[WFB] Lord Ruthven’s Return (1500 points vs. Empire)

The armies…

Von’s Vamps

Lords

Lord Ruthven – Vampire Lord
– additional hand weapon, heavy armour
– Nightshroud, Talisman of Endurance, Potion of Strength
– Aura of Dark Majesty, Beguile, Dread Knight

Heroes

Carmilla – Vampire
– extra magic level, heavy armour, shield
– Talisman of Preservation
– Dark Acolyte

Guildenstern – Necromancer
– extra magic level, Master of the Dead
– Staff of Sorcery

Core

Templehof First of Foot – 24 Skeletons
– full command group
– Lichebone Pennant

Templehof Levy – 20 Zombies
– standard and musician

Templehof Militia – 20 Zombies
– standard and musician

10 Ghouls
5 Dire Wolves
5 Dire Wolves

Special

Templars of the Black Cross – 20 Grave Guard
– great weapons
– full command group
– Banner of Eternal Flame

Spirit Host
Spirit Host

Fairly straightforward, I think. Ruthven hangs out with the First of Foot, protected from spell-sniping by their Lichebone Pennant and from everything else by twenty-four bony bodies to catch bullets for him, and should ideally be fighting enemy characters as often as possible given that he’s built to rock the challenge. Carmilla and Guildenstern hang with the Zombies, bailing out if the poor blighters end up on tarpit/screening duty, while the Grave Guard grind upfield behind a Zombie and Dire Wolf screen, hammering one enemy unit at a time. The Wolves and Spirits also get up in the enemy grill and force awkward charges and overruns.

Edd’s Empire

Lords

Reiksmarshal Josef Albrecht – Grand Master
– cavalry kit, Sword of Justice? (the one that lets you reroll the wounds you’re not getting because S4 really isn’t all that)

Heroes

Magister Zaphazra – Battle Wizard
– Lore of Light
– Rod of Power
– compensating for something

Reigar, Captain of the Empire
– plate armour, pistol
– Battle Standard
– Gryphon Standard
– no standards

Core

20 Swordsmen
– full command group
– 10 Halberdiers
– 10 Halberdiers

5 Reiksgard Knights
– full command group
– Magic Resistance 2 on a stick

Special

18 Greatswords
– full command group, armour polish
– 10 Handgunners
– 10 Handgunners

Great Cannon

5 Pistoliers
– invisible musician, token good shot

Edd learned his trade in sixth edition, and I don’t think he’s changed his army since the last Empire book came out. It stands still (using its firepower to encourage you into closing the distance), waits until it can get the drop on you, and then the Greatswords charge forward and annihilate everything. Doubly so now that their charge range is extended and the Light Wizard can correct their small Always Strikes Last problem. The Pistoliers and Knights tend to run interference, getting around the side of you and being JUST troublesome enough to be worth bothering with…

Things We Remembered To Do In The Right Order #1 – roll spells before deploying!
Zaphazra scored Birona’s Timewarp and swapped the other ‘un for Shem’s Burning Gaze (or Shem’s Burning Fudge, as Edd likes to call it, for reasons I don’t dare explore). Meanwhile, after rolling and swapping, I ended up with:

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My First Mistake!

Curse of Years on Ruthven, which I decide I don’t like and swap for Invocation. Fair enough.
Double twos on Carmilla, and for some reason I elect to take Invocation instead of picking a spell freely. I could have picked Vanhel’s Danse (mmm, Danse) and then dropped the other Hellish Vigour for Invocation instead, thus bagging myself a movement spell…
Gaze of Nagash and a Raise Dead on Guildenstern and I don’t bother swapping one for Invocation of Nehek. That’s twenty points for Master of the Dead down the plug’ole, then!

Deployment

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Zaphazra and Reigar are in the Greatswords, Carmilla is in the Zombies on the left, Guildenstern is in the Zombies on the right. Albrecht’s in the Knights, Ruthven’s in the Skeletons, the vicar’s in the shrubs again and… oh.

My Second Mistake!

