[Mordheim] Interlude With A Vampire

This is a repost. The original article has bounced around two forums, three blogs and several content purges. Hopefully it will survive and thrive here.

The year is 2008, and for the three months before my MA course is due to start, I am home, playing games with my formative opponents. The local GW, locus of our lives back in the sixth form days, is running a campaign. Four weeks of Mordheim games. One big map showing our warbands’ progression into the ruined city (and governing what sort of terrain will appear when two warbands meet, although the scenarios themselves would be played by-the-book). ‘Victory’ is a tenuous sort of thing really, but for the sake of people who need to know who ‘won’ a wargames campaign, whoever’s warband came out with the highest rating at the end of the month would be lauded, applauded, and relieved of the sandwich run.

I decided to treat the campaign as a prequel of sorts. During the 2004 Storm of Chaos campaign I built a heavily kitbashed Army of Sylvania (which actually grew out of a Mordheim warband box) led by that Mordheim vampire with the swooshy cloak and later, after I lost him in a house move, by a swashbuckling undead Imperial Noble from the Warhammer Quest range. I didn’t do any conversion work at all on him – merely painted on an eyepatch after he caught the wrong end of a Dwarf rune axe in his first outing.

Since Mordheim is set some five hundred years prior to the Storm of Chaos, during the slow rise to power of the Von Carsteins, I thought this would be a good chance to see how my newly-turned Vampire started out his career and made himself noticeable to his antecedents.

Continue reading “[Mordheim] Interlude With A Vampire”

[WFB] Godspeed You, Black Emperor

Some years ago, when I was in the habit of playing wargames more often than blogging about them (we’re talking 2008-ish here), I wrote up some background for a WFB campaign.

The tentative notion was that it’d involve my Vampire Counts, Dr. Shiny’s Skaven, Blackheart’s Empire and Awesome Mike’s Dwarfs. A lot of water’s flowed under a lot of bridges since then, but there’s still a concept here for a WFB/WFRP crossover campaign that I’d like to run with someone someday, maybe.

The year is 2018. The Empire is divided. The grand provinces of Marienburg, Middenland and Reikland vie for the Imperial throne. The ascendant Vampire Counts of Sylvania have conquered their neighbouring realms and the Ottilia of occupied Talabecland could well become a puppet Emperor. Bretonnia encroaches further and further on the Empire’s borders. The Count of Wissenland has reached out to the Empire’s oldest allies, the Dwarfs of the Grey Mountains, begging for any aid they have to offer… but they have their own battles to fight in the dark beneath the world.

The idea here was to make the most out of WFRP’s more diplomatic relationship between the fractured Imperial provinces and the other powers, and to project the idea of Vlad von Carstein trying another way to take over the Empire. Sylvania isn’t an Elector County, but Talabecland is, and it’s one of the contenders for the Empire. By force of arms, Vlad has established a bloc of cowed Electors who’ll support his preferred candidate; by accepting the Ottilia’s surrender he’s gained the ear of a candidate (probably strongarmed into line by having a bunch of vampires hanging around his court).

There’s room for a lot of stuff here. Intrigue and politics in occupied Talabheim. Brokering allegiances between the other Imperial claimants – none of them is prepared to stand down and let another take the throne, and Vlad doesn’t command a majority as long as they stand free.

Guerilla warfare in Hochland, or along the River Stir, or even (if we want to go stark staring mad) going all Rambo-style with a resistance movement in the Halfling Moot.(Your host retains his healthy contempt for all things Halfling but acknowledges Middlehammer Halflings – malodorous thieving runts who procreate like the proverbial bunnies – as amusing enough to be spared the lash.)

Bretonnian piracy, or even full on invasion, along the Nordland coast or the Axebite Pass. Battles in the deep darkness of the Grey Mountains; an urgent message sent to the Dwarf strongholds.

Loads you can do with this, and that’s just the roleplaying. Battles would probably punctuate short campaigns of RP – as diplomatic efforts succeeded or failed we’d move on to a wargame to resolve them. Could even sneak some Mordheim in there as I imagine the City of the Damned is still an important source of resources, and a key lynchpin in the Sylvanian defences (not to mention an electoral seat; if Vlad could take that, would he have a legitimate claim? what if he could find the Count of Ostermark’s Runefang?).

