Monday, 30 January 2017

Ritual of Rot: Nurgle Mortals vs Tzeentch Arcanites

In keeping with our incredibly strict 'follow the current releases' policy here at WoffBoot, we're celebrating Tzaanuary with a Disciples vs Nurgloids Age of Sigmar battle. Ready to disrupt the ritual?

My Potato's got Blight!
It's All-Skype Fight Night!

Four of the Allseer's eyes were closed, exploring the dream-realm of his master. Four more, he opened to survey the frost-covered ruins of the city before them. That fool Tzcharazang has been thwarted by a tide of green savages and, as a consequence, the Ark of Alternatives had been snatched away from him.

But his secret acolytes had been at work, and the hidden location was betrayed. It was in the hands of a mortal warband who worshipped the Lord of Rot, greatest rival of Zhi'anex's own master. Even now they were planning to enact the rites that would destroy the Ark and scatter its treasures into the Void.

With his ninth eye, Zhi'anex glimpsed at his own fate: he would stop this ritual, he would cleanse the pox-worshippers with flames, he would supplant Tzcharazang as the favoured disciple in the Realm.

He whispered a command to one of his Familiars, "Tell Garaxus to ready his beasts. Gather the Fatemasters. We attack without delay."


Nurgle Ritualists

Four bonfires burned in a crescent round the massive altar. Once the crowning glory of the shattered cathedral, it was now a roofless ruin, the interior thick with fallen snow and rubble. Sigmar had been worshipped here once, countless years ago, but the headless, blasted statue was an anonymous cipher now. Orcs had infested the ruins, but Croupest's warband had poisoned their water on arrival and murdered them as they lay ill.

The base of the altar was a water-stained, lead-locked lump. The Ark of Alternatives was somewhere inside, emprisoned after the priesthood found they couldn't smash or burn it.

"Fitting, no?" the sorcerer asked. "That we dechtroy it in shuch a plache." The cleft of Ouglios's lip ran up the side of his nose and almost as high as his eyes. Slobber rendered much of his musing incomprehensible, but Croupest had become accustomed to it over the years. 

"It is indeed, wizard," the mighty Lord of Plagues replied. "Nothing surer than ruin and death. All shall fall, all shall fail. This Ark, what alternatives can it have for inevitability? None." 

"Our mashter will blesh ush," the sorcerer said wetly. "Although othersh will shurely try to shtop ush."

"Set a watch," Croupest said. He gently placed his swollen hand on the back of his head, pulled and twisted. His switchback spine crackled and popped, sending shudders of pain through his legs. "They will come, but they will fail. Begin the ritual."

The sorcerer set a crumbling book on the ground before the statue and began chanting. The bonfires started sputtering, their fires turning yellowy-green. Croupest pulled his helm on and trudged away, his coughing and rickety minions falling into step behind him. 

  • Croupest the Scoliotic, Lord of Plagues - General, Favour of the Gods, All or Nothing
  • Ouglios Nas, Rotbringer Sorcerer
  • 5 x Putrid Blightkings - Sonorous Tocsin, Icon
  • 10 x Chaos Warriors (Nurgle) - Hand weapons and shields
  • 20 x Chaos Marauders (Nurgle) - Tribal Banner, Flails
  • 5 x Furies

Kraken and Stylus here; I, Kraken, shall be bold for the nonce. I'm also taking the side of the ritualists, attempting to destroy the Ark before the wretched Tzeentchians can get it back. 

Solid and sour is my watchword for the battle. Some screening troops, hopefully good for at least a turn or two of holding up the disruptive elements, and Marauders and Warriors ought to do for that.

A sorceror, because it seems silly to attempt a ritual without one, and some Blightkings as his bodyguard. Then a Lord of Plagues as general, because I painted one last year and haven't used him yet.

This leaves me with a few points spare. I'm aiming for 700, I have 40 left, and there's nothing in that price range in the new Chaos lists. So I take a flock of Furies, and then realise they might be fast enough and flying enough to potentially hurt one of those dreadfully unkillable Fatemasters. Plus I can throw them under the Tzeentchian wheels and summon new ones at the back!

