The Defence of Ravola
The City of Ravola, Early Spring 2304
Perette had yet to see the newly constructed engine, what with myriad responsibilities distracting her (however self-imposed). Now she had been asked to come quickly – the gunners apparently wanted her blessing, for themselves and their ward.
When Osmont delivered the request, Perette had laughed, saying, “Surely the gunners would prefer a wielder of magical fire to keep a distance from their black powder? If they are averse to anyone so much as smoking a pipe nearby, or just carrying a candle too close, how much more should they be afraid of someone who can conjure sheets of fire from her fingertips?”
Osmont pondered a moment, then asked, “I have been wanting to ask. How do you do that?”
Perette smiled. “I shape my anger in an arcane manner and then let the etheric wind flow through me.”
“Oh,” said Osmont. “Well, that explains it, my lady! As for the engine, the gunners seem to consider it your sibling, for it was born in battle and is more like you than anyone or anything else in Ravola.”
“Why do they not think of me as its mother?”
Osmont laughed. “If Gruddic Greyfury was the gun’s father, of which there is no doubt, and you were its mother, then that means …”
Perette feigned disgust, then, as if she were warming to the idea, she said, “Well, he is very distinguished looking, for a dwarf!”
As the two of them left the chamber, Perette asked, “Why did they not ask me until now?”
“They want your blessing her before she is used in anger.”
The ratmen were indeed approaching but would not arrive until the morrow. By the time the Bretonnians had learned of their presence across the river in Codropio, they had already secured the bridge, thus ensuring it could not be held against them. This gave them time to muster their force, emerging from the ground like streams from springs to gather in strength like a river. Albeit a filthy river!
“Oh,” continued Osmont. “And they want you to name her too.”
“I thought they’d already named it,” said Perette. “Bloody Barrels, wasn’t it?”
The engine was made of several many barrels fixed together, which the previous owners had occasionally used as clubs, as evinced by the dried blood upon them.
“They want her to have a real name, and a lucky one. Who better to choose than her famous sister?”
It was possible the engine would play a vital part in the city’s defence, so Perette did not want the gunners feeling dispirited, or unlucky. The ratmen would swarm like their smaller cousins – the defenders of Ravola needed weapons that could pour destruction upon them.
Upon arriving, the first thing the engine’s attendants asked was what she thought of it.
“It’s an ugly child,” she said, looking it up and down. “But war is rarely pretty. It might seem obvious, but tell me anyway – what can she do?”
“We can fire the barrels three at a time,” said the fellow standing closest to it. “And if that doesn’t prove as thoroughly discouragin’ as we want, we can fire the other three straight after.”
The dwarf Greyfury and his gunners had cobbled the engine together hastily, which explained its complete lack of decoration. The engineer commanded the brigade of dwarfs sent from Camprogotta to assist Baron Garoy’s knights and Perette’s Brabanzon in the taking of Ravola, which had proved to be a not at all troublesome task. The brutes remaining to garrison the city had not fancied their chances and so, after agreeing terms – which included leaving their leadbelchers behind – they surrendered and marched away. Greyfury had inspected the discarded barrels, discovering that some were of dwarf or Tilean make and still in good condition. He declared it would be a shame to waste them, and so, before marching back to Campogotta, he tarried just long enough to build a double wheeled carriage from what he could find in the city, upon which he mounted the barrels craftily and, it was to be hoped, securely. He claimed that although the brutes had gone, his engine would work just as effectively as they themselves in battle, blasting the foe with an exactly similar amount of hot lead, if not being quite as mobile.
Perette could see the part about mobility was an under exaggeration. The engine looked as easy to move as a boulder on a sled! She had no doubt it would happily descend a slope, but that getting it up the steps to the battlements was going to take some doing.
“Is there still sufficient time to mount it?” she asked, suddenly concerned.
“Yes, my lady,” said the engine’s attendant. “We have everything prepared. Greyfury showed us how to dismantle and replace the barrels – even had us practice. That way there’s only the carriage to haul with ropes and pulleys.”
“I’m impressed,” said Perette as she walked over to the engine to inspect it more closely. She had seen such barrels used in anger – indeed she had tasted the fear they could induce. The ogres at Campogrotta had had many of them. Indeed, the first assault (Note *1) had faltered because of them. She herself had witnessed a veritable regiment of their gaping, black muzzles.
No-one, thankfully, chose to approach any closer. Had the mighty bombard Granite Breaker not grown too hot from her work, then no doubt she could have toppled walls and towers onto the leadbelchers, and the assault would have continued. But without the venerable bombard’s aid the attackers had chosen to withdraw. They would just have to try again another day, having let the night’s air cool Granite Breaker. This they did, four days later, although not without further costly losses, and regrettably giving a relief force of ogres time to arrive. (Note 2)
“I take it, then,” said Osmont, in a cheerful tone, “all of you will be putting your money on this engine and not the trebuchet?”
Perette had heard there was to be a competition between the two, concerning which would cause the foe the most harm. The trebuchet had been found intact upon the main tower of the southern wall, having been used three years earlier by Lord Giacomo’s defenders when the ogres had first captured the city. (Note *3) It had fallen into some disrepair, having only been used since by the ogres to launch prisoners from the city in a form of entertaining punishment for whatever crimes the brutes sought fit to accuse them of. No dwarf was needed, however, either to guide or assist in its repair, as several of the Brabanzon had plenty of experience of such machines, and they had got it back to full working order two days before Greyfury’s engine was completed.
“The trebuchet will no doubt flatten a good few from afar,” said the attendant, “if it’s aim proves true enough. But this thing will do its work closer up, when the trebuchet cannot work at all. And this thing can’t miss, as long as we point it at them! My money’s on this.”
