After half a year our Khardon Island campaign came to a close as the Dwarfs lay siege to the Red Tower and Khardon Keep. Thanks for following our campaign and I hope you will enjoy this last report.,
After many weeks of hard fighting on Khardon Islands, the armies of King Gorrin and King Belagor converge on Khardon Keep. Here they hope to oust the Undead host and find the Book of Andulin – and ancient book of grudges detailing the misdealings of the Elves. The Kings hope to restore the honour of the Dwarfs by recovering the book and shining light on who did what, many hundred years ago. The Undead have been ruling the island for centuries since the last Dwarfs and Elves left it for unknown reasons. Now, they are fighting with their backs against the wall, as the Dwarfs are filled with fervour, being almost able to see their prize.
Over the past 4 months my gaming group has been playing a lot of battles in this narrative campaign. The campaign is fought in “real time” story wise. This means that the time that goes between the battles, reflects the time that has gone in the campaign. Of course, this has little actual consequence other than we think it is a fun way to do it.
The way the campaign was set up was simple: Every time we got together for a game I would reveal a new piece of the map of Khardon Island and try to weave a story around it. The basic narrative was the Dwarf armies trying to move further and further inland. We were 3 players in the campaign. Me, and two Dwarf players. Basically they would take turns to play against my Undead and I used one or the other Undead force depending on where on the Island we were fighting.
Now, 10 battles into the campaign, the Dwarfs have arrived at the centre and it seems like the time to end it. We thought the best way to do it what to celebrate it by having a rather large battle (well, by our standard anyways).
THE STORY SO FAR
The campaign evolves around two Dwarven kings that are seeking the Book of Andulin. This ancient Book of Grudges details the dealings between Dwarfs and Elves in ancient times, when Khardon Island was an important piece in the trade between the Dwarfs, the Elves and Araby. What exactly occurred to the Dwarfs and Elves is not known, but the Dwarfs are certain that the Elves did them bad service and are to blame. King Gorrin and King Belagor both wish to preserve the truth by finding the book, which most probably holds the key to the past.
Over the course of the campaign what has happened is roughly as follows. Both Dwarf Kings had set their sails and headed for the island at the same time. The seas of the Warhammer World are unrelenting and therefore they arrived at different locations on the island, seperated roughly by a week. The first game saw King Gorrin landing on the North East part of the Island and starting to press inwards. Here he encountered a foul vampyre called Cantu Cordula. The Dwarfs ousted Cordula’s troops and continued inwards. In the second battle King Belagor had made land fall and went straight for the Eternia bridge where he fought the Demon Necromancer Bhürzhüm. The Demon was beaten, but not banished. Then in the third battle King Gorrin encountered a rare sight! It was indeed the Wight Army of the King of The Dead. This army did not contain a spell caster, but lots of Wights and Skeletons. It all seemed to go well for the Undead, until the King of The Dead met a flying hammer. A the king died the Wight army folded around him. In the fourth game, Bhürzhüm the Demon had come up with a mighty plot to defeat the Dwarf plague. Having captured one of their kind, he had planned a Dark Ritual that would call down the Curse of The Pharaohs on the Dwarf kind on the island. Sadly, once again the plans of the Demon Necromancer were follied. In game 5 Cantu Cordula returned and gave King Gorrin something to remember. Games 6 and 7 were King Belagor, first discovering a mighty cave, and then discovering the Spider King who had made said cave into his lair. Belagor divided his forces and sent some down to defeat the Spider King. After a few weeks in the caves and tunnels, the expedition surfaced close to the Western Beaches of Khardon Island. Here they found the shipwrecked Count Sudoku, who joined their forces and helped them against Tut Ankh Amok. King Gorrin tried hard to reclaim the bodies of the falled Dwarfs from earlier battles, to stop them from joining the Undead ranks in the 9th game. Then, following this, King Belagor’s main army encountered the Orcs of Kapten Kroog in the 10th game. The Orc Pirates had been in hot pursuit of Count Sudoku on the high seas, but had ship wrecked too. It was a brief affair, that ended in Orcs screaming and running everywhere.
Thee 10 initial campaign games, had all been 2,000 points endeavours. We use the Warhammer Renaissance rules for our games, but in 4th edition terms this is roughly 2,600 points. We decided that 5,000 points (4th ed = 6,666 points) a side would be a suitable size for our big battle. We are not young kids anymore, so we wanted to pack it into a single day and not a whole weekend. Next we had to figure out what the game was about.