Accustomed as I am to Vampire Lords who are more competent at slinging spells around and less vital to the army’s survival, I place Ruthven slightly back from the front lines, and to point him away from Edd’s Greatswords. This is a fatal mistake. Ruthven is designed to take on tough targets, but can’t make much of a contribution until he’s doing so. Lagging behind his zombies is not strictly tactical. In my defence, they wouldn’t have balanced on the front of the hill…

Edd’s going first.

Turn One

The Imperial movement is as dynamic and exciting as ever (Pistoliers move up, Knights move up, the Swordsmen and friends nudge forward toward the village on the right), probably because most of Edd’s guns are of the move-or-shoot variety. An eleven on the Winds of Magic lands Edd with more dice than he knows what to do with: Shem’s Burning Fudge goes off and blasts half a dozen skelegogs, while Birona’s Timewarp is dispelled because I don’t want an Empire army running double-tilt into my half of the board. He stores two dice in the Rod of Power and moves on to ineffectively shoot some Dire Wolves (a couple from each unit, I believe), while his cannon crew overdo it a bit on the black powder and send a ball flying clean over my lines, bashing the head off one Skeleton at the back of Ruthven’s unit.

On my turn, I send the Ghouls off on an optimistic charge against Edd’s Pistoliers – eleven inches away, so I’ll hit them on an average roll – and the last Dire Wolf on my right into the Halberdiers, thinking that if I Invoked some more into play, they might actually accomplish something. The Pistoliers, naturally, flee and outpace the poor Ghouls, who stumble downhill scratching their thinking parts, while the Halberdiers giggle and stand their ground, laughing with ill-deserved confidence as I set up for the Magic phase.

My Third Mistake!

Guildenstern was the only wizard who could reach the Dire Wolves with an Invocation without needing an 18 to cast it at maximum range.
Guildenstern was also the only wizard without an Invocation.
Bother.

Perhaps fortunately, a bum roll on the Winds of Magic (a six and a one, perfect for a boring phase) sees Ruthven’s attempt at long-distance Invoking dispelled, and that’s the end of that. The lone Wolf, who I had every expectation would just bounce off… actually nobbles a Halberdier (I love Slavering Charge!) whose mates are sufficiently shocked to not hit the ravening devil-doggie back. Coupled with the bonus from charging, I win the combat by two, although fie and alas, the Halberdiers pass their Break test.

Turn Two

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Edd rallies the Pistoliers and, after a brief rulebook consultation, realises he can ram them back into my grille and shoot… wait for it… a Ghoul. One. Everything else shudders forward, lining up a few shots at the Dire Wolves (killing two) and Ruthven’s Skeletons (damned if I know). As far as magic goes, Guildenstern earns his continued survival by waving the Staff of Sorcery about and dispelling everything Edd tries to cast. Once again, the cannon crew overdo it a bit, and an overlong initial shot kills all of one Zombie. Unsurprisingly, the lone Dire Wolf is unable to repeat his previous performance, and gets deaded. Aww.

At the top of my turn, we have what might be called an Interesting Situation.

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The Pistoliers are now so close to the Ghouls that they might actually be caught if they run away, while Carmilla and her super-duper-Invoky-ness are in position to bolster the Dire Wolves should they fancy a run on Edd’s Knights. The hell with it, say I, and unleash the charges.

The Pistoliers flee, there is a brief consultation of the rulebook, we move, we measure, and thanks to those cavalry bases, the Ghouls catch up and invite the cream of the Empire’s young nobility home for tea and crumpets with a most unusual topping. The Knights, jeering and booing, accept the charge from the Wolf. On the other flank, Guildenstern develops a mild crisis of faith and decides that he’d rather cower behind a wall than in a Zombie unit, while the two units shamble on through the wood.

The Magic phase goes well – Dark Acolyte takes Carmilla’s Invocation to the “I can’t dispel that” level, which sees Ruthven’s bodyguards gaining a rank back and the Ghouls losing their lost model. However, and I didn’t realise this until the morning after, I make…

My Fourth Mistake!