“I cannot decide,” said Osmont. “Besides, surely our lady Perette ought to be included in the competition?” He turned to look at her, “If so, then my money is on you, my lady.”
“Is that how you see me?” laughed Perette. “Nothing more than an engine of war?”
“And truly glorious with it!” said Osmont.
“Hush now,” ordered Perette. “We ought not talk in such a manner before the child. I would not want to upset her.”
She walked around the engine, caressed one of the barrels and giving a wink to the attendant. “I think she should be named Mathilde, for she will be our strength in battle.”
(Note 1) See ‘The Assault on Campogrotta’ in Tilea Campaign Part 19.2
(Note 2) See ‘The Second Assault on Campogrotta’ in Tilea Campaign Part 20
(Note 3) See ‘Brute Strength’ in Tilea Campaign Part 2
The Defence of Ravola: Wargaming Notes
Here is the NPC force defending Ravola. Any walls without these soldiers are to be manned by peasants, servants and the city’s meagre inhabitants, which are not shown here. Such walls will have however many such ‘peasants’ can fit on them.
The NPC characters and forces in the campaign feature prominently in the stories, perhaps because as GM I can publish what I like about them? The players, however, are often (understandably) cagey about what is revealed concerning their plans, resources and difficulties in such stories! This is a competitive campaign, after all, in that the players want their character’s to do well.
Perette, the ‘fallen damsel’ will command the force as a whole, with Baron Garoy commanding his little company of knights. The reasons for this will probably come out in the battle report story.
As well as the knights, there is a second mounted company of ‘Brabanzon’ light horsemen, who can act both as archers and spearmen. The player was given the option of dismounted one or both of these companies and putting them on the walls, but he chose not to. “Stick some peasants on any empty walls” is what he ordered. He was intending to use these either to attack any skaven who breached the defences (one way or another) or, if the opportunity arose and it seemed beneficial, perhaps to sally out?
Perette is shown here, and the Brabanzon foot. She is a level 2 wizard now, so will have two fire spells. It is rare I make such unrolled for decisions or alterations for NPCs, but I will do so when events strongly suggest it. In a cause and effect sort of way. She did very well with her magic during the two assaults of Campogrotta, and had gained a new authority since then, as well as much respect. So I upped her to level 2 rather in the manner of roleplaying game experience points!
The two companies of Brabanzon foot are archers. We are not using the old Warhammer Bretonnian list for the Brabanzon mercenaries, but instead, as appropriate for mercenaries operating more like Tileans than the norms of their own land, we used our non-official campaign Tilean army list. It is an old internet campaign list which was not made by me but, with various tweaks to suit my own version of Tilea (such as priests of Morr as well as Myrmidia), has proved very useful for representing many an army in this campaign, both player and NPC. These are longbowmen and ‘brigands’ with short bows.
The two engines featuring in the prequel story are seen here – an old Citadel Miniatures’ trebuchet and crew and a kit-bashed monstrosity I cobbled together years ago in lieu of a Helblaster. The latter just so happened to look like exactly what would result if a dwarfen engineer fixed six leadbelcher barrels together. That, and the fact that the ogres had indeed only been allowed to march away if they laid down their arms, as well as that the dwarfs sent to assist Garoy and the Brabanzon had been commanded by an engineer (they though, after all, they would be besieging the city) meant I just had to use it. I crafted rules for it almost identical to ogre leadbelcher rules, but with the chance to misfire and a suitable table to roll on.
The light gun is a Perry Miniatures model, I think. I used the campaign list’s horse artillery stats and rules but ditched the dashing around behind a horse aspect!
The Skaven force is a player-army, although they are my figures. The actual campaign player would command this force, while another player volunteered to command the defending NPC force. More action for everyone!
This is only a fragment of the player’s full force. For a start, only part of their realm’s full strength was near Ravola, and even then, the machines were left behind in the tunnels. I warned the player (well, not me, his NPC advisers) that to get his several war engines out would take several days, and thus give the defenders more time to prepare. Perhaps they would send for relief? Dig traps? Prepare some ruse? This suitably ruffled the player, and he decided to leave the machines and take the city quickly with his warriors alone!
The commander is a Grey Seer called Lord Urlak. (His second name is a mess of letters meant to be confusing. The trick worked, even I can’t recall it! ‘Ushocrochoshor’ or some such monstrosity!)
He has his bodyguard with him, in the form of his army banner bearer, the 40 strong yellow regiment of clanrats and three rat ogres.
Warlord Gurthrak commands Clan Skravell, one of the clans under Lord Urlak’s rule. Gurthrak himself rides a Bonebreaker
There are three other rat ogres in his clan’s little army. The clan’s main unit is the ‘red regiment’ (they have a red banner), being 50 clanrats strong, plus a ratling gun.
The clan also boasts two companies of 5 jezzails and some rat swarms, as well as two engineers to tend their war machines. One was back with the machines at the tunnels, supervising their extraction, but the other was here with his warpmusket.
The last element in Lord Urlak’s force is a large regiment of 40 Plague Monks – Clan Pestilens is one of the investors in his joint-stock war! They don’t have their plagueclaw catapult with them (see the comments above regarding exiting the tunnels). These are a mixture of plastic GW figures, and metal Black Tree Designs’ Pestilential Priests.
The Field of Battle
This was easy to set up as I had pictures from the last wargame played at Ravola, when Razger Boulderguts’ ogres had seized the city three game-world years earlier (in the real world, back in 2014!) I just perused the pics, found the same scenery and slapped it down.