THE 11th GAME – THE MEGA BATTLE
Since the island was originally an Elven and Dwarven trade station, it comes as no surprise that a Dwarven Fortress and an Elven tower are placed close to the centre. This is Khardon Keep and The Red Tower of Ul. Of course, after hundreds of years in the clutches of the warpstone excavating Undead these have been warped and twisted, and no longer look like they did in their heyday. Khardon Keep is a haunted place not fit for living souls and the Red Tower is a magical, and sepulchral energy emmanates the surroundings of the tower. Underneath the tower vast networks of mines are used by the Undead to dig into the core of the Black Mountain where warpstone is present in large quantities. The Dwarfs are certain that Khardon Keep is the resting place of the Book of Andulin, while they also suspect that The Red Tower may hold it. The two places are sepearted by The Bridge of Doom, and tactically this is of vital importance to stop Undead reinforcements from supporting the troops on either side.
The game is played on a 12’x4’ table. There are 3 objectives, unlike the normal 1 objective in Warhammer Renaissance. The objectives and their special conditions are listed below. Each objectives has a objective points (OP) of 1-3. The side with the most OP points at the end of the game is rewarded the Game Objective of 2,500 victory points. In addition to this are added the VP of destroyed units and ½ the VP of units at 25% starting strenght. The game is played for 5 rounds, whereafter a die is rolled – on a 4+ a 6th round is played.
The Bridge of Doom
This is the main objective of the game. The Bridge is vital to control for the Dwarfs, as the Undead cannot reinforce the keep if they do not have the bridge. The side which has the most units in contact with the bridge at the end of the game claims this objective. The Bridge of Doom is worth 3 OP.
The Red Tower
The Undead are boosted by the Sepulchral Beacon of the Red Tower. This beacon allows the Undead generals to extend their command range to 18’’ as long as the Undead control the tower. When the game starts the Undead side is allowed to place 1 unit of <150 pts (including banners, champions, characters, items and so on) sentries in the tower. This means that the tower is under Undead control at the start of the game, but will need reinforcement to stay so. The side with the most scoring units inside the Tower at the end of the game claims 2 OP.
The old Dwarven Fortress of Khardon is now more or less a ruin. It is haunted by spectres and looks frightening. However, it is also where the Book of Andulin could potentially be hidden, and therefore securing the castle is of great importance. However, in the heat of the battle this is a minor objective, that follows the two main objectives. The side with the most scoring units inside the Keep at the end of the game claim 1 OP.
King Gorrin’s Army
King Belagor’s Army
Cantu Cordula’s Army
Ganash of Ind’s Army
The Dwarfs deploy opposite the side with Khardon Keep. The deployment zones are 12” from the centre line. The armies are deployed in secret. It is recommended to have a curtain in the centre of the table and deploy the units directly. This way, the unmanageable task of scribbling down 5,000 points worth of units on a paper map is avoided
In addition to the objectives there should be an ample supply of terrain and at least two large hills on the Dwarf side one on the Undead side as indicated.
A game of this scale quickly devolves to “counter-deployment” as we call it. What is meant, is that every time you deploy a unit, the opponent deploys a direct counter. Of course, for some, this is what it should be. We wanted the battle to be more of a surprise, so we decided to use hidden deployment. The way we achieved this was by hanging a curtain (of black disposable bags) all the way across the middle of the table. Both sides would then deploy, the teams discussing intensely with each other, while being in the blind about the opposition. The table was 12’x4’ and had a river section running through it.
The Undead had some constraints with regards to deployment, as troops out of reach of the general are severely limited on movement. Also, their regiments rely on magic support to replenish their lines, so the spellcaster should be in reach too. They Undead players ended up more or less dividing their forces in two. One half – the Vampire force of Cantu Cordula would see to the defense of Khardon Keep, while the other half – with Ganash of Ind – would claim the Red Tower. The idea was to let both armies have heavy troops concentrating on the bridge too, as this was worth the same amount of OP as the other two objectives combined. The Chariots were scattered a bit throughout as they do not suffer from movement penalties, and the Tomb Kings were supported on their flank with Giant Wolves, and some Bat Swarms in the centre. The Wight Knights was one of the few units that would be able to transverse the river without any trouble, as they flew the Banner of Ghost Riding, which makes them ethereal in the movement phase. Other than these, only the Zombie Dragon, the Giant Bats and the Bat Swarm would be capable of switching sides.
The Dwarfs also kept more or less two seperate forces, although they did not have the same concerns. From the perspective of the players it made sense, to avoid too much moving back and forth on top of each other. In Warhammer troops can quickly get in the way of each other, and mixing up armies between commanders is the certain way to do this. One notable exception were the four Gyrocopters. These little birds of doom, were stretched all along the table. With their considerable movement and fantastic skeleton vanish spray attack, this was an excellent choice. The rest of the Dwarfs would with all probability be stuck on the side they started.
Instead of a detailed report on every movement in each turn, we shall resort to a more highlight based description. First lets look at the start – turns 1 and 2. The Dwarfs took the first turn, which always instils a bit of fear even in the most boneheaded skeleton. The forces started advancing on the objectives across the board.
