Tree’s Company

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Fen Beasts are the smallest of the tree people available to the Erainn and by far my favourite treemen models I’ve seen. In game they’re pretty flexible with the ability to ambush from forests, hurl rocks that effect everything under a template and are not too sloppy in combat. All this and with an ancient Fen Beast they can be made mainstay.

I painted the two that came in the starter set and they are incredible sculpts and casts and so easy to paint. The rest of the unit of 5 are now sculpted and should be shipping soon so looking forward to getting my hands on them.

Back With A Bog

As much as I enjoy playing Fomoraic in Darklands, I was always on the lookout for a kindred that would really captivate me, something with a bit more subtlety, a play style that would necessitate a little more nous, in short an opportunity to do even worse.

Erainn are the dark age Irish, with dominion over the bogs and fens and land in general and all the beasts that that  results in, and  they seem like they will be a lot of fun to play.  Not to mention that they bring bog beasts to the table which can suck smaller creatures into their chest and consume them to regain their own health.

I have a few of the starters on order to get me going, and the other day my first model arrived, so without further blabber here are a few pictures of my freshly painted bog beast:

  
        
 

Darklands Intro: Redux

Before I cast the previous incarnation of this blog into the void, I wrote an intro to the game of Darklands from the perspective of a newcomer.  Since that has been left behind, the game has changed, I have played more, time has inexorably passed and we have all been steadily prodded towards death I figured now was as good a time as any to re-do the intro with more of a focus on breaking people into the game.

So what is Darklands?

Darklands is a 30mm scale (well…) tabletop skirmish (kinda) game set in the dark ages of northern Europe.  The primary difference between the lands of darkness and the world we know is that the folklore and mythology of those times is made real, providing an interesting mix of historical and fantasy setting with satanic Romans, werewolves, trolls and the living dead all clashing.

The game itself melds elements of games like Warhammer and Warmachine, with an almost RPG like breadth of rules and alternating activations to provide one of the deepest and most complex games systems I’ve played.  Despite this complexity the core game is fairly simple and fluid and a tournament sized game (1800-2000g at present) should be easily viable within 2.5 hours once players become familiar with the rules.  Darklands is incredibly brutal, and games can be over much quicker.

What do I need to get started?

The full rules are available to download for free from http://mierce-miniatures.com/darklands_first_edition/darklands_first_edition_rules_v0.5.pdf and the printed rulebook is expected to be available shortly

Erm…

Ok, the first thing you will notice is that the rules stretch to somewhere around 300 pages.  Darklands is most certainly not a game that makes any compromises on content in the name of simplicity.  While the core game is fairly straightforward, it really is up to you how much more you take from it.  When demoing the game I usually ignore combat results, any actions other than apprentice actions, and most of the rules concerning acuity & heart states, in order to get people used to the way the basic engine works.

On the subject of demos, this is the absolute best way to get into the game. The rulebook is a great reference if you are playing and need to see exactly how something works, or have played a game and want to check what you did is right, but in terms of learning the game it can certainly be daunting. If you are based in or around London, feel free to drop a comment on this and I’ll happily demo to anyone that wants it. Otherwise the best place to start may be the recently reactivated Mierce forums at http://www.mierce-miniatures.com or at a show such as Salute where Mierce are exhibiting.

What else will I need?

Mierce regularly run kickstarters where you can purchase a starter host for £60 in metal, this will usually provide you with a unit of infantry, two or three characters and either a monster or small unit of monstrous infantry.  While they are intended to be for 500g games, they often contain enough stuff to play up to seven or eight hundred gold.

I believe the idea is to eventually have these starters available from the webstore, so that people can pick them up and start playing, rather than having to wait for a kickstarter to fulfill.

Darklands uses 10 sided dice (although they run from 0-9 rather than 1-10) so you will need a couple of handfuls of these and at least one should be in a different colour as you will need to make attribute checks on a d100.  You will also need a tape measure marked in inches.

There are also a host of tokens and templates that are used but as you start out a selection of coloured beads will be enough for now and you can pick up anything else you need as you go.

What are all these words mean?

I have been playing for around 6 months now and the language of Darklands has become second nature, but I remember looking at a paragraph of fluff and feeling like a dog trying to read a chemistry textbook. In the world of Darklands immersion is key, so certain game terms have their own Miercan equivalents, each model, even soldiers within a unit has their own name, and the majority of the kindreds’ warriors are names in their own language. To help you through this intro here are a couple of the in game terms:

Kindred: Don’t say faction… Kindred are the different forces in Darklands that your army can be drawn from, however simply being from the same Kindred doesn’t necessarily mean you are amenable.