While correctly noting that you don’t roll a d6 for restoring wounds to non-Infantry units, I totally forget that you still add your magic level, cheating myself out of two Skeletons and, more importantly, two Wolves! This will come back to haunt me later…

Guildenstern flings an opportunistic Gaze of Nagash at the Greatswords, but doesn’t kill any. A mighty THREE HITS, you see. Obviously he was tired out from all that energetic Dispelling. In combat, my two Wolves do disconcertingly well – or does Edd save dismally, rolling two ones for his 2+ modified saves? The answer is both, as it happens, but the Knights kill one and annoyingly stand their ground. Even more annoyingly, this means he’ll auto-gib the survivor in his turn and be able to reform, so the Ghouls won’t be flanking the tin-heads any time soon.

Turn Three

Another boring Imperial turn, in which the only things of note are another overloaded Cannon shot failing to put a dent in Guildenstern but doing a number on a baby bird two hundred yards behind him, and a successful Timewarp going up on the Greatswords. Oh, and the Knights don’t even need their musician to gib the Dire Wolf, as Albrecht gets stuck in and introduces him to the Sword of Justice. I wonder if he has two others called Truth and The Imperial Way? Anyway, they Combat Reform to face the Ghouls, and away we go.

In my turn, I cross my fingers and start rolling for charges. To help the Ghouls out, I figure Carmilla and her Movement 6 charge might be able to cross the woods and spank the Knights in the side; I’ve gotten away with it once, on that Dire Wolf at the start! The Ghouls make it, but Carmilla doesn’t.

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On the other flank, I lose patience with the woods and the waiting game; banging their gongs and blowing their trumpets, the Undead infantry reform, advance, and generally make themselves ready for war, thusly.

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Note that Guildenstern has decided that a wall is not enough, and that he’d rather cower in the tower. He tries and fails to Raise a unit of Dead in the path of Team Timewarp in the middle, while Carmilla does her best Nina Simone impression at the Ghouls.

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Alas, it turns out more Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, and the Ghouls whiff off a handful of fours and fives for Edd’s armour saves. The Knights kill five, and that’s enough combat resolution to see off the rest.

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The nasty gits Combat Reform to face Carmilla. Oh, poo.

Turn Four

Show, don’t tell:

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Guildenstern continues to brandish the Staff of Sorcery out the window, shutting down an attempt to re-Timewarp the Greatswords – in a fit of pique, Edd turns the cannon toward him, and we decide that, while Edd’s not technically allowed to put the ball anywhere where it could hit his own guys or any of mine who are in combat, Guildenstern IS in a tower and so all they actually have to do is angle up slightly, so he gets the shot. Yet another ten on the Artillery die (he never bloody stops!) but this one is dead on – alas, the 4+ Look Out Sir! save from being close to friendly units saves Guildenstern from certain death.

In combat, Carmilla decides what the hell, fighting one’s better than fighting two, and challenges the Grand Master. There is some brief tension, but – just as she did in all those sixth edition games – she whiffs her To Wound rolls and her Ward Saves in short order, and down she goes to the dead pile. The Knights overrun behind my army, to join Team Timewarp, who have done quite nicely without their bonus attacks and chewed through every single last Zombie for no losses to themselves.

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That’s most of his points tied up behind my army where I can’t get to them, then.
Insult to injury mode, this is where I realise…

My Fifth Mistake!

You’ll love this one.
See, everything in my army causes Fear. Now, in every prior edition of Warhammer that I have actually played, going back to fifth and the mid-1990s, Fear tests are taken when you’re charged by or wish to charge something scary, in the Movement phase. In eighth, they are taken at the start of EVERY combat phase in which you’re engaging such a creature.
Since neither of us have successfully taken this in, Edd has taken no Fear tests in this game. None. Nada. Zip. Zilch. No wonder he’s been having such an easy time of it. We agree that the combats are done and there’s no point in time travelling now, it’ll just complicate things, and besides, if we remember this game – and I will – we won’t forget again – and… well, you’ll see.

On the other side of the field, the Empire troops who’ve remembered that Undead are scary do not have such a great time of it. The Grave Guard mulch the ten Halberdiers and overrun toward the Handgunners on the hill, while the best efforts of thirty Soldiers of the Empire don’t quite remove all twenty Zombies. They get seventeen.

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This might look bad, but I play Undead; they’ll be back, and the coward in the tower is the ‘mancer with the answer – no, wait, he doesn’t have an Invocation, does he? I refer you to My First Mistake, and then… well, let’s get on with the report.

