigate this dungeon. While the wizard can be a potent ally, individually they are very weak, especially against more than one foe at a time. This quest has fewer baddies than A Growl of Thunder, but one room has two Fimir and there are 2 chaos warriors and a Gargoyle lurking around. Since the wizard has few combat spells, destroying all of these baddies would be nearly impossible. Avoidance may be the key to success here. 


Sooo… the 100-dollar question! Was it worth it to pay nearly $100 for all three books? (Warranted, from what I can tell, I got a pretty good deal on the lot, so your utility calculus may vary) Would I rather have 20 pints with friends? 15-30 new miniatures? 5 restaurant meals?

This is what I got out of them:

15 nights of story book reading with my girlfriend's kids

4 nights of her and I going through the choose your own adventures

1 harrowing night attempting a Growl of Thunder

 I think that was time well spent - as well as future re-reads and go-throughs of the quests (as her kids get older and make it past quest 13 of Heroquest, these two quests will be waiting) and choose your-own-adventures. 

This is my own book review, it does not connote any support, endorsement, or officiality by GamesWorkshop or Hasbro. Used without permission. No challenge to their status or rights intended. All rights reserved to their respective owner.

Friday, August 12, 2022

Getting Dwarves Right

 BIG DISCLAIMER: I have never collected a dwarf army. This blog post will be filled with a lot of opinions about dwarves that many Dwarf players will find controversial. Continue reading at your own risk. You have been warned.

When I first got into warhammer I was drawn to Night Goblins. My first minis were the late 5th/ 6th edition multipart plastic night goblins. I remember reading the 6th edition Orc and Goblin book. I loved hearing about the mischievous goblins and their wars with the Dwarves. Out of happenstance I got a copy of 6th edition Dwarves (the blue one.) Over the years I have read that book many times and glanced at it's artwork for untold hours as a kid. Perhaps it is my nostalgia, but GW's Dwarves peaked in this book and it wasn't a high peak. 

My goal in this post is to turn my attention toward Dwarves. I am looking to sculpt my own dwarves and this means that I need to reflect on what has come before me, meditate on the essence of dwarvishness. So, here, I will discuss what I see as the trundling and stumbling history of GW's dwarfs - what they sometimes got right, missed opportunities, and where I think they often failed. 

The stumbling of the Dwarves

The early history of GW's Dwarves was particularly awkward. Before Warhammer Fantasy 6th ed, Dwarves had no consistent aesthetic in Warhammer. They were a mix of renaissance, norse, and feudal miniatures that never quite fit together. 

This one ad shows all of the conflicting aesthetics.

I think a lot of this confusion stems from a fundamental failure to adopt a unified understanding of what dwarves are. Dwarves, in the larger picture of the fantasy genre, are asked to be two contradictory things. On the one hand they are old, ancient, proud, stubborn craftsmen who live in the mountains, they are a dying race, a marker of older, simpler ways. On the other, people want to characterize them as technologically advanced, a foot-in-the-door for cogs, steam, blackpowder, and machines in a fantasy world of swords. These two interpretations are mutually exclusive and no IP (that I am aware of), in my opinion, has ever pulled it off in a way that feels compelling and consistent. The industrial/societal implications of heavy industry and mechanization are in stark contrast to a society that exalts individual craftsmanship especially the creation of prized weapons like swords, axes and hammers. You have to choose. 

Early Warhammer 6th edition married this odd couple the best. The dwarves of the 6th edition blue book presented the most consistent and plausible material culture of this split personality. This edition gave hobbyists an extensive line of miniatures beautifully sculpted by Colin Dixon. The models had a consistent blend of metal, flesh, cloth, and wood textures. The language of the items carried similar motifs - celtic/saxon/viking swirls, iconography, with consistent dwarf interpretations. The warmachines were largely wooden constructs with metal components. [the flame cannon was an exception that broke this aesthetic language.] The clothing styles were consistent. The weapons were largely consistent. 

With the release of the later 6th ed. book (the red book) the Warhammer Dwarves had moved on aesthetically. The sculpts of Colin Dixon faded out. They were replaced by more metal textures, more gears, more guns - some of the artillery even featured ammunition akin to what wouldn't appear in real life until the mid 1800s. The peak of the dwarves was brief. 

The forgotten height of the dwarves

Once, and only once, GW chose not to force dwarves to straddle the identities of tinkers and smiths. (Well... they did also have those steam punk bathysphere dwarves, but that was after warhammer fantasy ended so it might as well not even exist.) This was in 1988. Soon after the publication of Warhammer 3rd edition. In White Dwarf they published an army list simply titled "NORSE". 