Realm: Within those kindreds there are often several realms which more accurately delineate a warriors allegiances. Your army list will always follow your general’s realm and any units that don’t conform to this will have to be allied in. Some Realms (notably Dis and Legio II Var) run across more than one kindred (Byzantii and Infernii in this case) and this means warriors from different kindreds can be taken without having to be allied in. Often warriors are available to more than one realm, although they will usually have different ubiquity depending on the realm.

Ubiquity: A unit’s ubiquity denotes how common a sight they are on the battlefields of the lands of darkness, ranging from Mainstay through Rare to even Mythic and Unique. When choosing your army you may only take a certain number of each ubiquity dependent on the battle size, and at battles of 500g or more you must take a certain number of Mainstay units. Usually kindreds do not have any units that are naturally mainstay, and which ones become Mainstay is decided by your character set up, although there are exceptions.

Gold: Points! A units points value is referred to as its gold cost in Darklands and the gold size of the game defines what ubiquities are available to you.

Hour: Each game turn is referred to as an hour.

Muster: The musters are the equivalent of army books, the lists from which you select your forces before going to war.

Host: Host usually refers to your mustered force, your list or, in the case of the starter hosts, a preselected collection of units and Warriors.

So what kindred should I choose?

I believe the received wisdom here is to ‘pick the kindred you like the look of’ but frankly they all look pretty awesome, so here’s a bit of guidance on how they play. In the future I hope to have more in depth articles on each one, hopefully written by someone who plays them, but for now here’s a summary.

Albainn Albainn are the anti magic kindred. Representing Scotland at the Darklands table, they have all manner of ogres, giants and other hill people, most of whom carry giant magic-absorbing stones. Often these can absorb your opponent’s magic and use that power to cast your own spells. Their own spells are defensively powerful and they are able to use them to make their already tough unit nigh-on impervious.

Anglecynn: The Anglecynn are shape shifters and their primary realm Mierce are wolf-oriented shape shifters, so yes that means Werwulf. They also include were-bears and boars and apparently in the future deer. Almost all kindred in Darklands also include a human element and Anglecynn have a couple of options on this front. In terms of play style they tend to hit hard early on with big fast wolves buffed up by magic and their howl abilities but aren’t the most resilient and can fade quickly. They have a lot of units capable of flanking or scouting, meaning they can come on from the board edge or emerge from terrain and mount an ambush, so if the idea of having a 20ft wolf come flying out of a forest and devour your enemy is appealing then these are the guys you should call.

Atalantes: These predecessors to the Ancient Greeks are one of the three ‘new kindreds’ alongside Jutes. They rely on giant bronze constructs and sunlight harnessing magical technology to batter their enemies. Due to their newness and the majority of their sculpts not having appeared in the wild yet I couldn’t tell you exactly how they play, but watch this space… (Or read their muster)

Brythoniaid: The dark age Welsh, this kindred brings all the dragons and dragonmen you’d expect and plenty you wouldn’t. While they don’t currently have their own sorcerers (they are coming), they do do everything else very well.  The easy access to flight means they can easily play in an aggressive style, without having to rely on uncontrollable feral troops, while strong archers and anti-magic that can hurt the enemy casters with feedback means they can force the opposition to come to them.  They also have all manner of tricks in the form of fiery breath weapons and screeches that drop enemies skill.

Byzantii / Infernii: Satanic Romans, and their Demonic counterparts.  I’ve included these two kindreds as one entry as they cross over pretty comprehensively.  The Byzantii are the (more) human side of ancient Rome, featuring legionaries, centurions, camel & hippo men (wait…), giant scorpions (excuse me?) and so on.  Much like their demonic cohort’s the Infernii they bring relatively high armour, a lot of shields and they can also field some of Darkland’s only warmachines.  The Infernii on the other hand are like a beefed up more elite version of their human allies, with the most expensive single model in the game, Krull, a giant flying demonic over lord capable of taking out pretty much anything you could throw at him.  With their ability to resummon fiends the Infernii contribute to a very resilient army, with plenty of powerful options.  If that sounds like it’s up your street then you just need to decide whether to go Dis (Demon heavy, likely lower model count) or Legio II Var (human-centric with the demon’s rarer in the list).

