Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Empire in Flames

Well, I took the only advice to hand and started up a campaign as one of the Empire states.
Lots of excellent detail in this mod, even on the loading screens.

I decided to play as Ostland. Four small provinces on the eastern fringes of the Empire, along the Kislev border. My capitol is Wolfenburg, I've got a pair of castles (Lenster and Bosenfels), I'm led by Count Valmir and his family.

I'm informed of my background fluff as I chose. Ostland has good all-round armies,
but their heavy infantry isn't much compared to other, non-human factions.
The mechanics for the game are fairly simple - each province has a main city. Capture it and you hold the province, gaining the income from whatever is built in the city and allowing you to recruit troops there too. Who you can recruit depends on what buildings you've got too, so in Wolfenburg (which starts off very well-developed) I've got a temple of Morr that allows me to train the Black Guard of Morr, for example. Castles don't create as much money but can train troops faster. You can still hold a castle even if you've lost the rest of the province, and your oppressor can't get money from it until he's ousted you. So cities are the core tax earner, castles are military defenders, in short.

Here's home - snowy and wintery right now, but green and woody later. 
I'm already allied with the rest of the Empire, Kislev and the High Elf Expedition, unexpectedly. Other than shrewd guesses, though, I don't know much about what my allies have or even where they are. The map is kept dark, beneath the fog of war, which is only lifted by the sight of my units.

I've got a decent army, mostly halberds and crossbows, but with some meaty Knights of the Bull bodyguards for any characters. And a couple of specials, like some elite handgunners or a unit of pistoliers. I've got one diplomat, who's my only way of communicating with other factions, one spy (excellent line of sight and can open gates from the inside for sieges), a couple of merchants who can trade resources from the map and a pair of Sigmarite priests, who can stamp out corruption and keep the peasants loyal.
Great! Swords!
Everything's pretty peaceful to start with. All I know is that a huge swarm of chaos units is going to turn up at some point and spoil everything. The best hope I've got is to consolidate my holdings, take out any nearby rebels or cultist settlements, and prepare for the worst. To win, all I need to do is hang on to these four provinces plus two other nearby ones for 40 turns. Simple!

Proper banners and colours for Ostland, apparently. Stirring stuff. 
I get off to an excellent start. The nearby town of Beastman Temple is a quick march for all my armies, so I muster the troops and attack. The beastmen meet me on the snowy fields outside the town, and get wiped out. The halberd lines hold their ungors and bestigors in place long enough that the generals can charge their hefty knights down a hill and into their beasty backs. Mutant jam ensues.

Charging downhill adds extra impetus. This is a tall hill, it adds lots. 
I'm given the option of what to do with our captives. I can ransom them back for cash, release them in a display of mercy or slaughter them all. Release the mutants? Not likely. I kill the lot, and get a message telling me my general has gained some new traits - he's Merciless, raising his Dread characteristic. This means enemy armies take a morale penalty when he fights them. Excellent. I'll do that more often.

Okay boys, now you can release them. 

Not only do I vastly outnumber the occupants, but the friendly Kislevites send a large force to help out. We wait a few months to build proper rams, so that the timber gates and walls of Beastman Temple won't slow us down, then assault in force.

Towns are horrible deathtraps for attacking armies. It's well worth making multiple breaches before heading in, so the defenders can't concentrate on you one at a time. 
It goes well - the beastmen are driven back to the central town square and slaughtered. I take more casualties from the Kislevite Ice Mages than the beastmen, in fact. The idiots start pounding the square with ice storms moments before we win, but they were trying to help. No point starting an extra war just yet.

Friendly fire.
Beastman Temple immediately changes its name to Smallhof, now that we've liberated it. Leaving the wounded units to rest and guard, everyone else heads south. Here, my local councilmen have asked that I conquer a rebel settlement. If I do, they'll reward me with some of the best units available, which sounds good. But when I arrive, Kislev is already besieging it. I join in, hoping that I can leave all the tough fighting to them and nick the city during the fight (which usually happens if you've got the most troops in the town square at the end).

Thanks, you tossers. 

This backfires - the beasts put all their defence against me, and Kislev's Red Bear flies over the city when the dust settles. Maybe I should start that war after all. In fact, I'll have to if I want to win, as this town is one of the ones I need for victory.

But the Kislevites outnumber me here, and besides, they're a handy buffer against the Chaos Wastes. I go and conquer another Beastman Temple (turns out to be called Ertburg), then try and consolidate.

I've taken a few lumps in all this fighting, so the main army heads for home to recruit noobs and patch up the battered. I start the settlements building an array of impressive new options with my hard-won gold. An artillery school in Wolfenburg, so I can get cannons, and a bunch of improved farms and markets for the rest, so I've got a good financial backing.