In this list Norsemen and Norse dwarves are included side-by-side in a single army list. The men seem to borrow from mytho-history with a combination of huscarls, bondsmen, thralls, and ulfwerenar. The Dwarf contingent of the list is simple. It has berserkers, slayers, and two options of basic dwarf infantry. The army is remarkable for it's complete lack of blackpowder, gryocopters, and artillery and paltry amounts of ranged weapons. 

This is an army list that Alrik Ranulfsson would be proud of. This army lacks the pretention and split-mindedness of other dwarf lists. But, it has a problem - the list is basically unplayable in any edition's meta. Dwarves are slow. Depriving them of warmachines, gyrocopters, and blackpowder basically guarantees their defeat as the enemy can largely avoid combat with slow dwarves. So what's to be done? (I propose an answer later, tell me in the comments what you think)

I also enjoy this list because it taps into what I think is the essence of dwarves. 

What is the essence of dwarves?

For me, the archetypal seed of Dwarvishness was planted in my childhood mind by Tom McGowen and Victor Ambrus in their 1981 Encyclopedia of Legendary Creatures.

While I can't find the exact text of the passage - what stood out in my child's mind was that Dwarves were ancient mountain-dwelling craftsmen. This view was reinforced when I watched the 1977 Hobbit cartoon.

There's no blackpowder, cogs, cannons, steampower or any of that nonsense here. This depiction of dwarves feels the most grounded to me. 

What's your big problem with steampunk anyways?

To be clear, I think steampunk has its time and place. That place just isn't medievalist fantasy settings. 

The big issue is that I don't think folks who incorporate steampunk into their fantasy worlds fully consider the social implications of that material culture. (To see a related conversation on material culture read this.) Briefly, material culture is the physical manifestation of culture - quite literally the material objects made by people of a given culture. Material cultures also refers to common identifying motifs, patterns that arise in a given culture - for example, the bell beaker material culture has similar "bell beaker" pottery found at sites over a large geographic area, so archeologists conclude that these sites must be connected either by trade, shared culture, or other means. 

Now, material culture can also tell us other things about communities. If we find large metal objects - like a train, or a cast iron bridge, the existence of these objects implies the existence of the means to produce those objects - massive blast furnaces, vast mines to get the ore and coal, the mass mobilization of laborers for these purposes etc. It is similar to the existence of the pyramids - the pyramids were constructed by people, and their existence and scale presupposes a highly motivated population (at least motivated enough to stack huge blocks to make the things) with exceptional organizational know-how. These corollaries to the material record dispel any notion that ancient people were inherently unorganized, or incapable. 

So when we look at dwarves, the existence of something like a flame cannon with a solid metal chassis comments on dwarf social organization and make up. It tells us that vast foundries exist, advanced metallurgical knowledge exists, that some understanding of pneumatics exists, as well as an organized labor force to mine the ores, and fuels. A flame cannon is not the invention of a single individual craftsman, but the shared labor of a team. In our timeline, such a device would not be possible until well into the 1800's. 

The other aspect that we need to mention is how human societies dealt with the transition from indivual skilled craftsmen or artisans to the industrial scale of production necessary for large blackpowder armies, steampowdered vehicles, and large iron constructs. When objects are produced by artisans, each object is unique. People know it by who made and who owns it. The object takes on a story of its own. We see this with the way that objects like weapons are discussed in ancient myths. Objects made in this way are inalienable in a sense, that they are grounded in our understanding of place, people, they are part of our story of the world. This is a traditional element of dwarven lore, that they focus on the fine crafting of objects that become key objects in history - like the Hammer of Sigmar, the swords Sting, Glamdring, and Orchrist, or Thor's hammer, Mjölnir. 

Industrial production shatters this connection. With the ability to produce a flame cannon, comes the tools to mass produce. Further, the necessity of a vast team of laborers makes the touch of the craftsman disappear. Objects produced in this manner have no personality. In our world, the introduction of mass production stripped proud crafts people of their identity. There were frequent and violent revolts against this process during the early decades of industrialization. This social upheaval was so large that in the 1680s to 1720s it was, in part, responsible for a massive crime wave in London that lead to the creation of modern policing. Manufactured goods were so easily stolen because they were, effectively, identical. People didn't have the traditional connection/identification with their objects so it was easy to steal an object and sell it without getting caught. We must imagine that dwarves would react much stronger to the anonymity of industrialization - it would be completely incompatible with their way of life let alone their individual pride. 