The shooting phase was merciful to the Undead. Apart from a Chariot taking nearly deadly cannonball, and the Giant Wolves being all but obliterated by crossbow fire, nothing much happened. In the magic phase the Undead immediately resorted to what they know best. We had opted for giving the lower wizard two power 3 spells and the Chalice, to force the Dwarfs into dispelling, and thereby draining them of their Runes of Spellbreaking, hopefully. They didn’t take the bait just yet, and the Master Necromancer drank from the Chalice of Sorcery and summoned 16 Skeletons behind the enemy lines.
A bit later in the Undead turn these Skeletons, carried on a wave of overconfidence, smashed into the Iron Breakers, making an impact as if they had been sand sculptures throwing themselves at steel statues. The Chalice of Sorcery provided again and the Wind of Death started rolling down the hills towards the Slayers and Men in front of the keep. As in any game the Skeleton Bowmen turned out to be exceptionelly good marksmen, but entirely incapable of wounding anything. On average the 48 shots per turn amounted to 1 or 2 dead Dwarfs. Other than some Gyrocopters, a few Giant Wolves and a pair of Bat Swarms there was not much intermixing of the armies.
After not having done anything for the two first rounds, in round 3 Ganash finally managed to charge the Dwarfs. Having a 750 points special character is putting a severe urgency on its use… if you are too slow it ends up being pointless. The Dwarfs had the banner of slowness but in the end Ganash managed to get the charge in. The rules were sort of bend to their breaking point here, as I called a challenge with Ganash on the Dwarfs. They chose to accept with none other than King Gorrin. Being a lone character Ganash had all the cards on his hands. He finished Gorrin in two rounds, with some Skeletons joining in for a flank attack and ultimately eviscerating the Dwarfs.
Elsewhere, the Zombie Dragon descended and started laying waste to the Dwarven artillery. It was not terribly effective though, and chewing through artillery at a slow pace in hindsight probably was not the best use of this beast. Especially not as the rest of the Vampire army was starting to suffer. In fact, one of the four gyrocopters swooped over and took out nearly the whole regiment of Wight Knights in one shot! It was ridiculous to behold.
The Gyrocopters are a real pain in the butt. The Giant Bats are a good answer for them though, but unfortunately they’re limited to 0-1 unit per army. I think perhaps the Gyrocopters used to be less reliable or were also limited, but in the current rules they’re just poison for the Undead. As if the Dwarfs weren’t handling the Vampire well enough, they’d brought a Human sorceror too. This magical user was skilled in the arts of Grey Magic, which in turn meant that he had access to mind control and Bridge of Shadows.
Using mind control the magician first gained control over Cantu Cordula, We were then a bit unsure – because the spell says you can continue “on the same unit” to gain control of more and more… but since the unit Cordula was with was a Zombie unit this happened automatically!
Effectively the Dwarf allied wizard now had control over the Vampire general and his entire unit!!! It was a disaster for the Undead. In their previous battle the Dwarfs of King Belagor had secure themselves a automaton that they were allowed to use freely (until it dies in a game). In this case the automaton went and squashed the foot Wights… heavy armour, Wu-Tang shields and all. The Vampire army was out of luck and the Zombie Dragon was really missing greatly.
During the 4th and 5th turn the magic also stopped working more or less completely for the Undead. The strategy was clear – summon units in base contact with the Bridge of Doom to tie the objective. There was no way of getting the Red Tower, as the Undead units capable of entering the tower were completely unable to hurt the Hammerers inside. But the Winds of Magic were blowing in strange ways… after an initial successful attempt on 3d6 summoning 5! measly Skeletons, that was the end. The next 4 attempts with 3d6 or 2d6 did not roll 5 or more and therefore not a single unit more was formed.
Through the entire game the Skull catapult didn’t manage to make anything interesting. Unless you are into statistic anomalies. Whenever the guess was off, it rolled “hit”, and whenever the guess was dead on, it scattered away. Alas, do not go beyond your abilities if you cannot take the defeat.
By now the Steam tank (another Dwarven ally) was rolling onto the bridge. Ganash tried a lucky punch on it, but failed to wound the T10 iron bucket. On the Vampire side of things, everything was getting more and more silly. The Bridge of Shadows was cast time and again, with Slayers flying through the air and charging directly. The Undead had no answer for this. Except some remarks about why Dwarfs normally do not have access to spells. Towards the very end of the battle the Dwarf Gyrocopters all converged on the bridge ready to take out anything summoned. The Vampire army was gone and the Keep was taken.