Erainn: The nature boys and Darklands’ dark age Irish. Erainn bring numerous human infantry and tree, peat and bog beasts to the table. Again these guys are a relatively new kindred but have some very interesting mechanics with a combination of restorative life type magic and amphibious creatures that can emerge from water features to ambush their opponents, as well as consuming and insta-killing smaller models with their sucking chests, not to mention giant, rock chucking trees. They seem to be the guerilla warriors of the lands of darkness, and are also blessed with an insatiable hatred of the Fomoraic.

Fomoraic: Darklands’ true bad boys, the Fomoraic are actually sea devils with their sights set on conquering the land, but are represented on the table by their hybrid servants, all manner of beastmen from the Gabrax and Gabrox goat warriors to the hulking rhinomen that are the Sronox and Sronax. There are still nods to their underwater heritage with the Kraaken and Walvax (giant anchor-wielding, octupus headed monster and walrus men with nets and harpoons respectively) and the entire underwater realm of Conand which has yet to be fleshed out. On the table the Fomoraic wield incredibly powerful (some might say too powerful at this point in time) offensive magic, and all manner of wild and feral beasts. While feral creatures in Darklands are largely uncontrollable, they are very powerful, being able to counter charge and always attack back even if they have already fought. The amount of feral troops available and the ferocious combat potential of the other units makes the Fomoraic probably the closest to a ‘push it forwards’ army in Darklands, but the powerful magic missiles mean there is significant mileage in holding off and bombarding your enemy with icey death before engaging.

Jutes: The last of the new boys, Jutes are everything that is rotten in Darklands, at least physically if not necessarily morally. The Jutes are the both the undead and their living descendants, featuring skeletons, wraiths and necromancers as well as giant spiders and beetles. They are a relentless force with an unprecedented ability to restore models to their units and use the living to buff their undead ancestors. The undead also do not use their eyes to see so are not limited to 180 degrees like most other warriors. Although they are slow, once you get into your enemy they will have a very hard time grinding you down. Jutes can also ally with the Anglecynn to bring another dimension to their play.

Khthones: Khthones so far are the only kindred not to feature any human troops, and have only recently added non-monstrous infantry at all. They are the escaped reptilian slaves of the Atalantes and feature Crocodiles, snake men and women, basilisks and all manner of reptilian monsters. Khthones can be built quite differently depending on your character set up as they have a few different realms representing the different species on offer. This means there is a decent amount of flexibility to how you set up, however with even the new missile troops only having a short range you’re unlikely to be shooting your opponent off or fielding a horde army. They do however have access to some pretty hefty magic and a nifty ability to activate some units twice in a turn.

Norse: The Norse represent the Vikings of old and bring with them all that that entails. Trolls, ravens large, small and humanoid and some terrifying beasts, not to mention a whole lot of lightning. I’ve not actually played with it against Norse so will have to defer to Ady, Mierce’s resident Viking warlord whose gave the following description: “They have the ability to defend well with magic that tangles and blinds so you can keep people at arms length , yet they get good range with flyers so have the ability to strike where you wish . Trolls are robust and can heal when lightning spells are cast at them”

Vras: Vras are at present not a fully fleshed out kindred but only really viable as allies of the Ysians. They are ratmen of all size and shapes and a useful accompaniment to the Ysians evil ways.

Ysians: The Ysians are one of the most fully fleshed out (no pun intended in so many ways) kindreds in Darklands. They were the first to get missile troops and have a real combined arms feel. Thematically they are probably the most deliberately evil force amongst the kindreds, using all manner of corruption and experimentation to bring their abhorrents and brutes to bear on the table. They have strong monstrous and conventional infantry, some fearsome monsters and respectable magic. They are able to use discarded flesh on the battlefield to stitch together more warriors. They also have a sorceror who gains power from eating human genitalia. In fact although the Darklands world is no stranger to private parts, if that’s really your thing then the Ysians will be a dream come true, from the pig-bogs collection of severed peni, to the bone abherrant’s exposed vagina, there really is something for all nature of body part enthusiasts here.

Why should I play Darklands?

Darklands isn’t necessarily easy or cheap to get into, it doesn’t play along with the contemporary ‘simpler is better’ mindset that seems to prevail amongst games designers. Cost-wise I would expect it to set you back a similar amount to something like 40k, assuming you are sensible about your purchases and make use of the kickstarters and sales, even if you don’t you still won’t be spending quite forgeworld amounts.