A missed opportunity

If we set aside all of this stuff about industrialization and smithing for a moment, there is another element of the GW Dwarves that is both central to their identity but I think also a missed opportunity: words. Words, storytelling, and narrative are big for the dwarves. Runes are the written word. Their weapons literally have written words that effect the world around them. The book of grudges is their written story of themselves. Slayers swear oaths. Oath stones bind dwarves to not yield ground. Old Grumblers are always storytelling about how things were in their day. The 6th edition rulebook is written as if an old dwarf were telling us a story. The 4th/5th, 6th, and late 6th edition books all contain descriptions of how to transliterate the dwarf language. Even the dwarves "hate greenskins" rule speaks to their history. 

So as I start thinking about sculpting my own line of dwarves, I have to consider both the constraints of wargaming but also lore and what I want my dwarves to be like. How might dwarves overcome the traditional shortcomings of being slow without recourse to steam, blackpowder, warmachines, or hokey/cringey cavalry options? I think there are two answers to this. 

  1. We can look to the troop options typically available in Saxon and Viking armies - these additions might look like: 
    1. skirmishers with javelins or bows
    2. hunting dogs
    3. more maneuverable infantry elements like sea raiders
  2. We can lean into mytho-history of northwestern europe, we can imagine dwarves with the power of words - runes, spoken stories, oaths, commands, bonds that empower them in battle or harm their enemies - these might look like:
    1. bards/skalds - story tellers that encourage their allies, or use words to taunt their enemies to charge them
    2. Runic craftsmen - carving runes in waystones and rocks
    3. blacksmiths - putting performative words onto weapons
    4. priests who use words - like a kind of word magic that binds you or the enemy to act certain ways, or speaks things into existence like lightening or fear
    5. or maybe a caravan/camp with treasure, the implication being the enemy has to come and take the treasure or it's allure causes them to lose discipline and try to take it. 

What my Dwarf Range might look like

  • Characters
    • skald/bards
    • warrior-type heroes
    • craftsmen chiseling runes on stones
  • Infantry types
    • dwarves with spears in a shieldwall
    • dwarves with swords/axes/hammers in a shield wall
    • Dwarves with dane-axes
    • Elite Warriors
    • Berserkers
    • Valkyries/shieldmaidens 
    • peasant dwarves with javelins or bows
    • sappers/mine workers - armed with mail and mattocks
    • foresters 
    • sea raiders
  • Others
    • battlefield forge
    • baggage train with golden hoard
    • villagers?
    • animal handlers with dogs?

Laiva: an easy hobby solution

Sometimes a nerd among us will ask a strange question like:
"what if my Warhammer minis were a decoration?" 
"They're always in boxes for storage... what if they weren't?" 
"Are they game pieces or a collection?" 
"Should I openly display my nerdiness to friends and family?"

...and thus many of us have embarked on the short quest of finding a way to put our beloved miniatures on a shelf or in a display case for all the world to see - or at least those who would venture into our hobby rooms. 

I'd like to briefly share my quest.

My girlfriend is an avid academic reader with a sizeable collection of books. We recently moved to a new town and decided to get new bookcases for her books as her old ones were holdovers from college and precariously wobbly after more than a decade. So we went to Ikea.

That's when I saw the Laiva. It's a relatively cheap bookcase. The idea of displaying my minis had lurked in my mind for a few months and now the idea seized its opportunity when cheap shelving presented itself. 

This is a Laiva

I took home two Laiva (laivas?). A few days later I opened up the boxes and saw all the components. And I had this idea; when people get fancy with their warhammer photography they will often place a landscape painting behind the army to really give them an immersive feel. Folks who already have a Laiva or are astute observers will note that the top and bottom shelves have a type of cardboard backing. This backing is meant to stabilized the bookshelf. So I put two and two together. What if I painted the backing? That way, when my army was on the shelf being displayed it'd have a background behind it. 

So that's what I did! 

First things first. Priming. The backing has a paint-resistance coating on it. I sanded it and still the gesso layer refused to adhere to little bits of the surface. I would recommend a more vigrous sanding with particularly coarse sand paper. 

Next, I got out my tub of cheap craft paints that I use for terrain projects. I loaded up a Bob Ross video on youtube and I got to work. I'd recommend borrowing a few colors from your army to use in the painting to make it feel a bit more thematic. 