Our campaign has rules for fighting an assault such as this, based on the old Warhammer rules, some going back as far as sixth edition or earlier. These have been modified throughout the campaign as we incorporate new ideas that come up during play, and deal with problems and the like. Basically, it is a 7 turn game (sometimes 8 when the GM thinks it appropriate, and a die roll allows) in which the victor must try to control the greatest number of the defences’ ‘sections’ by the end of the game. Each tower and stretch of the wall is a section (see the picture above), and there are two further sections inside – left and right. To control a section you need an unengaged and non-fleeing unit (or character) in a section, and no non-fleeing enemy models. By the way, the two inner towers (E and F) on the picture above were not official sections, although they were in the internal sections. In this game there were 11 sections to play for, which included the side wall not labelled above. (That wall could only be reached from inside the city, due to the steep stone footings beneath its outside!)
We have our own rules for assaults by ladders (not easy at all) or siege towers, although once on the defences, the fighting between sections is basically the standard fighting in buildings rules from the 8th ed’ rulebook.
Oh, and due to the pandemic we used ‘Play by e-mail’ for this game, thus, for example, all the pictures above are just some of the many, many pics I sent to the players before and during the game, often with notes, arrows and measurements edited on to them. I hope to do a separate ‘Game Notes’ essay all about our play by e-mail odyssey.
The Defence of Ravola: The Battle
It was an hour after dawn when the enemy first appeared. Perette had been on the tower long before light, suspecting that such an enemy might prefer to attack when it was still dark. Then, as the sun rose, she had wondered whether they intended to attack that day at all. Perhaps they were waiting for something? Reinforcements? Mighty but slow-moving machines? Or perhaps they had some scheme afoot and there would be more to the day than a straightforward assault? Just as she was beginning to suspect that this must be the case, they suddenly marched into view.
There were a lot of them, as she had expected. Not only the reports from the scouts, but also every story she had ever heard of ratmen in battle, described them as having great numbers. Yet one of Garoy’s knightly companions, who had witnessed an army of their kind in his youth, had told her that if the scouts were right then this was a small army for their kind. Perhaps not what the ratmen themselves would even call an army?
The enemy force looked big enough to her! Directly ahead there was a large body of robed ratmen, hefting a broad ladder half as wide as the regiment itself – more like scaffolding than any ordinary ladder.
By their side were two smaller companies, whose own burdens were similarly oversized – handguns, but so long and heavy that two ratmen were need to heft them. She had heard of these. They were called jezzails, and they shot bullets of warpstone. Deadly, without a doubt, but surely not strong enough to penetrate the stone of the walls?
Turning she looked along the line. The majority of the enemy were gathered before the gate tower, not the tower she herself occupied, which showed a certain obvious clarity to their purpose. Yet … she could spy no engines of war among them with which to shatter the gate. How exactly did they think they would break through?
The robed rats were not the biggest body the foe possessed. Before the gate were two much larger regiments, carrying exactly similar ladders, as well as a swarm of almost natural rats and at least two companies of brutes the same height as ogres. The biggest regiment had one such brute in its front ranks, with a platform strapped to its shoulders upon which rode a warlord, general or some such, sporting a red and yellow banner affixed to his back. This surprised Perette, for she had always thought such creatures found their strength in numbers, and not through individual prowess. But of course, someone had to command: to cow the rest and make them obey. Doubtless whichever rat argued with that particular warlord would find themselves torn to pieces by his draft beast, while said warlord sniggered or scowled above!
And yet she sensed that the colourfully rigged ratman was not the commander of this force. She could not yet put her finger on it, but there was great power, magical power, elsewhere in the enemy lines. Whoever possessed it would no doubt reveal themselves the moment they brought it openly to bear, but for now, she just knew that the real leader was someone else.
Nearby there was a shout of ‘Have a care!’, which broke her dark reverie. She saw below that the humble townsfolk were leaving the wall there to make way for the Brabanzon longbowmen. This made her think of the wall to her right. What with the enemy so solidly massed before the gate tower, she now realised the brigand archers on that wall must have little to nothing they could shoot at, and so she strode over to the wall to shout down, “Care to join us up here boys?”
As the archers gathered their quivers of arrows and began moving along the wall, she strode back to where she had been before. They’re not slow, she thought. Even from this distance she could see they had drawn considerably closer in just the time it took for her to issue her command.
Seer-Lord Urlak Ashoscrochor peered at the city’s walls. He could see that the enemy had had little time to prepare their defences, for the ground between him and the walls was undisturbed – no pits, earthworks, stakes, nothing at all. But still, what with an oak and iron gate, portcullis and stone walls and towers, perhaps he should have tarried until his engines of war had been extracted from the tunnel? If the walls had to be taken by ladders, his warriors would die in droves. Not that he cared one jot for their lives, but to lose them carelessly when he had future plans for their use was not a prospect which pleased him. He recalled how once he had watched a warlord fill a moat with his fighting slave and even clanrats, simply to fashion a bridge to allow the rest of his force over. At least there is no ditch-moat here, he thought.
He moved his eyes along the battlements, squinting to make out what was upon them. The morning sky was bright, grating enough to blur his vision, but the enemy’s motion helped.
To his left he could see a fluttering banner or two, soldiers’ heads here and there, and a large machine upon the biggest of the towers. Then something caught his eye – a pitchfork! The kind of tool men-slaves used to gather hay from their weed-fields. Why would a soldier have a farming tool?
He looked instead at the walls before him, much closer. There was another machine of war, a cannon of sorts with many a muzzle. And, beside it, men armed with scythes.