What it does do exceptionally well is fill the middle ground between strategy and fun, fluffy rules that Warhammer used to occupy, without the hands-off approach that GW took to WHFB, which led to the rise of the netlist and tournaments where half the field were the same army, or even the same list. Mierce are clearly making a concerted effort to balance the game as much as possible and tighten it wherever needs be, with a focus on making it a viable tournament game. The wordy nature of the rules is down to a desire to eliminate loopholes wherever possible and it is clear that they have been written in a very specific manner to ensure what you can and can’t do is very controlled. The musters are living documents meaning they are constantly being tested and honed where needs be.

Darklands is probably the deepest tabletop wargame I have played and there will certainly be tactical and strategic options that arise that none of us who have been playing regularly have yet discovered, so here are some of the things that stand out to me about the game:

Deployment & Terrain

To deploy terrain in Darklands you choose which 1’x1′ square on your side of the battlefield you will deploy terrain in and your opponent places it, you both then get to place your own kindred specific terrain.  Table edge is chosen before terrain deployment and once you have deployed the terrain, the general with the highest authority chooses a flank.  This means you have tactical decisions to make even before you start deploying.

Once terrain is deployed, you have 8 different deployment maps to choose from (although some are mirrors) in secret.  You can opt to measure your deployment zone and risk giving your map away to your opponent, or you can not measure it and risk deploying outside the positioning field.  Once everything is deployed this is checked, and if you have deployed outside your designated area your opponent can redeploy any errant units.  It is even possible for deployments to almost overlap, often resulting in some very brutal first hours!

List Building

List building in Darklands can be a tense affair, and I pity the individual who has to do list checking for an event.  There is far more to consider than just gold value here, however it makes for a very thorough system that produces well balanced and interesting lists.  If you are so inclined you could probably spend weeks list writing for a tournament.

Lists are built around a command structure, whereby each noble leads a command of one or more units, whose authority must not exceed his own.  Apart from the general a character cannot join any unit that is not in his command, making deathstarred up units with 15 uber-characters pretty much an impossibility.  When deploying, you deploy a whole command at a time, and every unit in that command has to be deployed within a certain distance of the commander.  This means when deciding who goes in which command you are also deciding which units they will deploy near and where your character will be able to hide.  On top of this each command starts on the same orders, so including a unit you intend to use as an attacking spearhead in a command with a unit you want to use as support could cause you problems down the line.

You must then also consider the ubiquity of each unit, as well as their Realm in the case of some kindreds.

Alternating Activations

Each hour both generals roll for initiative with the winner activating one of his units and performing all their actions before passing the initiative to their opponent to do the same.  However units in Darklands have to be activated in some semblance of an order, Feral troops first, units on hold orders last for example, which means you have to think long and hard about which order both you and your opponent are going to activate your troops in.

On top of this, you have a number of options to disrupt the flow of the game and try and cause problems for your opponent.  If you have less activations you will be given tokens that allow you to pass the initiative at certain points, meaning your opponent is forced to activate again, and perhaps show his hand when he would rather not.  You can also either force or retain the initiative, with the former allowing you to activate two units simultaneously, perhaps to combo-charge a tough opponent, and the latter allowing you to activate a second unit instead of passing to your opponent, ideal for when you need to force home an advantage.

Magic

Magic is a powerful tool in Darklands, and carries the commensurate risk.  Sorcerers use their own constitution (a measure of both their resilience and remaining wounds) to cast spells, and can use even more to boost the spells and make them more powerful.  This cost can be recovered, and can never actually kill a caster, but can make them very weak and susceptible to other damage.  Recovery is also a dangerous game, with your sorcerer usually taking further damage, or even facing instant death on failing the test to recover.

The ‘360 degree battlefield’

Darklands offers numerous ways for you to ambush your enemies.  Dragons dropping from the skies, skorpions and giant worms bursting up from under ground and wolves emerging from the woods to bite your limbs off are just a few examples.  There are a multitude of possibilities and angles from which monsters could attack you, meaning just guarding your front is not good enough.  You will need to think about deployment, facing and positioning to ensure your opponent cannot get to your weak points, the last thing you need is a bog beast popping out of a pond and swallowing you wizard in one go.  Fliers and flankers can even end up fighting off the table.