The top has a swamp for a skaven army

The bottom has a blasted and mountainous landscape for my dark elves.
I think I got the foreground color wrong. 

Next, I nailed the backing in place and stood it up. 

Here is what it looks like with a modest Skaven army on display. Next up, I'll need to do backgrounds for my gnomish army and Gusseldorfers. 

Friday, December 3, 2021

The Battle Of Death Keep

Battle Background

For centuries, the lands surrounding the Viper Mountains, known as the spines of Umbraxakar to the locals, was a quiet colony of the Witch King. The dark elf governor and administrative elite grew rich from the labors of their reptilian subjects who toiled in the mines and peat bogs.

Galvorn ore and diamonds were the exports of greatest interest to the greedy elves. They used them liberally in their homes adorning their decorations and silverware. They even fashioned the galvorn metals into their armor. These colonial administrators grew complacent and took their wealth for granted. It was simply a matter of course that these dull reptiles would stay in their station and continue their drudges’ work. This was the natural order of things. Elves were simply better and it was the role of these lesser reptiles to do their bidding. Simple as that. Centuries of this entitled position caused the elves to grow complacent and loosen their evil vigilance.

In their damp caves, out of the earshot of the elves, the lizardfolk talked and croaked in their own fashion.They recounted their old myths and legends. They talked about times before the cruel elves. Ioth Sithis, emerged among these scheming lizards as a central figure that they all looked up to. He was a potent story teller. He used story to teach the possibility of life beyond the elves.

Knowing that the elves couldn’t tell the lizards from the different labor camps apart, Sithis sent messengers between the camps and among the Troglodytes. They spread ideas of rebellion. They opened up the minds of the lizards to the possibility of life beyond the hegemony of the elves. The reptilian folks relished the legend of Umbraxakar, the mountainous serpent. They believed this serpent might liberate them. And, so, the lizardfolk bided their time believing they would be saved rather than rising up on their own.

One day, an old overworked slann harkened to the stories of Ioth Sithis. She heard all of the hope that the lizardfolk put into the return of Umbraxakar but she also saw that they were otherwise idle - ready, but waiting to be set free. In front of the cold blooded crowd she told him “a tadpole cannot walk without legs.” Ioth Sithis knew what he must do.

In the dark of night he stole into the jungle to find a big enough serpent. The legends were vague enough about Umbraxakar’s actual size and appearance so he needn’t be choosey. Having spied a suitable candidate he laid a trail of carrion back to the work camp. Greedily, the beast followed, consuming the meat. At the perimeter Loth Sithis flung the last meat onto the flimsy palisade and the jungle serpent gleefully played along and stampeded through the fence into the encampment. Havoc ensued as the dark elf sentries tried to flee from the monster. Many were gobbled up and others were clubbed and speared by lizardmen.

Throughout the cacophonous chaos Ioth Sithis would shout “Umbraxakar!!” “UUUUmmbraxakaaaaar!” Soon all of the lizards had joined in chant. “Umbraxakar, Umbraxakar, Umbraxakar.” The worn out and tired lizards were besides themselves with joy at the apparent return of their god-serpent. They danced with joy, prostrated themselves, and otherwise celebrated riotously.

Ioth Sithis knew he had to act fast. The elves would not be idle. The troglodytes were aroused from the mud pits by the echoing call of Umbraxakar. They took up arms to reclaim their ancestral homeland. Ioth Sithis’ Lizardmen kin of the Black Bog drove their slaves from their caves and to join the warpath led by the self-proclaimed lizard king, Ioth Sithis. “Wwweee mussst dessstroyy tthhee elvvven tthhreat! Ffffor tttoo many yearsssss ttthhhey haaavve builttt ttttowerssss andddd eaaacchh yeeaaarrrr tttheeiirr tttooowwweeersss drraawww closssser ttttooo ourrr sssswwamp! Itttt isssss ourrr ttiiiime tttoo livvveeee innn ttthhee sssccccattterrrred ssssssun!!” Under the shadow of Umbraxakar the lizards march to the highland forts to confront the dark elf colonial establishment.