Ha! he laughed. They are but peasant-men! Where are the soldiers? These walls are manned by wretches. His scouts had reported soldiers in the garrison, armoured from head to foot. Either his scouts were wrong, the soldiers had fled, or they were elsewhere.
Then he saw motion on the wall to the right. There they are! he thought, as men armed with bows took the place of the previous, pathetic occupants.
It seemed a strange trick to play. It made little sense. What had the enemy to gain from such footling footwork, shifting hither and thither? Unless, the enemy had so few soldiers that they had had to hold them back until his army came into view, then deploy them on whichever walls were most threatened?
If that were so, then he could expect a similar exchange upon the wall ahead. He watched, waited. He squinted against the sharp light. But no, the wretched peasants there remained in place, their scythes held aloft.
They do not have enough soldiers to defend every wall! No armour, no shields; no handguns nor crossbows. Just rusty digging tools and the like. He licked his lips with glee. This would be easy after all.
Before he gave the order to advance, he glanced about him, to check if his army was in order. To his left he saw Clan Skravell’s red regiment, with Gurthrak atop his Bonebreaker at the fore. Just beyond he could make out Skravell’s ogres, and the dangerous end of their ratling team’s weapon.
Seer Lord Urlak hissed, which drew the attention of all around him, even Gurthrak. He bared his teeth at the warlord, narrowed his eyes. Gurthrak gestured forwards with the blade of his fauchard. It was a question. Urlak gave the tiniest of nods, and Gurthrak turned to look back at the city.
As he did so, he summoned up a screeching howl of a command: “Advance!”
The whole army began to move.
You may have noticed the swap-over of two units which I allowed to the defenders. That’s because both sides set up ‘blind’: the players giving me instructions for deployment without any knowledge concerning the enemy’s deployment. The only had a picture of the tabletop to go on. I had, however, told the defender he could swap whichever two units (or just move one) he liked, to represent the fact that his commander and troops would have a slightly better idea regarding the enemy’s deployment (having spied upon their approach) and so could adjust their own disposition on the walls a little to reflect that knowledge, within the present safety of their own walls.
BTW, I know the order to advance has been given by the Skaven in the story, and Perette has ordered the brigands to come up onto the tower, but in game terms this was simply deployment. Next part of the story will begin with Turn 1, Perette’s phase (the Bretonnians won first round).
The Fight Begins
Perette was ready for their advance. She had been absent mindedly stroking the red jewel of her enchanted ring since the moment they had appeared, and now she channelled the etheric breeze through it to conjure magical fire. As she did so the ring itself grew too hot to bear and she was forced to tear it from her finger, dropping her favourite fan in the process. The ring clattered off out of sight, lost somewhere on the crowded battlements. Despite her unexpected pain, the magic coalesced into flaming globes which rushed all the way to the brute-like rats moving a little ahead of the rest of the enemy army. One of the creatures staggered back, alight from the legs up, then crumpled to the ground in a shower of sparks. Satisfied with this, despite her lost ring, she decided she would finish them off completely with more infernal magic, but she could not control the etheric eddies caused by the misbehaving ring and her efforts came to nought.
(Game Note: Miscast using magical item, then straightforward fail on the next spell.)
The men around her, both the crew of the trebuchet and the brigands rushing onto the tower’s battlements, did not notice her fumbling failure, for they had other matters on their mind.
There was an almighty crack as the trebuchet’s arm was released to hurl a huge load of rocks. This sudden sound the brigands could not fail to notice – several flinched in surprise, one dropping the arrows from his quiver. The stones arced gracefully through the air to land squarely upon the robed ratmen to Perette’s fore, causing a large, messy lacuna to appear in their midst as night upon a score were crushed. (Game Note: 17 dead!) Three more at the front also fell, stuck with longbow arrows, so that altogether half their number had been slain. Yet, despite being the sort of carnage which would doubtless discourage even the most foolhardy of men, the survivors simply stepped over the battered corpses and calmly continued their advance.
(Game note: It occurs to me now that their ladder would surely have been destroyed by such a blow. Still, I suppose they could have been dragging it behind?)
Perette was surprised. In every story about them the ratmen invariably proved to be cowards, yet here was evidence to the contrary. Perhaps, she thought, they fear whatever dark god they have dedicated themselves to more than the rocks, more so than even death?
Seer Lord Urlak scowled. That was but one engine, and the enemy had more, including the many-barreled monstrosity awaiting atop the gate tower towards which most of the army was advancing.
He knew he could not yet do anything to harm the engines, but he could make the enemy’s arrows fly less true, so he conjured a warp-gale to engulf the city.
As he did so he felt no resistance from the enemy. Strange-odd? he thought. Perhaps their wizard fears what I will do next? The fireballs had revealed her presence upon the largest tower, beside the stone throwing engine. A red-haired woman, who was either holding back or was currently struggling to manipulate the winds of magic.
Deciding play things cautiously, he summoned a state of magically induced frenzy upon his bodyguard, to make them careless of any harm they themselves might receive. If such rocks were to strike them, he did not want his own guards fleeing in panic. When the warriors around him became more animated and louder in their snarling, he knew his spell had taken hold. Yet still nothing from the red-haired woman. She must have sensed his presence by now? Well, if she was so stupid, he would try something else that would have a much more immediate effect on the enemy. Spotting the clan Skravell engineer not too far away, he decided to skitterleap him onto the walls, there to sow confusion amongst the enemy. This time though, he felt the resistance – not from the engineer, who remained ignorant throughout – but from the tower. From the woman. Yes, yes, you see me now, he thought, as his magic was foiled.
