Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Remember the Tzaalamo: Tzeentch Mortals vs Slaves to Darkness

Warlock reared up his steed, the creature's dread hooves flailing high in the air, summoning his horsemen around him. Those seven heroes had pursued his coven ever since they had taken custody of the Ark of Alternatives. Now they blundered into his trap and the Disciples of Tzeentch would sink in their talons.

They were great warriors, in their way. Each a mighty champion of the ruinous powers, their weapons soaked red. But against the inscrutable machinations of the Great Architect, they were lost sheep. And sheep, Warlock thought, were born to be sheared. 

Civil war? Not quite -
It's All-Skype Fight Night!

Continuing our Ark of Alternatives campaign, our next fight sees me, Kraken, as the forces of chaos. A small, select squad of infamous Slaves to Darkness, known names across the realms, has mustered to try and destroy the Ark before it can be opened. Can the Tzeentch Arcanists gathered under Stylus's banners (that's me, in bold) see me off?

We're using the Ambush rules from the original Age of Sigmar scenarios. My invading force of heroes has walked into a trap, and the all-cavalry Tzeentchians have me surrounded and outnumbered. Tzeentch has the first turn, although we're both so surprised that nobody can move in the first two turns, and you can either shoot or charge but not both until we get over the shock.


Maleficent Seven - Slaves to Darkness

Maelboge Axegod, Chaos Lord on Daemonic Steed - General, Chaos Runeblade, Cunning Deceiver, Counterattack!
Adora Writhegrope, Daemon Prince of Slaanesh - Daemonic Sword
Kelvoran the Breaker, Exalted Deathbringer - Axe and Shield
Jett Bleed, Slaughterpriest - Hackblade and Meteor Hammer 
Brexegalph Ononeironos, Fatemaster
Bloab Rotspawn, Maggoth Rider
Slambo, Slambo

As an alliance of Chaos all-stars, I wanted something from everyone in this list. At least one from all the main gods, so my new Exalted Deathbringer for Khorne, the trusty Fatemaster for Tzeentch and Nurgle's freshly painted Maggoth Rider while it's still in my cupboard. 

Slambo also needed to come and play, although I don't really think it's the best time for him. I need star quality in this match, as I'm going to be horribly outnumbered. I think the Slammer is probably best against large numbers of crappy troops or poorly armoured enemy heroes, neither of which Stylus is likely to field. 

I haven't used the Slaughterpriest yet, so he's in, and the Chaos Lord on Daemonic Steed is a solid pick, able to dish out damage but also well protected. So I just needed something for Slaanesh, and a what better than the ultra-fast Daemon Prince? No specific model, though, and although I went with the Reaper model above in the end, I did consider this oldie for a while. 

Denied again.

Calvera's Changehost - Mortals of Tzeentch

  • E'ly Warlock, Chaos Lord On Daemonic Mount, Nexus of Fate, Nexus Staff, Coordinated Attack
  • Two-Ko the Reprise, Chaos Sorcerer Lord, Runestaff, Steed, Mark of Tzeentch 
  • 5 x Chaos Knights, Chaos Glaives, Mark of Tzeentch
  • 10 x Chaos Marauder Horsemen, Javelin & Shield, Mark of Tzeentch
  • 5 x Chaos Marauder Horsemen, Javelin & Shield, Mark of Tzeentch
  • 1 x Chaos Chariot, Greatblades, Mark of Tzeentch
  • 1 x Chaos Gorebeast Chariot, Mark of Tzeentch
Once we'd decided to homage The Magnificent Seven/Samurai, and with me assigned the bad guys, I knew I'd be going all-cavalry. After that, the list writes itself.

I get to proxy the horse-Archaon (still my favourite Archaon) as the Chaos Lord to lead the charge. Actually, I wanted him to hang back and coordinate things for a while, but when he gets stuck in, I gave him one of the new Tzeentch toys to play with: a Nexus Staff that explodes energy when it slays a hero (handy against an all-hero army). He also gets the Nexus of Fate ability to make my Destiny Dice a little more effective (as if they aren't already).

As his troupe of banditos: a mounted Sorcerer for buffs (he also got a Tzeentch spell that I forgot to use, so haven't bothered to record it); and some Chaos Knights as my shock troops (I have a worrying lack of rend or mortal wound output in the army, so I'm counting on their charge to help me out).

I also reckon the seven heroes would be most vulnerable to missile fire, so I took a full compliment of javelin Marauder Horsemen, split into 10 and 5 respectively, I was hoping these guys would ride circles around the wagons, shooting all the way.

To complete the set: a couple of chariots. I don't have great hopes for their damage potential, but they have enough wounds and a save to crunch into one of the big boys and tie him up for a few turns.

Terrain and Deployment

My team gets to set up in a cover-free box on the north side. My foes lurk anywhere else on the board as long as they're not within 9", so the temptation is to spread out and try and keep him back. 

But I only have seven models, and they're going to need to back each other up or I'll get steamrollered. So I take a (all together now) denied flank approach, and hug the front left corner of my deployment area.