Overview Map

Map Key

Loth Sithis’ Rebellion

Ioth Ssissith, level 25 Lizardman on cold one, Axe of Magic Absorption

”Umbraxakar” Level 1 Dragon with Flight

9 Lizardmen w/ spears including banner bearer, musican, Hellfire Banner & Thurgix Sauriv, level 5 Lizardman with double handed weapon

9 Lizardmen with Hand Weapons & Shields including standard bearer and musician & Farang Gix, level 10 Lizardman with double handed weapon

5 Troglodytes w/ double handed weapons, & Pothoc, level 5 Troglodyte w/ bow

5 Troglodyes with Hand Weapons & Shields, & Vargus Yrev, level 15 Lizardman with Flail

10 Slaves, Priestess of Umbraxakar, level 15 wizard & Cold One Warhound

Total Point Value: 2008 points

Helkate’s colonial Garrison

Helkate - Lvl 15 Death Hood

Death Keep Guard - Dark Elf Crossbowmen x 10.

Repeating Bolt Thrower

Baggage Train

Total Point Value: 521

Kin’Lath’s Relief Column

Kin’Lath’s Slashers - 14 Dark Elf Warriors (with a musician with the hymm of hatred), level 5 champion (with shield and light armor) (and a magic sword with enchanted strike), Lvl10 battle standard (with shield and light armor) (and banner with the talismanic standard ability and ward of the brave), Lvl 20 hero (general) (with galvorn armor, a magic sword with enchanted strike and frenzy, and a ring with the hand of death spell)

Dark Bolters - Dark Elf Crossbowmen x 10.

Scorched Pass Sortie- Helldrakes with Lances x 5

Total Point Value: 1153

Shadow Weaver’s Spectral Guard

Shadow Weaver - lvl 15 Necromancer Allied Contingent Leader (with their mandatory magic weapon with the parrying blade and mighty strike ability. And with a ring with the summon skeletons spell)

Tarath’s Revenge- Skeletons x 11 with shield and light armor and Tarath (a lvl 10 champion with a mandatory magic sword (with enchanted strike)

Total Point Value 496

The Scenario

The scenario starts with Death Keep already beleaguered by Loth Sithis’ rebellion. They are inches away and ready to come to blows with the defenders.

The defenders have lit their signal fire calling for aid. But, will it come in time? Each turn the dark elf player will roll a die each for Kin’Lath’s Relief Column and Shadowweaver’s Spectral guard. On a 6 the respective forces will arrive. Kin’Lath will arrive from the right hand side of the board and Shadowweaver from the passage tomb on the table.

The victory conditions are a do or die situation. The Lizards must seize the fort and drive off any remaining elves. And, the elves in the fort must pray they survive while the relief must punish the rebellious lizards.

Quinton’s Lizardman pre-battle plan:

Kill the Elves! Eat their flesh!!!

In all seriousness, my battle plan is to swarm the tower, and defend it from the dark elves reinforcements.

Byron’s Dark Elf pre battle plan:

Basically, my army has 3 parts: the people in the fort, the dark elf reinforcements, and my undead allies.

The Elves in the Fort

I assume that they were all forfeit. They are terribly outnumbered, and too few in number to defend the various points of entry. Even with the aid of the hedges, the advantage of a defended obstacle would only delay the inevitable. So their role is to delay the inevitable as long as they can. They must pray for reinforcements to come.

The Dark Elf Reinforcements

This contingent was made up of 3 units, warriors with some potent characters, helldrakes, and crossbowmen. In this scenario helldrakes are borderline useless. Their mounts won’t attack lizards! They must be a part of this nefarious rebellion somehow! Perhaps they could dismount and fight on foot to bolster the defenders behind their hedges? We will see.

This second unit of crossbowmen will be fielded as skirmishers. I figure that makes them maneuverable (and I don’t expect them to fight in close combat) and their crossbows are Str 4 which will be useful against these sturdy lizards.

Finally, the regiment of warriors is my ace in the hole. Kin’lath, the general, is equipped with items that give him a vicious synergy. Right off the bat he has high WS so he will be hitting on 3’s or 4’s. His sword grants him frenzy, so he may gain a +1 to hit from frenzy. Additionally, the regiment sings the Hymm of Hate granting everyone a +1 to hit. And finally, if they charge or follow up they gain a further +1 to hit. These net Kin’lath a total +3 to hit, so he will be hitting on everything but a 1! To further increase his viciousness, he has a ring with the Hand of Death Spell enscorcelled into it! This means if he hits he automatically wounds! And, as a final cunning ploy, his sword has enchanted strike which doubles the wounds he causes! (a common magic weapon ability among the vicious elves) In sum, he has 4 attacks that hit on 2+, automatically wound, and cause 2 wounds each. Since lizards and trogs have a base of 2 wounds each, this means he will be cutting through lizards and trogs like butter. The regiment is augmented with a battle standard that stores magic points and grants +1 combat resolution in case they get outnumbered or suffer casualties. Lastly, the regiment has a champion with a magic sword that has the enchanted strike ability.