While there is plenty more for me to evangelize about in Darklands I won’t let this post end up the size of the rule book, the best way to learn really is to play the game and not worry about making mistakes, and then go back to the rule book and work out what you should have done differently, then you can slowly start to add in the more complex rules and actions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tales from the Maul: Game 5

My experience amongst the lowest echelons of competitive Warhammer players has taught me far less than it should have but one truism has been embedded clearly in my grey matter: If the person opposite you has a flag on their shirt, chances are you are about to get your arse handed to you. So began my concluding game of The Maul 2015…

Game 5: Danny Pegg – Anglecynn

I am now so far removed from the events of November and into thinking about my list for the upcoming Sheffield Slaughter that I think trying to give you a detailed report on this game would only result in a mountain of lies.  I know Danny was playing Anglecynn WITH a Wiglere this time, and with 3 big wolves that emerged all over the place and ate half my army.

This game really was an exceptional example of just how tactical Darklands can be, and how clever strategic play can lead to a crushing victory. Of course none of this was on my part, Danny had several single small (well….traditionally sized) wolves which he could use to out activate me, forcing me to activate my feral units. He also positioned his troops in such a way that my feral warriors were pulled in front of each other, meaning when he emerged from terrain and charged them he was able to breakthrough and take out two units for the price of one.

All my big threats were neutralised very quickly, with the more vulnerable parts of Danny’s force never having to get engaged and not long after the end of the first turn the game was wrapped up, 20-0 in his favour.

This was a prime example of how deployment and strong play can result in very quick and bloody games in the lands of darkness and I wish I had a better recollection of it to relay to you.

The full results from the weekend can be found somewhere on my twitter feed but suffice to say Luke Morton won the event with a horrible Ysian list consisting of something like 18 activations and a lot of death strike, which doubles the wounds you cause. I think once the musters are updated this list will cease to be.  My 1 opponent Liam came in a deserved second thanks to the 20 points I generously let him have, and Ady McWalter took third with the Norse. Pete Scholey won best painted with his demonic Romans and I somehow got enough votes to take best sports after a roll off. Everyone I played and seemingly everyone I didn’t was an absolute gent so I’m pleased with that, by far the highlight of the weekend was the little community that seems to be forming around the game so here’s hoping it continues to grow.

Tales from the Maul: Game 4

Sunday, a new dawn and an opportunity to build on my 15 points from day one and hopefully not leave sheffield humiliated.

Game 4: Jonathon Chester – Brythoniaid

I can’t remember now whether I’ve mentioned it already but my one concession to tactics going into the maul was as follows: Point everything at one part of my opponent’s army, and hope to force the initiative with my general to allow me to overwhelm them. Thus far this hadn’t really worked, but here’s how forcing works in theory: Once per game when your general would normally be able to activate, he can instead activate two units that are within his command range simultaneously. This means you can perform their actions in whatever order you like and they are resolved as if they happened at the same time. Unfortunately for Jon, he didn’t know this, which I found out as I executed it.

The game started pretty ominously with Jon’s army motoring across the table towards me. He had a couple of Cawrdraig, imposing dragon ogre type monsters, a unit of dyndraig who are 60mm based dragon men and some human characters. He also had the smaller of the Brythoniaid’s two dragon’s, ‘smaller’ in this case still meaning bigger than 90% of everything else on the table over the weekend.  Despite his size advantage, the dragon elected to fly off and circle the table, giving him the opportunity to pick his battles when he descends later.

My Tarvax were forced to activate and run towards Jon’s massing forces by virtue of their Feral acuity, which meant that one of his cawrdraigs was able to get stuck in and do some serious damage. Fortunately for me one of them managed to survive and hold him in place.  At this point my general opened his bag of tricks and played his only card, he activated my Sronax and my Tarvox and they both charged!  The Sronax went into the Dyndraig behind the ongoing melee and the Tarvox went straight into the fight, although he had to trample over his little brother, killing him in the process. Because I got to choose the order my units performed their actions in, the Tarvox was able to kill the Cawrdraig and breakthrough into the Dyndraig, attacking again and meaning the two hardest things on my side of the table were now engaging. In a bit of rough housing with Jon’s Dyndraig unit. The first of a batch of very bad dice rolls for my opponent meant that this combat went decisively in my favour and his unit went to join the big guy in welsh heaven, which is probably a Yates’ wine bar from what I can tell.

I also managed at some point to take advantage of the fact that circling units can always be seen to chip a few wounds off the flying dragon with a well placed Shardlings from my Warlock.  When the dragon did come down, it all went wrong. He tried to swoop and attack my general atop his bear, but fluffed his attacks and was promptly evaporated by the untain’s reflex attack back, which was pretty much the highlight of my general’s weekend performance-wise.