As his army drew closer to the walls …
… the jezzails (out on the far-left flank) gave fire upon the stone throwing engine, despite its distance and almost complete concealment behind the stone battlements.
Chips of stone burst explosively from the crenulations before the engine, and, just visible through the osseous cloud the dust they formed, so too did large shivers of timber from the upper parts of the machine. (Game Note: Two wounds!) The jezzail gunners sniggered gleefully.
What with the sudden, clattering fragmentation of the stone nearby, Perette barely noticed a gang of city dwellers had occupied the wall vacated by the brigands. Angered by the potential loss of her ring, and unable to start scrabbling around to find it now, especially now that shards of stone littered the area, she looked back out at the enemy. The etheric winds began began to wind themselves harmonically into her anger (an old, familiar feeling) and she manipulated them to manifest as spheres of magical fire to fly out towards the largest enemy regiment. Nine of the ratmen succumbed to the flames – if not dead, then too burned to continue. This was not all, however, for the unseen winds were strong, and so with the heat of the last spell still in her mind, she conjured a veritable storm of fire to wash over the same enemy regiment. Eight more ratmen fell, their fur smoking as their innards were cooked!
(Game Note: Fireball followed by Piercing Bolts, which was successful despite forgetting to add the D3 bonus for a previously successful fire spell!)
Urlak saw Gurthrak’s regiment was faltering, what with the awful stench of burned flesh and the terrible sound of the wounded. He allowed himself to give vent to a screech filled with malice, loud enough that the red regiment’s leader heard him. Order was regained, and their march was continued. But only a moment after they resumed their advance, a pile of tumbling rocks crashed into the very heart of them killing seventeen more!
The enemy’s stone thrower had struck again. It was quick, accurate and it was threatening to ruin Lord Urlak’s plans! His screech transformed into something more furious and from somewhere the red regiment found the will to step over more bodies and march on.
No, no! thought Urlak. This is not going to be easy at all. Indeed, in the last few moments his entire enterprise seemed doubtful.
Yet, even as three more red regiment Skaven fell to arrows, still they stumbled onwards. Seeing how much his servants seemed willing to endure for him, he resolved not to succumb to despair. Whatever it took, he would possess this city by nightfall, even if every one of his pathetic underlings had to die in the attempt. Here, today, he had chosen to show his hand. Defeat was not an option. He would die himself before informing the Council he had failed in his first open fight.
(Game note: Both the brigands and the longbowmen were responsible for the three extra deaths. Believe it or not the organ gun was lined up ready to shoot as well, but it misfired! You can imagine how the Skaven player was feeling – a certain degree of doubt about his campaign strategy was beginning to set in! This NPC force had been very lucky in their first two turns. Considering we were, due to the pandemic lock down, ‘playing-by-email’, with me making all the actual rolls, I myself was becoming worried that the players would think I was fudging the results.)
With his despair now transformed into pure fury, Lord Urlak ordered his army to charge. The already battered rat ogres were closest to the walls …
… and their proximity combined with their speed meant that for now they only ones to reach the city wall, slamming up their ladder to ascend the wall against the Brabanzon longbowmen.
As the brutes began their climb, Urlak decided he would not have Gurthrak wasted beneath a pile of rocks, nor did he want to see what the multi-barreled gun peeking over the battlements could do when it fired, and so he summoned every scrap of magical power he could to conjure Skitterleap. The red-haired woman could not stop him this time, and in the next moment Warlord Gurthrak vanished from atop his bonebreaker to reappear upon the gate tower, right beside the war-engine!
By now the jezzailers had also noticed the red-haired woman near the trebuchet, for they could see she was the one spewing magical fire from the battlements. Deciding they could always return to shooting the war machine later, then now fired as one at her. Coincidentally, the ratling team had settled upon exactly the same target, so that now the crenulated stones before Perette began to burst, sending out a huge shower of fragments. She had to throw herself down, shielding her eyes as shards of stone bounced all over and around her.
Not one bullet, however, found its mark, something shooters did not know for some time, what with the obscuring cloud of dust and smoke now engulfing the tower top. The other skaven ratling team, hearing that the first had now opened up, chose an easier target – the peasants on the wall in front of them. It was the last choice they ever made, however, as their weapon broke apart in the firing, mortally wounding them instead of the foe.
The rat ogres, the only skaven to have reached the walls …
… now ascended the ladders as best they could. Of course, the longbowmen had the advantage, killing the packmasters driving the brutes in a hail of arrows before they even set foot on a ladder, and wounding an ogre before it reached the top of the wall. Four longbowmen were cut down or thrown off the wall, while one of the ogres was finished off by the archers’ swords. As that ogre fell, the surviving one struggled to hold on and slid back down the ladder. Winded, it staggered back, and although its previous fury had been beaten out of it, it’s only intent was to climb the ladder again, come what may!
(Game Note: we have campaign rules regarding ladder assaults. Stomp can’t be used, nor can two hand or two handed weapons. Attackers are at -1 Init and -1 to hit, whilst the defenders are at +1 to hit. Up to 12 defenders can fight, compared to up to only 9 attackers (or 3 monstrous infantry). Combat results based on wounds caused alone. It really should not be easy to take a castle wall with ladders, and it is not!)
End of Turn 2!
Play by email is time consuming! This battle took several days, with me running it late into the night on three separate occasions, I think. (My memories are hazy of the experience!) There were benefits, such as me being able to take better pictures than usual as we went along (there are some good pictures coming up in the report, I promise). I also had to send out a ton of orientation pictures, like the following examples …
Perette’s fire magic ranges
Perette’s knowledge of enemy movement
Perette’s orientation re: the enemy’s movements next turn
Skaven rangings for missile …
… and magic
And that is just some of what went out!