I figure that Quinton’s dragon and general will be tough cookies. My main goal will be to crash my general into them and rely on him dishing out the wounds - even if he lost all of his men, just getting him to grips with the beast is my top priority. I think that this one man can single handedly slay all of the lizards - his entourage are simply there to protect him by taking any hits from ranged weapons or otherwise.


My undead contingent was a bit of an afterthought. I brought them along because we agreed to a 2000 point battle and I didn’t have enough elves to meet the brief, except for a handful of undead elves. She has an ineffective magic sword, but importantly a ring that lets her summon skeletons. It was my intention to use this ring to summon undead cavalry to slow the lizards so that my general could crash into them.

Even though I start with a small fort, I fear that my small forces will be destroyed in detail like the Maugthrond Pass scenario. I am hoping Kin’lath and Shadow Weaver show up on time.

Quinton Turn 1:

Loth Sithis gave the order and a generalized advance toward the small keep began. The whole horde of lizardfolk and troglodytes shuffled forward in their gangly manner. Sithis roused his cold one and prepared it to charge the Dark Elves the following turn.

Moving into the magic phase, the priestess casts an aura of protection upon herself, and the shadow lord Umbraxakar uses his breath of Desiccation on the bolt thrower, causing 5 hits against the crewmen and they become dust.

overview of the key action this turn

Dark Elf defenders stare down their attackers

Shambling Trogs sneak into the unguarded stable door.

The crew are all dried to dust by the dragon.

Byron Turn 1:

The advance of the lizardfolk created a harrowing din. Strange croaks, hisses, and reptilian squawks filled the air. The dark elf attendants fled to the blockhouse while the guards stood their ground.

On command the crossbowmen unleashed their deadly bolts. Their bolts found their mark slaying two troglodytes and wounding the Lizard’s wretched leader. A lucky volley, but not enough to slow the cold blooded advance.

Desperately, Helkate casts windblast upon the lizardman general. She hopes that he can be slowed and thereby even the inevitable fight.
The Lizard General suffers a wound from the biting accuracy of dark elf crossbows

The dragon advancing on the tower.

Quinton Turn 2:

Map showing the follow up of the troglodytes

The troglodytes kept their focus on the elves and charge the defenders along with their lord. A whirling and chaotic combat ensues as fighters from both sides of the hedges are blasted by the continuing gale of wind. The troglodytes and crossbowmen flail about in the wind and land no blows. The brutish lizard king slayed two elves thereby claiming the ground and pushing the elves back. “Climb over and Keeelll!” Hissed their lord. The Troglodytes then joined the elves in the corral.

Meanwhile, slippery lizards and troglodytes entered into the stables and faced no opposition.

Umbraxakar decided to land and advance on the fortress on foot. Was this a trivial choice? We shall see….

Overview of the battle as the trogs follow up into the corral.

Close up of the fight for the corral.

Byron Turn 2:

The bitter melee continued. There was a quick reversal in the push and shove in the corral. The quick elves caused four wounds and slew 2 troglodytes while in reply the languid troglodytes only caused 2 wounds. The troglodytes were pushed back over the hedge and the corral was once again in elven hands, if only for a moment.

To aid her toiling brethren, Helkate ceased the wind and summoned an undead champion into the courtyard.

Quinton Turn 3:

Again, the troglodytes were clear-headed and sure of their purpose. They redoubled their attacks against the colonizers. But Ioth Sithis could not rouse his cold one.

The combat at the hedge was a draw with both sides losing a single wound.

Meanwhile the troglodytes and lizardmen in the stable neared the corral and prepared to attack the elves in the rear! And Umbraxakar continued to encircle the tower.

Byron Turn 3:

Suddenly, a great horn blast was heard! Kin’Lath had arrived! There was hope that the beleaguered elves might yet live! Kin’Lath’s forces wasted no time. His cold one riders advanced straight to the corral in hopes that they might dismount and stall the lizards until the infantry proper could arrive.

The 2nd watch crossbowmen took up a position on the hill overlooking the dire fight. The next turn they would be ready to rain down their accurate bolts. And, Kin’lath advanced directly for the dragon! His comrades in arms were ready for vengeance as they sang their hymn of hate!