From here on out it was largely mopping up for me. Jon tried his best to win some points back but the weight of numbers and the dice were against him and it all finished off as a 20-0 in my favour.

Tales From The Maul: Game 3 and 3.5

By Saturday evening, after spending all day poring over rules and profiles and dice my capacity to retain information was obviously waning and now with two weeks daylight between this post and the Maul even more of the details of these two games have crept away so these are more summaries than actual reports but here goes.

Game 3: Pete Scholey – Dis

When selecting your army in Darklands you first select your Kindred and then from within that Kindred your Realm, which gives you more of an idea of the allegiances of the force you are taking and can alter the units you are eligible to take.  Some realms, notably Legio II Var and Dis span more than one kindred. These two realms can take units from both the Byzantii (satanic Romans) and Infernii (their demonic cohorts) with Dis being more  focussed on the demons and Legio II Var on the humans.  Pete’s list was the former, and was a pretty balanced mix of the big demonic characters and monsters and some infantry.

Although my memory is hazy, Pete got off to a strong start, with his Erebius on Behema ( a half demonic legionary atop a ginormous demonic bull type creature) proving its worth and annihilating a unit of something (I think Tarvax) before they got a chance to strike back. This meant I managed to get my Tarvox into him and wreak vengeance but it wasn’t really worth the trade and left my Tarvox stranded in the corner of the board after his breakthrough move.

This led to an awkward situation whereby I had a frenzied monster within charge range of his infantry bunker but unable to charge as he was facing the table edge. Because he was frenzied he had to move towards them as fast as possible so ended up wandering into combat with them, and missing out on all of the benefits of charging. The infantry were actually able to tie him up for a while as a result while Pete’s demonic characters and skorpion picked off the rest of my army for a 20-0 victory to him!

Game 3.5: Si Clifford – Fomoraic

I can’t say I’ve ever been in the position at the end of day one of a tourney where I fancied cracking straight on with another game, but I was having a great time and learning a lot so me and Si decided to have a friendly game on the Saturday evening.

Si was toting 2 of the much vaunted Gabrax Warlocks as well as two Warlock lords on horses. He also had a couple of infantry bunkers for these guys and not a huge amount else. As my list was pretty much designed to run across the table and smash things and his was designed to blast his opponent of the table before it got near him it’ll be no surprise to learn that he managed to wipe me out in about two turns as I ambled across the battlefield towards him. It looks like Gabrax Warlocks will be slightly more expensive in future and really he just had the paper to my rock but it was a comprehensive hiding for me.

Tales From The Maul: Game 2

First round submarining out the way it was time for me to begin my heroic ascent back to the top tables.

Game 2: Glen – Anglecynn

Glen brought the wolves to the bottom table for game 2, with the Anglecynn being an army of shapeshifters, and the Mierce realm in particular being werewolves of all shapes and sizes. Glen also had a couple of bear men and a unit of Duguth – spear armed humans that it turns out pack a fairly hefty punch in numbers.

One thing Glen didn’t have was a Wiglere – the Anglecynn wizard. Pretty much all I knew about Anglecynn ahead of this game was that they rely on buffs both from their howls and their Wigleres to turbo charge the wolves into killing machines and also to control their frenzy.

We deployed opposite each other mostly on one side of the table and Glen chose to start his Maegenwulf and Guthwulf off the table on flank orders.  I was fairly pleased about this as I was sure the main thing they would be targeting would be my Warlock and as those two are giant wolves of varying sizes this seemed like overkill to me.  The rest of my army would be a fairly straightforward battering ram so not having to deal with those two at the same time as the rest of his army would be a significant boon to my steamrollering horde.

As soon as possible I charged my Tarvax into his Waelwulfs, keen to get the charge and do some damage before they could get buffed up. Even though the waelwulf unit was more numerous than the Tarvax I managed to do enough damage to reduce their numbers significantly before they struck back.  With both units being feral the combat ended with the waelwulf’s tearing at their packmates and doing further damage but not running away.

Its been a week now and my memory of exactly how it all happened is foggy but my Tarvox and Sronax also made it into the two bears and wiped them out, while my Gabrax unit joined the Tarvax in the fight against the wolves.

Glen charged his general on horseback into the Tarvax hoping to break the deadlock but was unfortunate not to do enough damage to swing the combat and he ended up fleeing back the way he came.

He then piled his Duguth into my Tarvox where their spears allowed them to get two ranks into combat and they started to whittle wounds off him.  One of his two big wolves came on and ambushed my Warlock, easily eliminating him in one combat.