Tzeentch Disruptors

  • Garaxus LonghornOgroid Thaumaturge - General, Spiteful Destroyer, Favour of the Gods
  • Zhi'anex the AllSeerGaunt Summoner - Familiars
  • Furoq ColdtwindFatemaster
  • Kassorian Entwine, Fatemaster
  • 10 x Tzaangor - Twistbray, Mutant, Icon Bearer, Brayhorn
  • 10 x Kairic Acolytes - Adept, Vulcharc, Scroll of Dark Arts
  • 10 x Kairic Acolytes - Adept, Vulcharc, Scroll of Dark Arts

I, Stylus (stylistically plain-font) will basically be fielding my Silver Tower set, with an increased number of infantry and a couple of disc jockeys thrown in. It makes for quite a nice force for 1,000pts. The Tzaangor look like solid combat troops; the Acolytes have ranged options; two wizards, including the Ogroid who looks quite handy in combat, and the discs for some mobile troubleshooting.

And of course, my new faction ability: the Destiny Dice. I'm really looking forward to these, and can swap them out for any of the basic dice results during the game (sadly not applicable for the priority roll, which I never win; or Kraken's roll for the ritual, which would have totally used up all my 1s)

Don't use them all at once.

Nothing terribly complicated for my plan, other than charge up the field as soon as possible and smash the ritual. The Tzaangor will take point, backed up by the missile fire from the Acolytes. I have a number of anti-wizard shenanigans, so I'll try and knock off any ritual-boosting models as soon as possible.

Battlefield and Deployment

Here's the field. The actual spur for this fight was to give me a chance to use my newly painted Ophidian Archway, so that went in, along with my classic Dreadstone Blight, featured in every battle I've ever hosted. 

The right side is the Ritual side, with the large statue at the back as the objective. Around it is a vaguely cathedral-shaped line of ruins with the Arch as the front door. It's got so much snow on it, it's barely visible against the mat, amazingly. Dreadstone Blight up the top, although I punted into the Disrupter's set-up. Both are played with their official rules. The other stuff is just window dressing. 

We stuck to the Ritual's setup rules, and with Stylus placing first, here's what we got:

Turn 1 - Nurgle

The Cathedral's broken doors gaped like the cavities of an eviscerated corpse. Ominous shadows crept round the open archway. Plenty of of places to hide, Croupest thought, and his minions were making the most of them. Wait until the enemy got close, then pounce. Idiot birdmen, their bright eyes would be too fixed on their prize to expect the trap. 

There they were, advancing in a garish line, straight for the cathedral's entrance. Croupest nodded quietly to himself. This would work. 

Inside the cathedral, Ouglios rang a cracked bell and chanted passages from his book. One of the bonfires behind him collapsed in on itself, the life of the fire suddenly damped and gone. The ritual was a quarter done. 

From the roof of the cathedral, mouldering shapes took wing. A flock of minor demons, bound to Ouglios's service, and ready to assault the disc-riding champions of the enemy.

Turn 1 - Tzeentch

Garaxus pawed at the ground. The enemy had made their move, but had been too cowardly to come within range of their spells. Now the Disciples would have their say. 

Zhi'anex opened proceedings with an Arcane Bolt that had three of the encroaching Furies fluttering to the ground like burnt moths.

At that signal, the Tzaangors bounded forward with a bellowing screech, swarming over the mystical ruins where the mortals cowered. Fatemaster Kassorian also swept into the flank of the Ophidian Archway.

The two chapters of Kairic Acolytles advanced alongside their masters, flinging out sorcerous blasts into the ruins. Driven from their hiding places, the mortals were swiftly hewn down by the Tzaangor blades. The remaining few were torn apart by the Fatemaster until only one mortal was left standing.

Turn 2 - Nurgle

The speed and fury of the tzaangors left Croupest astonished. How did they move like that? Leaping headlong over the broken ground, throwing themselves between the blades of his men as though they knew in advance what was coming? 

An impossibility. An outrage. Dragging his ragged axe along the floor, he broke into a run. 

The bannerman was all that remained of the warband's dregs. The rest had died or fled already. Dressed in a deer skull, he kept the pack of eagle-faced freaks at bay with powerful sweeps of the pole. Croupest threw himself past the man, swinging his vile axe at the shimmering demon rider by the wall. 

He sheared the disc in half. The meat sizzled and flashed, searing itself back together in a crude, warped join. The rider on the disc lanced back with his eye-burning spear and drove it clear through Croupest's shoulder, tearing it free in a horrible gout of ichor. 

Then the beastmen were everywhere, chopping and crowing. Croupest saw the bannerman fall and knew he wouldn't be far behind. A seething roil of coloured fire blazed in through the arch of the cathedral, and he fell to his knees as it engulfed him. 