“Death to the elvesssssss” Hissed Ioth Sithis.In the corral, the elves were again pushed back into the corral and their cold blooded pursuers followed.

Helkate recalled what the dragon had down to the bolt thrower crew up stairs, but knew the dragon must be dealth with. She took a deep breath, went down stairs, peeped just outside to spot the horrid serpent. She cast hand of dust, took another deep breath and waited for it.

Quinton Turn 4:

Once more the limited mental faculties of the troglodytes and cold ones didn’t hinder their righteous rebellion.

The evil elves in the corral were now surrounded by troglodytes as the tall lizards ambled out of the stables in their rear.

Our great lord, Umbraxakar, espied the dark elf knights on their turncoat mounts and once again unleashed his breath of dessication. Every single dark elf rider perished as they were dried into elf jerky.

Byron Turn 4:

The desperate melee in the corral continued. The few elven survivors lashed out at their reptilian foes, landing few blows but causing no wounds. Blows from every side slew three crossbowmen.

Helkate let out a scream as she made for Umbraxakar. “Death!”

Startled by her glowing hand Umbraxakar turned tail and ran! The great leviathan was pursued by the elf. Seeing the dragon flee, the crossbowmen on the hill shoot it in the back to hasten its flight. They cause one wound.

Cunning Kin’lath anticipated that the dragon would not continue to flee and pursued the dragon so that he might slay it, should it rally. No quarter shall be given.

Overview of the corral teeming with trogs

Crossbows on the hill overlooking the corral.
Helkate can be see in the distance chasing after the dragon.

Quinton Turn 5:

To the great astonishment of both elves and lizardfolks, Umbraxakar abandoned his followers in their hour of need. It is at this moment that everything turns against the lizardfolk.

In the corral the troglodytes overcome the remaining sentries and halt their advance as they feast on the baggage train.

Outside the corral the lizardmen pivot to encircle the tower from the outside.

Byron Turn 5:

Kin’Lath surges to meet the vile lizards in the corral and reclaim the defiled fort. He shouts out a daring challenge to the rebel leader! Kin’lath is coming for revenge!

Helkate collects herself and returns to the tower. And the crossbowmen on the hill unleashed their deadly bolts into the corral scoring a whopping 6 wounds and removing the unit. It is presumed this first unit was eaten by their comrades behind them.

Quinton turn 6:

A quick turn as the lizards prepared for the elven attack. They ambled up to the hedge to it as a barrier and their flanking force continues its route around the fort.

Byron Turn 6:

The Dark Elves declared their charge and got stuck in. They stabbed at the troglodytes across the hedge and caused two wounds while the lizards flailed and scored no hits. The lizards are pushed back and the Elves followed up. Kin’lath then remembers to activate his ring granting himself the hand of death spell.

The dark elf crossbowmen shot the flanking force and caused a wound.

Helkate spent the turn ruminating in the fort to regain a magic point.

Quinton Turn 7:

In the corral, Ioth Sithis joins the combat. Again, the troglodytes flail their arms at the elves and score no hits! Kin’lath hacked and slashed at the lizardfolk! His hatred and frenzy allowing him to land many hits. His ensorcelled ring and sword ripping the lizards to pieces. He killed two two troglodytes and Vargus Yrev, the lizardman champion. The elves got in close with their vicious swords and scored 3 wounds leaving only 2 troglodytes left. The troglodytes are pushed back again.

Meanwhile the flanking lizards turned the corner and used their hellfire banner to throw a fireball at the elves. One warrior perished.

Dark elf general attacks, killing the last two troglodytes and the Lizardmen hero.
Dark Elves pour into the corral

Close up of the Lizard General

The lizards on their route around the tower.

Closer up of the lizards.

Byron Turn 7:

The Rebel ringleader and Kin’lath circled each other in a deadly duel. The nimble elf struck first causing 4 wounds! The lizard saved 1 and attacked back. He landed a single hit but caused no wounds.

Meanwhile around them the dark elf champion slew a lizard while his comrades missed their attacks. The lizards retaliated killing a single elf. The lizards are pushed back and the corral is filled with hateful elves.

The marksmen on the hill fired at, and killed two Lizardmen near the tower.

Quinton Turn 8:

The bloody slaughter in the corral continued. Vicious elven daggers slew two lizardmen including their champion. Kin’lath mercilessly finished off Ioth Sithis. The surviving lizards all missed their attacks! Woe to the lizards! The predatory elves spread out and lapped around the lizards to surround them.