I hope to convince the rest of the players that in future play-by-e-mail games it would be just as fun, if not moreso, and just as fair, if the players really try to direct the battle from the perspective of what their PC can see or know. General orders would be given at the start (deployment, objectives, cooperation etc) then alterations (as and when) based on what the PC actually knows. A character’s eye view of things. Because both commanders were magic users in this game that really slowed us down at times, as I communicated back and forth re: spells, dice available, dice used, so that the players had full control over the casting and dispelling details.
Having scrambled, quite unladylike, beneath the clattering, shattering shower of bullets-striking-stone, Perette joined the brigands at the side wall, from where she could still see much of the enemy army, concentrated as it was before the gate tower. She could smell the taint of warpstone: a metallic tang in the corporeal air and the stinging sharpness of the etheric breeze.
The enemy were drawing near – the walls might soon be bristling with their ladders. Of course, she could not help but also notice the sudden appearance of the ratman on the tower-top along from hers, what with his array of brightly coloured banners almost doubling his height!
The new engine’s Brabanzon crewmen, surprised as they definitely were, did not want to lose the chance to shoot successfully at least once, not after all their efforts to master the art, and especially as everything was already prepared. So, despite their understandable discomfort at such a close and dangerous magical manifestation, they continued the process of firing!
As the ratman was obscured by the engine, Perette realised she dare not employ her magical fire against him, for fear of blowing up the gun, which seemed a more than likely outcome, if not guaranteed! It also occurred to her that if he was to descend the stairs instead of attacking the gunners, the ratman could open the gate, allowing the enemy to pour into the city. Looking down into the yard below she saw Baron Garoy and his knights waiting, as planned, mounted and ready to challenge whoever made it over the wall.
The young baron had changed considerably since being wounded at Campogrotta. Not only had he been left somewhat slower and more deliberate in his actions, but his past arrogant aloofness had apparently been knocked right out of him! This much became painfully clear when Perette realised that Garoy had developed a romantic fondness for her, something surely impossible before his wounding? Before Campogrotta, she offended him so much that he could not even bear her presence. Now he was genuinely fond of her, grateful for her help and indeed held her in respect – so much so he had agreed it was best that she commanded all the defences while he commanded solely his band of knights.
Well, thought Perette, he was in the right place at the right time. She waved at him, gestured for him to enter the tower, and drew her hand across her neck to indicate some killing was needed inside. Garoy nodded once, then dismounted along with the rest of the knights to lead them into the gate tower.
(Game Note: We could not allow Garoy and his knights simply to charge the tower and thus join in combat with the skaven warlord, as per the WFB 8th ed. building rules, because of the need to dismount first. Considering troops are not allowed to change formation during a charge it seemed right and proper for me as GM to rule that dismounting from horses was similarly disallowed!)
Now that the baron and his knights had gone from the yard, the Brabanzon horsemen would have to do his intended job instead, so they moved along to best position themselves for the task in hand.
Assured that Garoy was on his way to take on the ratman in the gate tower, Perette spun up a fireball and sent it scorching into the badly mauled red regiment, killing two. Not satisfied, she decided to conjure bolts of fire onto the same, but this time the winds tore through her too strongly and spilled out uncontrollably. Another pair of ratmen died, but much of spell’s strength burst from her own body to wash across the rooftop, killing four of the men standing beside her! She was left reeling, confused and ashamed by her error – this fight was proving very hard upon her despite being atop a stone tower!
(Game Note: Both the Skaven and the brigands passed their Panic tests, the former through luck alone, the latter helped by the fact that they could re-roll their fail. This is another campaign rule for defenders on city or castle walls and towers: they re-roll all failed Ld tests as if the army standard was always within 12”.)
The harmful magic did not badly harm any of the trebuchet crew, but its stinging caress must have at least distracted them, for this time their engine’s hurled rocks landed far wide of the intended mark, damaging only the ground! Meanwhile, the brave gunners on the neighbouring tower, despite the warlord’s presence close by, fired their gun. Its deafening report and impressively large belch of smoke assured them that it must have done well. If they had still been there when the smoke cleared, however, they may have seen that only one of the ratmen in the yellow regiment was killed by their shot!
The brigand archers, despite the horror of the mysterious deaths caused by their beloved lady, finished off the last of the rat ogres staggering in front of the longbowmen’s wall, allowing the latter to loose a volley instead at the severely mauled red regiment, killing three more. Much to everyone’s surprise, friend and foe, this was still not enough to send them running!
(Game Note: They passed their Panic test again!)
Upon the high, thin tower to the right of Perrete’s tower there was a second gun, much lighter than the new contraption, and with only one barrel. The gunner had been waiting until the robed ratmen were in range and now let his linstock down to caress the priming powder with his match. A (loud) moment later he gave a cheer, for he could see four of the enemy had lost their heads! The survivors, now less than half the number who had started the march towards the walls, were untroubled, however, for as Perette had pondered earlier, they were indeed so intent upon killing the enemy in the service of their god that that they cared not a jot for the deaths of their comrades, only that they could get their hands on the foe.
And so it was, now they were close enough to the walls …
… the plague monks began their charge, hefting their huge ladder as they came within a few steps.