But in the heart of the cathedral, a second bonfire spat and went black. Something flopped bonelessly in the hot ash, gibbering as it sizzled. 

The ritual was half complete. Ouglios rang his broken bell again, and a second flock of furies swooped down to his side. Tzeentch would lose today, he would see to it. 

Turn 2 - Tzeentch

Zhi'anex's many brows furrowed in concern. The pox-worshippers were falling back before the fury of his disciples, but he could sense that their Ritual was more than half complete. Time was pressing and victory in arms would mean nothing if the Ark was defiled.

While he pondered such thoughts, he detached the last of the Furies with a wave of his staff.

Urged onwards by Garaxus Longhorn, the warband ran down the frosted streets, desperately trying to close the distance with the Nurgle ritualists.

Always first to the fray, the Tzaangors charged into the defensive position of Chaos Warriors. However, these proved a more formidable challenge than the Marauders and both sides held on for but a handful of losses.

In case it gets dull, he brought a book along.

All except for Fatemaster Furoq Coldwind, who spied both an opening in the Nurgle forces, and a chance for glory in the eyes of his god. He swooped his Disc over the astonished heads of the Blightkings, and landed to deal a crushing blow to the Nurgle Sorcerer.

Turn 3 - Nurgle

Oulios screamed the words from his book. His bodyguard was all round him, their portly frames belying the speed and vigour they fought with. But they looked like statues compared to the speed and grace of the disc-riding champion. None of their notched weapons connected, the Fatemaster slipped past, round and over them effortlessly.

The remainder of the warband, the heavily armoured warriors, trooped towards the central nave, ready to intercept the Tzaangor charge already mustering there. They seemed slow, ponderous, especially to Ouglios in his desperation. Not that he had time to chivvy them on. No, his concentration was equally split between maintaining the ritual and his life.

A second's pause, a tiny hesitation in the chant. The Fatemaster's firey spear flicked out from an impossible angle, ripped into the sorcerer's cleft palate and tore it asunder. The bladed impetus of the disc tore the remains of the man's head off completely. It bounced off the huge, featureless statue on the altar and landed in the third bonfire. 

Which went out in a cloud of acrid brown steam. The ritual was three-quarters done.

Turn 3 - Tzeentch

Garaxus could see the Nurgle forces wavering, but knew their sacrifice would be rewarded if the ritual were complete. With a bellow of frustration, he aimed his Thaumaturge Staff at the Chaos Warriors, immolating one and scorching another. From the smoking ashes sprang three Pink Horrors, who added insult to injury by flinging their own arcane bolts into the crowd and bringing down another warrior.

With the power of destiny behind him, the Ogroid charged forward at the newly-summoned Furies, crossing the distance with improbable speed and tearing down the creatures before him.

The Kairic Acolytes were now close enough to throw their own flaming bolts at the enemy and their blasts made havoc among the surviving Warriors and even brought down one of the mighty Blightkings.

The remaining Tzaangor ripped through the last of the Chaos Warriors, while Fatemaster Furoq continued to flit maddeningly above the putrescent heads of the Blightkings.

Turn 4 - Nurgle

The Ritual! The nearest Blightking grabbed at the book, blinked sepsis out his eye and guessed at the pronunciation. He probably couldn't do worse than the sorcerer and his gammy face.

Behind him, birdshrieks and ringing steel echoed through the cathedral. The blazing horror of the Fatemaster still hissed overhead, although he was now leaving a trail of blood behind him. Slowly, the dull blades of the Blightkings were doing their job. 

Too slowly. Only two of the warriors were left, encircled by beastmen and demons. The huge horned wizard-beast that led this enemy warband was hooting triumph on a pile of smashed furies. 

The Blightking spat out the last phrase, then coughed something grey into the book for good measure. 

The final fire flickered...

...then blazed up anew, blue and white sparks bursting in its depths. Trickery! Or perhaps, the Blightking wondered, one needed a sorcerer's cleft palate to enunciate the rotting words of Nurgle after all.

Turn 4 - Tzeentch

Zhi'anex allowed himself a thin smile. The ritual had stalled at a critical moment, and now his forces were poised to converge. Led once again by the mighty charge of Garaxus, the last of the Blightkings fell beneath a torrent of magical fire, blades and blood-soaked beaks.

The Ark of Alternatives was once again possessed by the Changer of Ways!

Result: Major Victory to the Tzeentch Disruptors!