Unsure which version of the rules I’d favour; second edition WFRP is contemporary with sixth edition WFB (my favourite), but first edition WFRP is of course the game of kings and is designed to dovetail with second edition WFB (the one Oldhammerers… sort of like, but play less than third?)

OR I could just play Warhammer: Total War. I never used to buy that “computer gaming kills tabletop gaming” garbage and still don’t, but the lure of playing with myself and Forging the approximate kind of Narrative I want is extremely strong. I was delighted to note that the Mordheim Vampire campaign kind of synchs up with the Total War one. The earliest hints of a betrayal among the Von Carstein clan play out as Mannfred and Vlad go to war at the head of subfactions, and playing the Vampire Counts or Von Carstein campaigns involves sorting out a civil war in Sylvania before taking over the world (TM). That’d be some top content for the old YouTube channel, don’t you think?

Synchronicity

I’ve been playing Mordheim: City of the Damned of late. Quite a lot. It’s become my new World of Warcraft, to be honest; if I don’t have any work to do and it’s too bright outside and the house isn’t intolerably filthy, I fire up Mordheim and then four hours later I wonder why it’s gone dark outside.

Despite the initial frustration displayed in m’tutorial videos (released every Sunday throughout July, back for $1 on Patreon and you get to pick my warband for a Let’s Play, back for $2 and you get to be in the warband), I actually quite like Mordheim.

I’ve even come to terms with the story missions. The first couple were… well, yes, they were a bit difficult, especially that one in the library with the colour-coded teleport pads, and the one in the palace with the fucking Daemonettes one-rounding whatever they touch and making everyone else Stupid.

What really annoyed me, though, was how they often collapsed into slow backtracking across the map, or frustrating ‘find the thing, then manage your inventory with an inventory system that only lets you drop and pick up via some of the interactive objects)’ dreck, or how the nesting of new objectives behind the old ones dragged them out into more doubling back.

BUT… I came to terms with them in the end. Act 2’s missions were generally much more flowing and sensible, with a more logical route from location to location and objective to objective, and fewer discrete items taking up space in the inventory. Most of the things that went wrong with the Act 2 missions were my fault, attributable to things like “not looking closely at the map and seeing what’s highlighted differently now a new objective has unlocked.

The last couple were basically fun. So much so that the rather arbitrary ‘end’ to the Undead campaign makes me… a bit sad, really. There’s a definite sense that more story missions were supposed to happen (I mean, there’s a whole plot that unfolds with Mannfred starting to work against the Von Carstein family’s best interests, and that’s not revealed until the closing narrative for the last mission!) before the development time was funnelled into Necromunda instead. I’m holding out for more content down the line.

BUT none of this addresses the word ‘synchronicity’, does it? Bear with me here.

Obviously, I named my first Vampire ‘Jimothy’, because I was going to use him for a Let’s Play until it became obvious that Mordheim is a game you get good at and then make videos about. My second one was saddled with Ionaton Von Bitte by the random name generator, which tickled me greatly ’cause Hark put on an episode of Nathan Barley and… ‘Bitte’ is the German equivalent of that vague ‘yeah’ in the one guy’s name, and… look, it’s a reference and a bilingual pun and it’s probably not funny to anyone but me (I should have called the warband ‘the Trashbats’ or something, why didn’t that occur to me earlier?).

ANYWAY: I named my first Dreg Boris, because of Boris the Wonder Dreg from back in the day, and he did turn out to be quite Wonderful. So the ground was set for some synchronicity to occur.

It did. The story missions felt like they synched up with what my original Mordheim warband did, and how they grew into the foundations of my actual WFB army. Which, oddly enough, set me to thinking about Warhammer Total War, and how that game is… well, it’s hardly proper rank and flank Warhammer, because it bears resemblance to eighth edition (I’m still lobbying for ‘Noncehammer’), but it’s close enough. It affords room for building up the Von Carstein empire and trying to take over the world, anyway.

So I’ll probably play that next. I reckon it’ll scratch an itch.