At this point it was almost time to end the round so we decided to activate Glen’s general before we called it to see if he could rally. Unfortunately this went spectacularly wrong and he fled off the table.

The final result was a 15-5 win to me.

Tales From The Maul: Game 1

This past weekend saw the 10th and final Maul tournament in Sheffield, organised by erstwhile Mierce production manager Tim Fisher. Where this had previously been a Warhammer only affair, the death of WHFB and subsequent rebirth as Age of Sigmar has led to a multi system approach.

Early efforts to get 9th age off the ground were obviously way ahead of their time judging by the now rapturous repsponse to other 9th age tournaments, and Age of Sigmar and Darklands were left as the two battles being fought across the Daveys events hall (oh…and one humongous game of X-wing)

16 players signed up for Darklands and, despite a few drop outs and near misses and Tim having to fill in for two games, 16 people played in 40 games across the weekend.

Experience levels ranged from the game’s creator to one player who only played his first (half) game on the Friday night. Everyone seemed to approach the weekend as an opportunity to gain some experience playing the actual game and an understanding of the rules and tactical depth rather than a full on competitive event and I don’t think anyone was disappointed, well, the less said about Luke’s list the better.

Game 1: Liam Jordan – Fomoraic

Liam is a fellow beast player and his army was only really different to mine in one significant manner…it was much better. In Darklands feral troops are pretty hard to control, they have to move as far as they can towards an enemy each turn and this can lead to them sprinting off into charge range of something that can eat them for breakfast. Liam took a character riding a pig (Toracx) and used it to block the moves of some of his other frenzied troops, meaning he could keep them back until the time was right for them to go charging into the fray. He also had three times as many Gabrax warlocks as I did, which means three times as much of his time was spent blasting me clean off the table.

One of the most special aspects of Darklands is the deployment, you pick a deployment pattern from one of eight, depending on which edge and flank you control, and set up a command at a time in reverse authority order. The nature of these positioning fields means that it is entirely possible for your armies to overlap and start the game throwing themselves at each other.

Liam and I both picked corner deployments but I made the mistake of deploying in two separate groups, hoping to pull off some kind of pincer maneuver. Early on he moved his Tain on Toracx into the path of my Tarvox (huge four armed feral Minotaur-esque killing machine) in the hope of slowing him down. This proved to be exactly the wrong sort of turning point when I dutifully made the charge, spannered all my attacks and took an unexpected amount of damage in return. I’m not entirely sure what happened next, with us all still getting to grips with the mechanics I didn’t want to slow the games down any further by making notes. The crux of it though was that my Tarvox won the combat and proceeded to barrel straight through into one of Liam’s gabrax warlock’s who performed a ‘hold and invoke’ reaction and nuked my big beastie straight off the table. We later learned that not only should he not have been able to cast three spells as part of a charge reaction but he shouldn’t have had a charge reaction to make as you don’t get one against a breakthrough. We were all learning though, and neither of us spotted it, add in the fact that Liam had two other warlocks waiting on the wings to fry my big guy and I’m sure it made very little difference.

My own Gabrax Warlock ended up on one constitution trying to win me some gold back and I’m proud to say his head exploded while he was trying to recover rather than falling into enemy hands. After two years of Warhammer tournaments it’s reassuring to know that your wizard can still kill himself game 1.

After that Liam was able to take advantage of his magical superiority and bigger unit of monstrous infantry to mop up the remains of my army, and as soon as my general died my Gabrax unit fled off the table, compounding my problems.

Result: a deserved 20-0 to Liam who went on to nab second place.

How to Lose Games and Not Influence People: My Maul List

This weekend I submitted my list for my (everyone’s?) first Darklands tournament at the Maul. I’m approaching the whole event as a learning experience and a welcome opportunity to get 5 games in quick succession so I figure there’s no harm in sharing my list ahead of time as I’m likely headed for the spoon anyway.

I’m taking Formoraic, an army of Sea Devils intent on conquering the land, who control men and – more prominently – beasts in order to achieve their nefarious goals. The kindred is represented on the battlefield by all nature of beastmen and their larger more monstrous brethren.

List building in Darklands is not simply a question of totting up points and making sure you come in under total, there are far. More variables to consider, hence my current glacially slow attempts to teach myself swift in the vain hope of programming a bespoke list builder app.

In the world of Darklands the point system is represented by the amount of gold you have to muster your kindred. In the case of the Maul this is 1750g.  You then have to consider each units ubiquity (whether it is rare, common, mythic etc and hence how many you can take) and your command structure.

