Friday, 17 June 2016

Extreme Dwarven Makeover - III

Chaos. The big end game threat in the campaign.

Northmen? Check. Snowstorm? Check. Five bloated novels and no sign of any plot threads being tied up? Check.
It's official, Winter is Coomin. 

Bring it.

The Big Bad

Chaos have been around for a while in the campaign at this point. It's just that I'm so far south, it's taken them a while to reach me. The first I see of them is when Archaon hits the Northern World's Edge Mountains with a huge army and levels the two holds up there without apparent effort.

My victory conditions, which I'm keeping an eye on as the campaign rolls towards 150 turns, are pretty simple. I must have conquered or allied with pretty much every Dwarven Hold on the map, including the extremely far northern Kraka Drak up on the edge of the Chaos wastes. I must have eliminated the Greenskins as a faction (check). And I must have no outstanding grudges.

Well, by razing those holds, Archaon is begrudged and asking for it. My armies need a bit of RnR after all those zombies, though, so I sit back and do what the dwarves do best. Which is sit inside their halls, nurse their grudges and invent gyrocopters.

Gyrocopters take a very long time to produce in the game. First, you need to build the top tier of buildings in a hold, which takes ages. Then you have to upgrade those buildings. And then the copters take several turns to actually build. I need them, though - the dwarves have nothing at all to deal with enemy artillery. No flankers, no fast units, nothing to nip round the back and kill the crews.

Hellcannons, of which the Chaos armies are inordinately fond, are horribly inaccurate. This is less of a problem to them when shooting at a static dwarven line, however, and they can pile up the kills very fast if you sit and let them. Or walk slowly towards them, relying on your beard for cover.

Yeah, that'll leave a dent.

'Copters and bombers aren't that good as units overall. They're fairly weak in terms of damage output, they get killed by most other flyers in a fight, but they are fast and can more or less ignore the enemy on the way over. A strike force to deal with enemy cannons is a really big boon to the poor old footslogging dwarves.

Sadly, by the time I'm even able to build them, Siggie the Magnificent is strolling down Blackfire Pass, flipping his hair and striking muscle poses.

End of the End

You know what? The game gets the adaptation of the tabletop spot on. The End Times are a massive anticlimax.

Chaos has a special mechanic, just as all the races do - it's a horde faction. This means they don't do cities at all. Instead, their armies are also their cities, able to recruit units in the field. Their sole source of income is raiding and sacking. This makes total sense for the faction, but it makes them the very devil to play. If you lose a fight, you don't lose just the soldiers. You also lose the means of making more. And if you hang about too long building or recruiting stuff, you end up going into the red because the upkeep on your armies isn't being paid.

By the time they've reached Black Fire Pass, Chaos are already on the brink of defeat. Their armies are tattered, wan things, full of half-depleted units and heroes on the verge of death. Archaon, after ravaging the north, vanishes without trace. I think the Vampires eat him, but I don't see it happen.

Sigvald the Magnificent? Nope, Sigvald the Fivepercenthealthbarleft. He and his army do at least put a good dent in whatever force it was that I sent to beat them back. This is mostly because they have heavily armoured elite melee troops just like mine, but back them up with heavily armoured elite cavalry and monsters, which run round the back and eat all your shooters. If he'd turned up in good nick, we'd have been trounced.

Hot on his heels, however, is another chaos stack, this time much bigger with a healthier general.

Who happens to be a Lord of Change.

Not that he's any less of a damp squig squib either, in the event. He favours melee, for a start, and doesn't seem to cast Bolt of Change as often as I'd expect. A pair of dwarven heroes (well, a lord and a hero, not even legendary ones) are enough to beat him up. His army is mostly marauders and horsemen, and they just fall to bits under a prolongued hail of lead from the Thunderers, the poor gormless fools.


Bar shouting, that's it.

To the north, the Vamps still have enclaves. Systematically, I wipe out any remaining grudges with them by razing each infected city I find. It feels appropriately dwarven to do this. A little extreme, perhaps, but very thorough. Behind me, my Border Prince allies resettle the land and peace flourishes.

Further north, Skaeling and Varg tribes are ripping up Kislev. But what can armies of marauders and horsemen, even if backed by trolls, hope to achieve against my experienced throngs of beard and plate? Get squashed, that's what.

By the time we reach Kraka Drak, there really isn't much that's going to stop us. My economy is terrifying, I'm making about 20000 gold a turn and could easily recruit several more armies if I needed them.

Two little niggles remain.

The first is Tilea, unexpectedly. They've risen to be quite the power in the southwest, somehow, and have even crossed the mountains to take Nuln. In the process, they've razed two of my holds in the Grey Mountains, a place I wasn't expecting to have to defend. Before I properly muster a defence, though, my new military ally Bretonnia comes and crushes the Tileans entirely. Go Team Peace.

The final one is the Book of Grudges, the great Damaz Kron. Only one grudge remains, now that Kraka Drak is once more a bustling citadel.

What? Steal a pudding? From the only remaining dwarven faction who aren't already confederated with me? Probably causing a big grudge war and prolonging everything for ages? Well, okay, the book knows best.

It's a runelord who does it in the end, breaking in, pinching the pud and lynching some guardsmen who get in his way. It does annoy Karak Ziflin quite a lot, but I pay them tons of gold to make up for it so they don't kick off. It's the money I just got for completing the quest. I probably should have just bought the pudding off them, really.

That's game.

Flip the Tables

One footnote - the High King hasn't really needed to fight for a while, he's been strolling across the map completing his quest battles instead. By the time I've won the long campaign, there's just one left to do. I can't now actually remember which one it was, I think the actual Book of Grudges as a magical item? Whichever one it is, it involves sending an army up to Troll Country. I'm doing it for the full house. My insane completionism will nag me otherwise.

We fight Trolls, of course. And some giants. And three orc warbosses.

I didn't quite expect this - my army is (as is pretty standard for my armies by this point) a meaty line of Longbeards and Ironbreakers with substantial missile backup, some flame cannons, a gyrobomber and copters and some Irondrakes. Trollslayers, I have a single unit of. Against anything like a normal army, this would be fine.

That red skull and crossbones used to be an orc warboss. It is a good sign.

The trolls and giants come in waves from all sides. I see the first one off. Thorgrim does for one orc warboss, then another, then has to go and help kill a giant who has hit a flank, and then somehow there's two more giants practising their golf swings up and down the line. The trolls won't die, they keep breaking, running off, and coming back regenerated to vomit all over everything.

By the time the fifth wave arrives, we're not really a viable fighting force anymore. We're some puke-soaked dregs knee-deep in our own dead. Not the copters, they're flitting about above us entirely unharmed, but they are definitely having second thoughts about sticking about, their leadership is looking very dicey. (Ld works more like an alternative health bar in this game, rather than the pass-or-fail stat in the tabletop version.)

Two is too many giants.

It seems a fitting end, somehow - I've conquered the south, reunited the holds and seen off Chaos. What more fitting finale for a Dwarf King than to perish under the club of a giant, hunting legendary treasures in the far North?

That yellow skull and crossbones used to be High King Thorgrim Grudgebearer. It is a bad sign.

Besides, it's me. The experience of Warhammer wouldn't be complete unless I got tabled by some kind of hideous min-maxed army. Kas, if you're out there, this one was for you.

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