The Gaunt Summoner watched as the Tzaangor tore into the rotting corpses with carrion beaks. They had fought hard, these most favoured of beastmen, and deserved their spoil. Around the hem of his robes, his familiars were frolicking and chittering with celebration. One of them had dragged loose the helm of a Blightking and was using it for sport. Zhi'anex would allow his pets their fun, unwise though it might be to mock the Lord of Flies. They had won a victory, but in less substantive dimensions, he could feel the rumblings of gods. Papa Nurgle was displeased.

Garaxus staggered down the blood-wet steps, the Ark of Alternatives carried in his arms. Even his titanic strength was being tested by the weight of the casket, though its true weight not in this realm. The Ogroid had proved himself a mighty war-leader, and Zhi'anex reminded himself to keep at a  few of his eyes on the faithful Thaumaturge, lest his placid loyalty prove to be a mask for a greater ambition.

The Acolytes had already melted away into the city, off to resume their secret positions and await instruction. The Fatemasters were still soaring above the field on their discs. Fatemaster Furoq seemed especially pleased with himself, at both slaying the enemy sorcerer and the ritual guards. Zhi'anex had already been weaving threads to check the power of that particular champion, and maybe the time to ripe draw them tight. Perhaps this arrogant Fatemaster could be given as offering to appease the Great Corrupter.

Zhi'anex closed most of his eyes and set them upon the future. Fate did not sit still for present triumphs, and events were once again in flux. Change was all.

Arcane Vault of Secrets Locker Room


I knew my crapulent soldiers weren't going to stand the charge of a larger, better army. Spreading myself thin and trying to delay them was all I needed, and it damn near worked...

(Best moment of the game was when my phone ran out of battery just as I rolled the game-deciding dice for the Ritual on my fourth turn, imposing a chilling suspense on Stylus for the five minutes I needed to find a charger, plug in, sign back on and tell him I'd rolled a one)

...but it felt embarrassing not to have left more than a small damp spot on my foe's escutcheon. Seriously, I killed three Tzaangor and nothing else. Bloody Disclords remain nearly unkillable in AoS, and normally I'd be nodding wisely in agreement with this. Staunch Tzeentchian, me, always have been. Nothing like a well-turned table to make you see the error of your ways!

The Blightkings probably shouldn't have tried to take him on, really, although there wasn't much else for it. Their combat output is enormous, they'd have made a mess of the Tzaangors in all probability, but I guess we'll see about that another day!

Well, that's me sold on the Changer of Ways - I'll take one of everything! Despite the comprehensive tabling by my force (who did start off with a big advantage in points), this was a very close-run thing and came down, in the best tradition of these games, to the final dice roll.

I don't think I'd appreciated how much ground my guys had to cross to get to the ritual site, nor how slow going it might be. My main concern was not getting beaten, but just getting bogged down in combat. Despite never winning a priority roll, I was secretly thrilled when Kraken chose to go first in Turn 2. If I'd had to go first, I would have spent a whole turn killing that one surviving Marauder, and been stuck at the Ophidian Archway. As it was, I could clear the path in my turn and continue to steamroller downfield with my Tzaangor.

And I did enjoy those Tzaangor - not only is that run+charge ability really useful when you need to get somewhere fast, but when they get there, they can really deal some damage. I was careful to keep them topped up with Inspiring Presence and Mystic Shields, but they make on helluva forward assault. So does the Ogroid, for that matter - and the ability to turn dead enemies into Horrors is just one of those nicely annoying spells that you'd expect from Tzeentch.

The Fatemasters gave me some useful mobility (I guess I could have made one of them the general and just zoomed them over to smash the statue - but that would have been dirty pool, even for a sneaky Tzeentch warband), but I don't think they're as invulnerable as their 8th Ed counterparts. Kraken just got unlucky that they fought in the most ideally-suited combats (and got lucky dice) - if they'd had mortal wounds, or missile fire, or furies thrown at them, they'd not have lasted as long on their discs.

Speaking of lucky dice - a last word for the Destiny Dice - I love them! (and who wouldn't). You can either eliminate an unlucky roll, or give yourself a timely piece of fortune. The two instances I used that stick out were: ramping up the mortal wounds on the Nurgle Sorcerer, and ensuring the Ogroid made his crucial charge to the ritual site. Either one could have cost me the game.

So a fine game, and a great debut for the Tzeentch Disciples. I really will have to expand my Silver Tower collection now. Just as planned...

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