Urlak now summoned Crack’s Call, causing a crevice to appear in the ground running from his own foot towards the gate tower. Perette, momentarily distracted by the rush of events, the swirl of considerations and not least the deaths she had caused, did not attempt to prevent this flow of magic. Urlak’s grin grew wider and wider as the crack sped towards the tower, for he knew its power would take it right to the building. Upon touching the wall, a veritable craze of cracks appeared in the stone, coursing like the branches of a tree, upwards and outwards. Inside, Garoy and his knights realised very quickly the building was about to crumble and turned to leave the same way they had come, although much quicker than when they entered. All but one knight got out! On the tower-top, Warlord Urlak also saw the cracks, and without stopping to wonder why (certainly without time to realise the damage had been caused by his master) he escaped by leaping nimbly over the wall to land outside.
There was nothing the crew of the engine could do, however, for they were too high up for men to jump and a flight of stairs away from the walls. Down went the tower, and so too them and their gun!
The new gun had fired but once, and in so doing had killed merely one enemy warrior, while the trebuchet had slaughtered many tens of warriors. Of those not currently far too distracted to notice the event, several ‘lucky’ wagerers now wondered if they would live to collect their winnings.
No-one would ever know whether he had always intended to topple the tower, and thus potentially his warlord. Perhaps Gurthrak had disappointed him? Offended him? Perhaps he was happy to sacrifice Gurthrak just to draw some more of the foe into the tower before it fell? Perhaps he decided Gurthrak might become stuck with a multitude of arrows from the brigands before he could strike himself? Maybe he did not care? Or did he just forget?
Besides, whatever the truth, it did not matter now. Gurthrak lived, and was left standing, somewhat winded, beyond the rubble.
On the other side, Baron Garoy and his knights were forming into a little company, all the better to face whatever came over the rubble.
The red and yellow regiments had yet failed to reach the walls, but the rat ogres of Urlak’s bodyguard …
… did reach, much to the disconsolation of the poorly armed militia defending its rampart. The three massively monstrous rats hurtled up the wide ladder, and at the top they tore so viciously into the militia that seven perished before they could even lunge their improvised weapons. The rest threw themselves off the wall and scrambled off into the city, whilst behind them the brutes and their whip-wielding packmasters took possession of the battlements and released roaring snarls in bloodthirsy glee.
(Game Note: Even with +1 Init’ the peasants did not go first! And despite their re-rolled break test they failed. But who would ever expect ten WS2, Init 2, Ld6 peasants to hold a wall against three frenzied rat ogres?)
Further along the walls, the plague monks, however, found the fight to gain the wall much harder. Forced to use one arm to hold the ladder, and with the wall between them and the elevated foe, they only managed to kill one of the peasant militia, whilst losing three of their own. Their banner, being a cursed shroud of dripping death, fatally infected two more of the defenders, thus evening out the fight somewhat, but it was not enough to take the wall, and the fight continued.
(Game Note: Apparently twelve WS2, Init 2, Ld6 peasants CAN hold a wall against 16 frenzied plague monks! The siege rules say that in a draw the wall is not taken and the attackers are positioned 1” away from it to attack again in their next turn, but as it was a draw, however, the plague monks did not lose their frenzy. Unless the monks died in the intervening Brabanzon phase, we would see if the peasants could repeat the trick later?)
It was now the longbowmen’s turn to experience the explosive peppering of their battlement – two died to the ratling gun’s bullets and another to the jezzails’ shots. As the dust cleared, they set about knocking arrows to their bows. The enemy might be assaulting the wall to their right, had already taken the wall to their left, and their dwarf-gifted gun might be lost, but the trebuchet’s arm was being hauled back into place, Perette was still alive and the enemy had been very badly mauled indeed. There was still a chance, surely? And they were not yet ready to flee!
(End of Turn 3)
(BTW, I know the story doesn’t always stick to the strict order of phases in the game, but it doesn’t really change anything, while it does help the tale unfold better. I think!)
The Battle Concluded
Perette squinted as she scoured the cloud of dust caused by the tower’s collapse, looking for a sign that Baron Garoy was alive. Relief suffused her when she caught a glimpse of him. It would be such a shame for a young man so recently reformed to perish. A moment later, he was gone, having moved towards the wall the brutish rats had taken, perhaps intending to prevent their further progress into the city?
Her attention was drawn to a sudden flurry of movement in amongst the ruins – a large swarm of rats was beginning to flow almost like gushing water over the stone rubble. Realising it might cause considerable trouble for the knights nearby, she conjured up a fireball to hurl at the vermin, but before she could fully hone its corporeal manifestation its ethereal form was dissipated by the enemy wizard’s counter magic. She could sense he was still with the large yellow regiment, and so, hoping he was momentarily exhausted by his efforts, she immediately conjured up a flurry of burning bolts which she sent raining down onto that very same regiment, killing eight of them.
While another load of rocks from the Trebuchet missed its mark, the light gun in the tall tower did not, sending a burst of grapeshot into the robed ratmen as they readied themselves for their next attempt to scale the wall. Six of them perished. Only one of the Brabanzon riders’ arrow stuck the brutes on the wall, but the longbowmen did manage to kill the ratling gun team who had been shooting at them!
These deaths were insufficient to prevent the skaven advance. Both the yellow regiment and the pitiful remnant of the red regiment at last reached the walls, placed their ladders and began ascending.
The yellow regiment climbed easily, for the wall was unoccupied. As soon as the rat ogres had spotted the armoured men approaching below them …
… their bloodthirsty battle lust caused them to leap down to attack. That frantic, claustrophobic combat was the sight that greeted the yellow regiment as they topped the wall behind.
More and more of the regiment’s clan rats, still numerous despite their mauling by magical fire, were climbing the ladders. Further outside the jezzailers agreed amongst themselves that it would be a terrible shame for them to miss out on the richest pickings in the city, so both companies began lugging their long guns towards the walls.