I also send merchants off to try and get gold map resources. The most valuable one nearby is...
Knew I should have brought a warband with me. 
Warpstone! But Reiklander and Averlander merchants already have control of these. My chap does his best to finagle them out of the way, but the crafty heartlanders are too shrewd. Instead, my bloke has all his assets seized, and vanishes from the map.

Meanwhile, I've sent spies, ships and diplomats North, to see if I can get intelligence on what's coming. Kurt Helborn, my diplomat, doesn't see all that much (his line of sight is awful). But his diaries must be interesting, as he treads the trackless wastes beyond Kislev seeking people to start diplomatic conversations with. Behind him comes my spy, who spots a hoard of black orcs and hobgoblins, led by chaos dwarves, heading into Kislev. But there's nothing he can do about them. All the same, it's nice to see the accuracy of the battlemap, and spot familiar places out in the wilds.

I've been here. Sort of. 
Various reports trickle in - the Emperor sends me some handgunners from Nuln, rather generously. Rumours of beastmen mustering in the woods, hearsay that the warriors of Slaanesh have allied themselves to the Druchii.
I get to watch a High Elf force get pushed back by these Tzeentchians in the far north.
And then, before I can do much mustering or bolstering, in fact before my current raft of building is even done, a vast army of Beastmen led by one Kazrak Nightbringer erupt from the nearby woods and make a beeline right for Wolfenburg.

I almost try and fight them in the open, but they've got over three times the numbers I do, plus two packs of Minotaurs. Minotaurs are incredibly lethal, a pack of ten of them can easily rip through two or three units of 75 Halberds. The forums call this gross imbalance; I call it a challenge. One I intend to face from behind the high stone walls of my capitol, but a challenge all the same.

How many?
When the fight starts, I realise I'm doomed. I don't have the missile troops to stave off a bunch of Bestigors in siege towers - that cannon never finished building, and I can't put my uber-hard knights on the walls. Plus my foe is at two gates at once, so I'm going to have to split the defence.

Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Film.
There's still a chance - if I can smash all the siege equipment of one force, it'll be forced to trek all the way round the walls to enter their allies' breach. That way, I can probably break one lot on the way in, then take a breather, and try and finish off the rest. The city streets make excellent choke points, so his numbers won't count too highly against me.

The Nuln Engineers do sterling work, bringing down a pack of Ungors before their ram can reach the gates. But they still get towers and ladders against the walls, and worse, the south gate goes down to a ram.

Leaving an honour guard of light troops to tie up the invading beastmen, I rally the knights and halberds in the town square. As the first wave of beastmen rush in, the halberds from a deadly box around them, penning them up at the entrance to the square. I can charge my knights in and out at the corners of this, using the impact hits to great effect.
The Black Guard are an impressive-looking lot. 
Kazrak Nightbringer dies, run down by the Black Guard. His forces turn and flee, hacked apart almost to the last goat.

Alas, there's still another army coming in from the north. My light troops have inflicted reasonable casualties against the foe, but have inevitably been overrun. I've just managed to get the Nuln engineers away in time, and line them up along the edges of the square.

Worse, I've got no halberds left, just a single unit of battered Greatswords, some arrow-less archers and the now rather weary cavalry squads. I line this vestigial force up anyway, so that the gunners can fire into the sides of whatever the greatswords fight. The cavalry can charge into anything that makes it past. Or through.

Except that the cunning Beastman has been sending about half his remaining troops through the darkened streets of Wolfenburg. Even as the engineers line up their long rifles for a first volley, they get hit in the back by a full hoard of Minotaurs. The Greatswords perish in a huge wave of Bestigors, my cavalry take terrible losses from vast packs of spear-armed ungors, and, well, that's it, really. Count Valdir dies alone, killing anything his runefang can reach, but still dying.

[I did take video clips of this, but I can't upload them, I keep getting error messages. 
Let's just say it's too horrible to watch and leave it at that.]
I've lost my capitol, most of my generals, the vast majority of my tax revenue and pretty much any chance of winning this game.

Luckily, it chooses this moment to crash. 'Chaos has overwhelmed us!' the mod makers have changed the error message to read, 'Closing the gates to preserve our souls.'

Well, quite.

That's re-enactment for you, I suppose - Ostland goes down first in a wave of mutants, paving the way for Archaon later. Great mod, very accurate and much less crashy than it used to be. A few rough edges, but not so you'd mind. But I can put it aside again, with the late breaking news that I've won a cheap Shaggoth on Ebay.

1 comment:

  1. Yep, looks like my suggested puny humans performed about as well as they did in the Mark of Chaos trailer.

    Nice to follow a strategy game vicariously, instead of playing one myself and risk regaining consciousness at the computer at 3am, nursing sore eyes and the nagging sense that I only switched on to check my emails.