My turn is quite short. The Grave Guard charge the Handgunners, who kill three with a Stand and Shoot but are still trodden into a fine paste under my purple armoured greaves, while Ruthven edges his bodyguard forward and tries for an Invocation, which he of course fails to cast. Guildenstern Gazes the Knights but discovers they have some banner that gives them Magic Resistance. The Zombies… well, let’s not speculate too much, shall we?

Turn Five

This will be the last turn as Edd has some sort of highly competitive pub quiz league thing to rush off to (but he’s winning, why is he making his excuses and leaving?). His assorted troops mostly mill around, although…

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… the surviving Halberdiers do try for a charge on Guildenstern in his little wizard house. His magic phase is another dice bonanza, with ten or so available, and so he goes to cast a big fat Burning Gaze on Ruthven’s Skeletons and…

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Oh, would you look at that?
Alas, he doesn’t roll up a unit-gobbling Dimensional Cascade or anything that might give me the game back; instead he notches up a pitiful little farty thing that doesn’t even hurt Zaphazra but at least kills three Greatswords.

The Cannon crew continue to overstuff their metal death tube with sheer, wilful abandon, and its expulsion flies clean over the Grave Guards’ heads.

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Out of sheer spite, Ruthven chugs down his Potion of Strength and orders a charge on the Swordsmen. In the ensuing (mandatory) challenge, 370 points of killing power are brought to bear on a 15 point Empire Champion, who doesn’t even know what hit him apart from a failed Fear Test (thanks, Aura of Dark Majesty!). The Skeletons marmalise a few more and the Swordsmen run away, only to be pulled down and handed recruitment letters for the Army of Sylvania. The Halberdiers successfully pull Guildenstern out of his tower and take his Staff of Sorcery away – broken-hearted, he slopes off into the night and leaves the game to end.

So, we count up the Victory Points, and that’s when I realise…

My Sixth Mistake!

It helps, all things being equal, if you don’t leave 90 points of prime Ethereal chaff in your figure case for the whole game. I only noticed the Spirit Hosts’ absence without leave when I picked up my roster to count the points left on the board.

Edd has scored 685 points (we decided to give him the VPs for the Spirit Host – if anything counts as “losing at Warhammer”, being a numpty and not using your whole army does), I’ve baggsied 400 on the nut. 335 points in it. Less than half my army, so…

DRAW in Edd’s favour. Fair enough!

In the final analysis, that’s probably more than I deserved. Lessons learned? Well, if you’ve been paying attention you’ll know already, but let’s sum up, shall we?

  1. When you get to choose or swap spells, actually think about which characters will get the most out of them, and make your choices accordingly.
  2. If you’ve spent 370 points on a challenge-winning armour-piercing killing machine that’s lousy at anything but fighting, point it at the enemy’s expensive characters, and don’t make it walk any further than it has to.
  3. If you have been a numpty and picked the wrong spells for your wizards, don’t play as if you’d picked the right ones.
  4. Make sure you read your entire spell card.
  5. If your entire army runs on Psychology tests, you should probably be reminding your opponent to take them. Or remembering that they exist.
  6. Make sure you put your entire army on the board.

Oh, and a special bonus: never put every Zombie you own in the army list at the start, you’ll need some for Raising and Invoking with.

I’m starting to suspect that I’m more of a Necrarch man at heart. While Ruthven is decently geared for a particular role, that role isn’t something that I naturally use him for. My instinct with Vampire Lords, accumulated through years of playing with Ruthven’s previous iterations, is to bury them in the army and cast spells with them, mopping up in melee when the final few turns start to roll around. A level 1 wizard with all his upgrade points spent on challenge tricks is probably not actually suited to that. The only one of his upgrades that really mattered was Aura of Dark Majesty, and it occurs to me that rebuilding him so he can look after himself in a fight but is best equipped to cast spells and mess with Psychology – in other words, so that he suits the role I naturally use him in – might be a better idea.

Author: Jon

Sententious, mercurial, and British as a bilious lord. Recovering Goth, lifelong spod. Former teacher and amateur machine politician, now freelance writer and early-career researcher.

You may now commence belching

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