Seer Lord Urlak decided again to cast skitterleap, as it had worked so well before (despite his subsequent collapsing of the tower) but this time the magic was unraveled by the red-haired enchantress’s interference.
The few Plague Monks left unblasted, burned or flattened, now re-ascended the ladder to kill five of the peasants and send the rest running from the wall. They lost three more of their own in so doing, but what few remained were momentarily satisfied. Warlord Gurthrak has also charged the wall occupied by the longbowmen, and so rejoined his bonebreaker and the red regiment in their fight. Four longbowmen perished in the struggle, while the skaven were barely scratched. Thus it was that they too took a wall, as the Brabanzon archers ran pell-mell into the street behind. Baron Garoy’s petty-noble companions lost four of their number to the rat ogres’ fury, their armour failing to prevent the brutes’ brute strength snapping their bones. Despite the direness of his situation, the young baron refused to look to his own safety, and the last of his brave companions chose to stand with him.
Someone on the tower top shouted, “They’re coming! Please, my lady, get out!” and Perette realised that either the red regiment or the monkish ratmen (or both) must be moving along the walls upon either side of the tower. If she did not go now, they could trap her at the top. Leaping across to the stairs she almost threw herself down them, perilously taking the steep, stone steps two or three at a time, bouncing and sliding along the wall in equal measure. When she burst out into the street behind she saw that the Barabanzon longbowmen had rallied in the street and were forming themselves into a line, and that the company’s riders had moved over near to the tower, as if they had known she was coming.
She could see the situation was growing desperate, especially as the walls elsewhere had been taken too. For now, she decided she could only deal with the most immediate threat, which was without a doubt the ratmen on the wall above her!
The winds of magic were weak, but she wound enough etheric essence into her conjuring to send a fireball of some size blazing at the foe. The bonebreaker’s platform, upon which Gurthrak had ridden before he was skitterleaped away, burst into flames, as did several patches of its fur, while two clanrats tumbled, writhing and screeching from the wall. The survivors, Gurthrak included, scrabbled over the wall and down the ladders, having entirely lost the will to take any more of the cruel punishment they had thus far endured.
They would not stop running for some time!
As the last few red regiment warriors frantically stumbled, smoking, from the base of the wall, picking up their pace as they found their breath, a shadow moved past them. Another load of rocks barreled through the air and smashed right into the yellow regiment, killing thirteen! Perhaps because they were divided by the wall, the survivors did not flee; but the ones outside did redouble their efforts to get up the ladder and onto what they hoped was the safety of the wall!
Lord Urlak took a brief moment to look from the wall …
… from where he could see the riders, Baron Garoy’s final struggle against the rat ogres, Gurthrak’s departure, the enemy horse and foot soldiers made ready for the fight in the street below and the red haired wizardess. On sight of her, fierce anger threatened to overwhelm him, but at that very moment he noticed the trebuchet was being dragged about to face him and the yellow regiment, even now they were on the walls! Hissing in frustration, he snarled a command, and he and the warriors with him made their way in to the corner tower which they hoped would protect them.
The brutes fighting the knights suddenly realised there was no-one left for them to kill. Baring their teeth and growling, they looked around them hungrily for someone or something else to pull apart. Below them, beneath their drooling blood and spit, with a taloned foot pressing down hard on its crumpled breastplate, lay the mangled corpse of Baron Garoy.
Lord Urlak, busy squeezing into what he hoped was the safety of the tower, did not know it, but the trebuchet would not have the chance to shoot again. The last of the frenzied Plague Monks had rushed out onto the main tower top, furiously tearing into the brigands and the crewmen, killing some with their blades, while two more fell to the curse of their magical banner. They then easily cut down the last of the Brabanzon attempting to flee by way of the stairs Perette had used.
Down in the street, Perette could hear the screams and commotion. When she looked up she saw the crazed ratmen and their ugly banner peering over the crenulations.
Rats were swarming across the rubble of the gate tower, while ratmen and brutes had already gained access to one of the city’s quarters. The jezzailers were about to begin their ascent over the walls, and somewhere lurked a skaven wizard powerful enough to collapse fortified towers with his magic. The city was lost, surely, and the veteran soldiers of the Brabanzon knew it.
Perette was bruised, battered and bewildered, and suddenly found herself in a moment of calm. Just as she entertained, in her confusion, the mad notion that she could sit and rest a while, there came a commanding voice.
“My lady, mount, if you please. Make haste, I beg of you, for we must leave immediately!”
5 turns played out of 7 or 8 possible in an assault scenario. The skaven had definitely won in terms of victory conditions (i.e. controlling wall, tower and internal sections). Of course, Perette and the last of the Brabanzon could have stayed to fight to the end. But, she is an NPC in the campaign, so I talked with the player running her in the battle, discussing what she and her company might do, then I diced on the final decision. She would escape to fight another day! This I think is a good story, and even the Skaven player was happy because he enjoys the campaign story too and likes Perette’s character very much! I am now working on new figures for the band she will become a part of, and have even acquired a figure for a mounted version of her. She might just become an heroic ‘outlaw’ type, and have a few adventures left in her yet. Then again, considering the fate of young Baron Garoy in this game, she might just die in her next encounter! The campaign is driven by events in the form of choices, actions, cause and effect, and chance. I am not an ‘author’ with god-like control of the NPCs. I just dice for their decisions and responses, based on what options they might consider, then write what happens to them, as I did above!
If you have any questions about the game, please do ask. If I can answer without revealing something the players in the campaign should not know, I will!
Next Installment: Part 31