Being Team Ambush, surrounding them seems a good way to go. Since I can't move and charge in my first turn, I'm unlikely to hit with everything, although that suits me, as I want to keep the fragile Marauders at javelin's-reach, and keep the Chaos Knights as a second wave.

The two Chariots get the job of kicking down the door, so they get placed as close as possible to charge (the Chaos Lord has a command ability to help their chances, so he observed from a nearby Ophidian Archway). The smaller unit of Horsemen go on the exra flank, ready to harass the Maggoth.

On the further flank, the Sorcerer leads the Knights and larger unit of Horsemen. They'll have further to travel, but will hopefully avoid early attention from the heroes.

The Maggoth Lord and Daemon Prince are my principal concerns, so I'd want to knock out at least one of them as soon as possible, then try to pick off the smaller champions with missile/magic before crashing in to finish things.

Turn 1 - Tzeentch Mortals


Obedient to his command, Warlock's chariots lurched forward, both Gorebeast and Chaos Steeds straining under the lash. Eager for glory, the charioteers aimed for the greatest target - the Slaaneshi Daemon Prince - and crashed into their foe.

But before either could act, the Daemon Prince stuck first, hacking away great chunks from the slavering Gorebeast. The charioteers answered with a number of telling blows that cut deep into the ebon skin.

Unable to resist the smell of blood, the Exalted Deathbringer charged into the fray, his own axe adding to the Gorebeast's wounds.

Elsewhere, the rest of the Tzeentchians held back, content to let the reckless charioteers take the brunt of the counterattack. The smaller troop of Marauder Horsemen managed to sting the Maggoth Lord with a lucky javelin throw, but then ducked back into cover before he could see who threw it.

Turn 1 - Chaos Slaves

Faster than the eye could follow, the mighty Daemon Prince's axe flicked out again and again. slashing away at the armoured Gorebeast. It seemed as though the charioteers stood still, shocked by the sheer speed of the Slaaneshi daemon as it sheered through first draft beast then riders, then crushed the shell of the chariot under its dancing hooves. 

The second chariot careened into the towering creature, smashing it to the ground. Too many foes, not enough room to dance.

But even as the Daemon Prince fell, the chaos lord who led this band of legends charged home, backing the play of his Fatelord and Deathbringer. With them lumbered the infamous Slambo, his twin axes ready for the fray. Surely the remaining chariot couldn't hold against their combined might for long?

But not all the heroes were so quick to act. Bloab squatted on his monsterous steed, which baulked and puked in alarm at the ambush. And the Slaughterpriest merely knelt, slicing his own skin gently as he intoned the beginning of a long psalm to Khorne...

Turn 2 - Tzeentch Mortals

Warlock smiled at the unfolding of his scheme. The chariots had drawn out the heroes, now his warband would tear them apart.

With the Daemon Prince banished, he commanded that all forces should focus their attention on their next target: the Maggoth Lord. Then, without further pause, galloped his daemon steed forward, vaulted the shattered wreck of the Gorebeast Chariot and locked swords with the enemy general.

Fortified by protective magic from their Sorcerer, the Chaos Knights charged forward. Alas, the Mystic Shield weighed down their heavily-burdened mounts and the charge petered out to nothing.

Reluctant to charge in alone against the Nurgle behemoth, the large troop of Marauder Horseman quickly changed tack and swarmed around the lone Slaughterpriest: a seemingly easier target, though he managed to avoid most of their javelin volley.

As no-one else seemed interested in taking on the Maggoth Lord, the smaller Marauder Horsemen contented themselves with flinging across a few more javelins to confuse and irritate the beast.

In the heart of the battle, the clash of warriors continued. Beset on all sides, the Chaos Chariot managed to pull down Slambo before being itself chopped to matchwood by the Exalted Deathbringer.

For his own part, Warlock suddenly found he had charged in alone against half the Chaos band, and was too preoccupied with thoughts of betrayal to land a telling blow.

The Marauder Horsemen swarmed around the Slaughterpriest, but none were willing to get close enough to strike a killing blow. The enraged Gorechosen bellowed at them for cowards and slashed at his Hackblade, but could not topple so much as a single rider.

Turn 2 - Chaos Slaves

"All that matters," raged the Slaughterpriest in the thick of the throng, "is that two stood against many!" And then he seemed to realise that his companion, the Deathbringer, was nowhere near, but busy trying to pull the enemy general from his horse. 

"I shall grant you revenge!" bellowed the Malaboge, the leading Chaos Lord. "Counterattack!" 

Instantly, the Fatemaster whisked across the open square to attack the horsemen. And with an earthshaking impact, the blubbery hulks of Bloab and his Maggoth thundered home from the other flank.

Within moments, the ground was awash with the blood of crushed riders, the screams of their horses and the moans of the wounded. Under a pile of dead, flattened by the crush of the fight, the Slaughterpriest lay, but the Fatemaster and Maggoth Lord has already butchered most of the Marauders. 

The two generals fought on, but as their daemonic steeds circled each other, the Tzeentchian focussed his attacks on the Deathbringer on foot. Malaboge took advantage to hammer hard at his foe, certain that his armour wouldn't save him for long.