One Dwarf army had lost as little as 340 points, but in total the Dwarfs had lost 1321 points. The Undead had lost a bit over half with 2559 points given up. Of course the Dwarfs also claimed the objective since they held the Keep, the Tower and The Bridge given them an additional 2500 points for a difference of 3738 points and thereby recording a major victory for the Dwarfs.
From a social perspective this was a fun day had in the company of good people. The game was quicker than expected and of course the setup divided the forces quite a bit.
From a gaming perspective this was a foregone conclusion. Don’t take the following the wrong way – it is just afterthoughts, and not meant to bash the Dwarf players. The Dwarfs had packed in some amazingly strong units, that the Undead simply had no answer for:
The Steamtank, was able to do exactly what it wanted, and there were no wild characters or warmachines that could change it.
The 4 Gyrocopters were probably at least two too many to make for an interesting game. The Undead had no shooting or spells that could target the flyers and as the Undead flying units are limited (max 1 Giant Bats and max 1 Carrion) only two could be dealt with. The Gyros had a disproportionate influence on the game considering their ~100points/piece value.
The Wizard in the Dwarven army coupled with Grey Magic was… tough! If the Wizard had been the only thing Dwarfs had ‘borrowed’ from other armybooks then it was probably alright. The Dwarf player didn’t even use the spell to it’s full potential as he only used it on his own models. Potentially he could have been turning Undead regiments around to face their rear… The Dwarf army facing the Vampire only lost 10% of its starting strength more or less.
The multiple Slayer units are also really difficult to deal with, as they don’t care about the one thing the Undead excel at: psychology. But they would probably still have been manageable without the above.
The Vampire army was made to be a thematic Vampire army with only Wights, Zombies and other classic Vampire units. This made things even more lopsided of course, as it isn’t a very strong build.
The Tomb King army was alright, but nothing spectacular. The Undead “no march out of range of the general” sort of kept us from trying to mix the forces. I am glad that it was a game between friends and not between strangers, as it was really a question of “shovelling models off the table”.
The game size also played against the Undead – having so many figures it is hard to keep it compact. But even more so, the “undead cheating” that summoning can be is somewhat countered. Percentage wise the contributions from summoned models are much much less in 5k. Also – there is still only one of each spell.
Future mega battles will probably need some more thought. It is difficult to get the balance right, without making it an arms race. I enjoyed it all muchly anyway, and hope my fellow players did too.
Khardon Island Epilogue
The Red of Ul fell and the Dwarven Runesmiths and Engineers made it to the top where they blew up the Eye of Ul that had been sustaineded the Undead across the island with the unholy life energy. Ganash of Ind was not killed in the battle but fled the Island in the aftermath. Both Cantu Cordula and King Gorrin suffered mortal wounds and never recuperated.
The Dwarfs used the weeks following the battle to search high and low for the Book of Andulin. Parties of Dwarf rangers where sent deep into the unholy depths under the Keep and the Red Tower to battle the strange creatures that lived there, in search for the book. But nowhere was it to be found.
Naturally, this lead to a great dispute between the Dwarfs. Followers of King Gorrin and King Belagor started blaming each other. King Gorrin’s heir claimed that Belagor had lured Gorrin with him on this stupid crusade by exploited the former Dwarf King’s honour code. Secretly they suspected that Belagor now had the book and was refusing to share the glory. It all culminated with a big battle between the supporters of Belagor and Gorrin’s heir on the shores of Khardon Island. This is a particularly dark chapter and is known only as The Great Fall Out in current Dwarf history. Maybe we will hear more about this battle in the future. What history tells us today, is that the Khardon Island campaign was a severe blow for both Dwarf Kings’ reputation.
Despite the Fall Out, the Island was reinvigorated. Over the next many years, following the Great Fall Out, Dwarf settlers starting to set up communities on the Island again, after the Undead Scourge had been eradicated. Quickly word got out that the island was living again, and soon invasions by Orks and Chaos followed. This is also a story for another day.
The Book of Andulin was never recovered by the Dwarfs. To this day it is a mystery where the book is located. Adventurous Dwarfs still travel to the Island with mystical maps they have gotten a hold of, in hopes that they will be the ones to discover the book.
Thanks for joining us here on c0wabunga and following our campaign. It was a thrill to do, and has been a lot of fun. We will definitely be doing other campaigns in the future.
Looking out over the waves from his seat, Tymrir the Elven Prince was just about to pour a glass of wine as his lieutenant made haste towards him.
“Sir, we have reports that the Dwarfs have returned to Khardon Island. The scouts report that they are seemingly looking for the Book of Andulin but have taken heavy casualties fighting the Host of Ganash. What would you have me do?”
“Let them suffer. Also. Bring me the book from the archive. I would like to have a look at this object that they treasure so highly, that they would break the arrangement. Silly Dwarfs. They never learn.”