The flanking lizards continued their walk around the tower and again unleashed their hellfire banner, but this time it caused no wounds.
a hacking and slashing din fills the corral

Hellfire banner scorches an elf

The bloody melee in the corral continues as the lizards replace the trogs.

Byron Turn 8:

Fearing that the flanking lizards might stab her comrades in the back, Helkate once again leapt into action. “Death!” She flung herself at the lizard with the accursed banner with her hand of dust out stretched. She slew the banner bearer, crumpling him to dust in her grip.

Fearing the worst fate for the dashing sorceress, the crossbowmen fire into the combat between Helkate and the lizards! Their bolts flew into the melee indiscriminately. One lizardman is killed, suffering two wounds. But, a bolt struck Helkate! She lost a wound, and her hand of dust magic aura! Now she is in dire straits indeed!

Back in the corral, Kin’lath continued his murderous rampage and killed a lizardman. His teaming comrades killed another lizardman. The poor lizards bungled their attacks and missed all of their attacks yet again.

Murderous elves surround the lizards in the corral

Crossbowmen espy the lizards coming around the corner.

DEATH! Helkate strangles the standard bearer (removed as a casualty)
and he turns to dust in her hands.

Quinton Turn 9:

The bloody mess in the courtyard continued. The elves continue their messy work. The hapless lizards fail all of their attacks. Kinlath killed two lizards himself, the warriors killed another, and finally the champion caused two wounds killing the final lizardman. The corral was suddenly silent.

Outside the tower, the lizards struck at Helkate but, regretfully, caused no wounds! How fortunate! That smaller skirmish was drawn again.
The lizards in the corral are heaped in a pile of death.

Byron turn 9:

Helkate found herself outnumbered by lizardmen with only a single wound remaining. She had to do something to change the odds. She expended the remainder of her magic points to re-cast the hand of dust. She hoped this might turn those lizards to dust. In the combat she grabbed another lizard and turned him to dust her in hands. Crossbow bolts zipped into the combat around her leaving only 3 lizards standing. The lizards broke and fled and were pursued by Helkate. The slaves, behind, decided to make a well advized retreat from the battle.

The battle concluded with the garrison dead, but the attendants alive and the fort reclaimed by the avenging Dark Elves.
Helkate fights on although she is outnumbered.

Helkate routes the lizards with her deathly sorcery and daring.

Post Battle Reflections


In retrospect there were many play mistakes on my part throughout the game-

Likely due to the intake of beer and herb I forgot some key abilities such as the stench of the troglodytes and the fear that they cause. Even with my preparations I likely had been toking as I noticed I had taken the improper magic weapon for my general. You saw above he was equipped with an axe of magic absorption, which I believed to absorb one stat point away upon each wound and allocate it to the bearer.

That magic item would have been an axe of steal, instead the item I had taken should have been able to absorb a spell cast on the bearer, and cast it at a later date. That would have come in handy in the windblast turns. Oh well, no worries though because I forgot to absorb the stats anyways. XD

The only other thing I should reflect on is Umbraxakar’s fleeing.

Terrible mistake-

Although I do believe he did what he should have, as I see him as a more treacherous god that would allow his servants to fight for him while he lives on.

In the future I have plans to make remembering my units rules as I go, because I will definitely be stoned again. Byron was an exceptional host and from there on to be a great friend, I look forward to the next battle with our armies from the upcoming OWAC.


There are a few things to comment on.

First, Quinton got very unlucky. As noted in the battle report there were numerous rounds where he rolled dice to hit and scored zero hits. Generalship can only get you so far if the dice just aren’t cooperating.

It was a tactical error for Umbraxakar to flee, but I was exceedingly fortunate that he continued to route rather than rallying. Had the dragon rallied he might have posed a threat and might have swung the battle the other way.

Next, was that everything else seemed to go as planned. Kin’lath’s gear had a strong synergy that played out as expected. He hit frequently, auto wounded, and caused double wounds and the lizards had very limited armor to stop him.

Hand of dust was a very effective spell. Windblast did an okay job of mitigating harm.

The crossbows were effective. They hit consistently and routinely wounded. 

The repeating bolt thrower was not good. I wouldn’t get it again for a 3rd ed game. I didn't know they only did Str 3 attacks. Hard pass. 

Troglodytes are like fimir. They have 2 attacks and wide bases. I’d like to fight them again and figure out how to make them shine. Also I just love the Tom Meier Trogs.

Quinton was good company, his girlfriend was an excellent scribe, and I look forward to our next evening gaming together.