Turn 3 - Tzeentch Mortals

Blood was seeping through the gaps in Warlock's armour, ichor running down the flanks of his daemonic steed. Had The Great Manipulator abandoned him in favour of another? 

If so, Warlock resolved not to surrender the Ark meekly and drew a halting breath to command his followers.

"Kill the Maggoth!

All the surviving Marauder Horsemen instantly surrounded the monster, securing it in place for a heavy charge to follow up.

With glaives dipped, the Chaos Knights charged into the noxious hide. The behemoth was sore wounded by the manslaughter, but crucially managed to hold onto to this plane of existence, ready to strike back.

Before that could happen, Warlock himself moved to end his duel with the Exalted Deathbringer. Striking down, he plunged his Nexus Staff deep into the Khornite's chest, oblivious to the Deathbringer's counterstroke that drove a Skullgouger up and into his chin.

Both champions fell, slain at the same instant. And yet the Nexus Staff could not be denied, and immediately released the Deathbringer's soul in an explosion of mystical power. Both the Chaos Lord and Fatebringer were sufficiently alert to avoid its power, but the wounded Maggoth Lord was too sluggish and was blasted to pieces.

Turn 3 - Chaos Slaves

Were there so few already? The legends Malaboge had gathered to his banner, the Names of the North, were there now just two standing?

Fatemaster beside him, he spurred his horse-like steed into the nearest Marauder pack. Roaring, they lopped and hacked, but the swift horses of the horsemen were hard to get to grips with, even for the Fatemaster's swift disk. 

The Chaos Knights were reforming, their sorcerer issuing commands. This would have to end soon.

Turn 4 - Chaos Slaves

Not yet! They would not die yet! 

Pushing forward past the horsemen, the last pair of Chaotic warlords drove into the thick of the foe. But there were too many, no room for finesse. Already bleeding from his battle with the enemy's leader, Malaboge found himself engaged by a pair of armoured Knights. Before he could finish the first, the second crushed his arm with an axeblow. He lost the reins and toppled to the cobbles, where the armoured hooves of the chaos steeds trampled him bloody.

Brexegalph the Fatemaster span in ever decreasing circles as the cavalry closed in...

Turn 4 onwards

Twice, the sorcerer tried to blast the Fatemaster with fell magics, but his shield saved him. The blades and bolts of the foe fell away from his armour, or he flew above them, effortlessly skirting their attacks. First one, then another, then a third Chaos Knight dropped as he whisked them out of their saddles, blazing spear plucking them out of the pack and to their deaths.

But there were simply too many. Last on the field as ever, the Fatemaster couldn't dodge every javelin. The Marauders brought him down with a final volley, and the last gasp attempt of the Chaos Gods to retake the Ark of Alternatives had failed. 

As he died, Brexegalph at least took some consolation from the fact that his master would inevitably triumph. Cold consolation, perhaps, but one took what one could in these dark days.


Tzeentch Ascendant! A Glorious Victory for the Disciples.

Locker Room

The suicide charge of the chariots; simultaneous deathblows, a defiant last stand against hordes of cavalry - you can't say Age of Sigmar isn't cinematic!

That was a lot of fun, my plan worked out pretty much as I'd hoped. I think I was always the favourite in this scenario, and I suspect I was lucky it was one of the earliest ones written. Subsequent scenarios tend to put a time limit on games, and if this had stopped at 5 turns, the Fateweaver would still be alive, which at the very least ought to have denied me a total victory.

Still, it was a close-run thing, and if the Fateweaver had ploughed his attacks in the Marauder Horsemen, which were really the only things that could harm him, I might have found myself stymied (and gradually wiped out).

The 'Magnificent Seven' idea makes for a fun scenario, and it works well with the 'anything can kill anything' style of AoS (we tried something similar in 8th Ed, ganging up on Nagash, and the game wasn't nearly so balanced).

For my part, I felt the writing was possibly already on the wall when I saw just how many horsemen I'd have to plough through. Fun all the same, and far closer than I expected in some ways - the counterattack ability that the ambushed team gets is very hard hitting, and the Slaaneshi Prince's 'first strike' rule is also a good leveller.

Slambo, as predicted, was a total washout. I think he might have nicked the chaos chariot once before getting trampled? And I did forget his double pile-in rule in the thick of things. Not really his moment, this, I think he's probably better suited to fighting less capable opponents, the bully.

I probably should have tried to move away from the cavalry charge more, too. We did slightly fall into the classic AoS trap, in that the game was a big melee in the middle of the field. All that carefully laid-out scenery was just window dressing in the end.

To be fair, though, we'd actually ruled that to be the case. My collection is really geared for more skirmishy games than AoS, but it was nice to whack most of it out at once. The only terrain that actually counted (other than giving Stylus cover in his first turn) were the Realmgates, the Archway and the Wood, and it's just as well we didn't bother looking out the rules for anything else as we'd never have used it!

Well, the Tzeentchians are running away with this campaign pretty much unopposed so far. Time to get the Ark to where it needs to be, so that they can open it and usher in a new age...