Each host is divided into commands, each one led by either your general or a commander. Commands are placed together on the battlefield during deployment and the combined authority of each unit in a command cannot exceed the authority of its commander so there are tactical decisions to be made surrounding what goes in each command.  Formoraic is also one of the most fully rounded out kindreds in Darklands, hence being one of the most well represented at the Maul.

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The painted portion of my list

General’s Command:
My kindred is led into battle by a Untain of Baalor mounted on an Ipracx (or bear to you and me)…/.  The warriors of Baalor are the human representatives within the Formoraic and an Untain is their Warlord level character. Mounting him on a bear may not be the best idea (he would probably be safer on foot inside a unit) but frankly having my general sat atop an armoured polar bear was too much for me to resist. I’ve also armed him with a soul axe, which does Soul Damage. The different damage types (fire, hellfire, soul, cold, venom, petrification, corruption etc) are one of my favourite parts of Darklands, they take effect on each roll of a 9 and have various effects but usually involve the victim having to pass an attribute test at the end of each hour (turn) or take further damage so this was 12 gold I couldn’t really pass up.

In my general’s command I’ve also included my Tarvox. It’s a raging four armed giant Minotaur like creature, it’s a quarter of the value of my whole list and it’s feral which means it is also frenzied and has to get stuck into the closest unit asap. This guy is my a-bomb and as such I’d like a degree of choice over where I point him. Deployment in Darklands is done one whole command at a time in reverse commander’s authority order, so by putting him in my general’s command most of my opponent’s deployment is likely to be complete before I have to put him on the table and I have more choice over exactly which point I want to shove him towards.

On a similar note the last unit in my general’s command is 3 Sronax.  These are hulking rhino men on 60mm bases and are pretty resilient. They are upwards of 100g each and can form units of up to 5, so as these guys are slightly under full strength I’ve opted to have them in my general’s command. Thinking about it now I may actually be able to deploy my general with this unit which would boost both of them, especially as the general and any unit with him has much more flexibility about when they can activate and what actions they choose to perform. I will test this out and see if it works!

Gabrax Tain’s Command

Gabrax are your bog standard goat-descended beastmen and Tain is the Formoraic’s warchief level character.  In a battle of this size you are compelled to take at least one mainstay unit, these are the most common units in any kindred but interestingly in the Formoraic (and I believe this is true in most kindreds) no units actually start off as mainstay.  Your commander will usually have a special rule that dictates that they make certain units mainstay and if one of these units is taken they must be taken in their command.

I don’t have any Warriors of Baalor (who my general makes mainstay) and as I needed to get this list together quickly for the tournament I had to work with as many models I already had as possible.  Taking a Gabrax Tain makes Gabrax mainstay and this meant I could use the unit from the metal age starter to satisfy my mainstay requirements and as a result they have to go in this guy’s command.

If a unit is taken to satisfy mainstay requirements, its minimum unit size changes to half its maximum size, which means this unit had to have at least 10 warriors. Gabrax hit a bit harder and run away a bit easier than their human counterparts but fit quite well into my ‘push it forward and hope’ list design, still the cost of them mounts up so I’ve stuck with a unit of just 10 and given them full command to bolster their chances of sticking around slightly.

Lastly in this command is a unit of three Tarvax. As the name suggests these are the Tarvox’s little brothers. Also Feral but considerably smaller and less scary, I’m not 100% sure of their role on the battlefield yet, although I think a bigger unit would be good for clearing out infantry.

Gabrax Warlock

Mere hours after I submitted my list I found out that these guys are supposed to be quite a handful and there may well be multiples of them floating around the Maul.  He’s a goat-wizard with three spells that all revolve around the snow and ice of the Formoraic’s territory and a couple of which are capable of causing cold damage and one of those also ignores armour. Now cold damage requires the recipient to pass a constitution test each turn, so against models with low skill, low constitution and high armour such as Skorpion’s, this is a godsend.

Taking that all into account it looks like I’ve been incredibly dumb putting him into a command all on his own. This means he won’t be able to join any units for protection from shooting and magic and in all likelihood I will be deploying him first every game, but it does mean I can deploy him outside of the command range of another commander, which I couldn’t if he was in their command.  We will see, hopefully I can use the bigger units to blog line of sight to him when I need to.

The Maul takes place the first weekend of November and I will endeavour to report back afterwards with tales of just how badly I get beaten and why.