Biagino had grown more and more furious on the journey from the defeat at Pontremola to the city of Ebino. When the duchess Maria had died, his mind, twisted with all the proud hatred and dark cruelty of vampirism, had been released from his slavish, besotten enthrallment to her, so that now he was enraged almost to madness by the thought of the glamour she had cast over him. As he passed through the gates, anger had so suffused his being that he cared not a jot for the army that was pursuing him, and instead of fleeing further, as was surely the most sensible course of action considering the recent defeat and the enemy’s obvious strength, he decided he would rule her city, take all that was once hers, as partial recompense for her treatment of him.
He had been a pathetic creature in life, and even in undeath, until Maria’s demise, he had been the same. No more.
Now, however, more than two weeks later, with the enemy soon about to attack the city, and with only his paltry, remnant army to defend it, his fury had abated to be replaced with much more mixed emotions, flavoured throughout with a hearty dose of self-interest. Luckily for her, the witch who Maria had left in charge of the city had not met Biagino immediately upon his arrival, otherwise he would most assuredly have killed her on sight, out of sheer spite. When he finally met her, he had regained sufficient composure to realise he needed to hear her report concerning what forces she commanded within the city, and that he needed whatever help she could give to defend it.
The enemy had been preparing for their assault for days, fashioning up contraptions to allow them entry. He knew very well the strength of their artillery, big and small, having watched the volleys at Norochia tear his massive army to pieces, then witnessed the same yet again at Pontremola. Although the city was circumvallated with strong walls, parapeted throughout, he was unwilling to risk even a fraction of the battering they had delivered previously, not when his own forces were so meagre, and so he commanded that none of his soldiers should mount the walls, but rather slink unseen in the shadows below and await his command before marching up to reveal themselves.
So it was that the Disciplinati di Nagash, commanded by the two remaining thralls of La Fraternita di Morti Irrequieti, were now mustered in their full remaining strength in the yard below him, silently waiting for his order to climb the steps.
Upon the other side of the city gate the witch’s garrison of skeletons stood similarly …
… with a corpse cart close by to augment the magical current feeding their animation.
The witch had conjured a host of restless, accursed spirits from the most haunted corners of the city, and they too awaited command, swirling and swooshing around each other like the fronds of water plants might plait and unwind in the eddies of a stream.
The witch herself, an old crone who had mastered only the most basic rudiments of the necromantic art, yet to her credit had still managed over time to raise the force aforementioned, was hiding too. Like Biagino himself, she was tucked away in a corner of the battlements, under the shadow of a nearby tower, from where she could watch over her garrison force but also take an occasional peek at the enemy.
His chess pieces set, Biagino now waited impatiently for the enemy to make the opening move. Upon several recent occasions, one of his thralls had crept out in the darkest hours of the night to spy upon the foe and had reported the mustering of their force and their constructions. He knew they had bridges with which to cross the moat, but only a few. Surely, Biagino mused, there is sufficient strength here to prevent frightened men clambering up ladders at only a few places along the walls? But then, they also had their guns, and their magical colossus; their wizards and priests. At least their mounted men at arms, of which he had spied a good number at Pontremola, would be forced to wade through mud on foot, unable to bring their lances to bear. They would be little better than militia, if somewhat better armoured. With the walls of Ebino in his favour, he rated his chances.
The duchess, he could see now most clearly, had been a vainglorious fool when it came to war. Despite knowing her uncle (and vampiric sire) Duke Alessandro, had perished in battle at the bridge of Pontremola, she had forsaken the stone walls of the city which would hinder the foe tremendously, and had charged out to attack the enemy, entrenched at the very same place, there to die. He was glad of her folly, for her death had freed his mind. Now all he had to do was survive this assault and he would have time to enjoy his freedom, to revel in the power that could now be his.
Having glanced over the crenelations several times, Biagino saw that the enemy had indeed left all their horses behind, and that even their wooden constructions were being pushed by men not beasts. They were divided unevenly by the road to the city gate, with two of their bridges upon one side and the third on the other. Along the road itself they were pushing what at first appeared to be an ancient bombard, but which Biagino’s wickedly nimble eyes made out to be a huge petard, so heavy it had to be mounted on a carriage.
The largest enemy regiment, consisting of spearmen, obliquely flanked the petard, and if he were to guess, he would have said the enemy general intended them to storm the gate once (if) it was blown. The rest of the soldiers on that flank were heavily armoured, and in smaller companies. Biagino knew they must be the nobility, denuded of their steeds by the necessities of an assault. He could not help but smile as he imagined their steel-carapaced bodies sinking deep in the moat or plummeting from a ladder to crash hard into the rock footings. Also on that flank were two cannons, which perhaps explained why the soldiers on that side had only one bridge. They must have been expecting the artillery to breach one spot, while they then poured across the moat to access the gap thus made.
Upon the other side of the road were the Reman contingent as well as more Portomaggiorans. Biagino had seen, when his eyes were alive rather than just not dead, several of the regiments before, including the mercenary regiments of dwarves. The colossus drew his gaze first, as it would anyone’s, but there were also two bridges, a large regiment of armoured footsoldiers and three regiments of crossbowmen, one of which was pushing a bridge. And well they might, he thought, for they nothing to shoot at!
The whole army was on the move. Soon they would discover how much more difficult the fight against him would prove compared to the Duchess!
This was our third play-by-email battle. We are getting quite good at it!
The Living Army Deployment, with labels
The Reman Brigade
This pic was sent, along with the army list, to the living army player, Damo (aka Lord Alessio Falconi) as orientation. He did not need a pic of his own forces, as they were his own figures which I had picked up several months ago from his house for the previous play-by-email!
The Undead Forces
This pic was sent, along with the army list, to the Undead army player, Matt, who is actually the villainous Duke Guidobaldo Gondi of Pavona in our campaign, but who had bravely volunteered to command this NPC force in battle.
The City Sections
This being a siege game, it would last for 8 turns, and victory was to be decided according to the number of sections held by an unengaged, unfleeing unit by the end of turn 8.
Movement: With 8 men attending, with 4 of them pushing, it can march move. Once the attendants fall below 2, it cannot march. Once there are no attendants, it loses 1″ movement per lost pusher. It must be pushed right up to the gate, then the fuse lit.
(The idea here is that the pushers are the muscle, while the attendants help shift it, direct it, remove obstacles, and add a bit of extra muscle in the moments such is required.)
Explosion: I reckon we should modify the shooting at the gates rules from 6th ed, p.252 -253. Auto hit the gate (for obvious reasons – it will be placed right against it). Roll artillery dice twice for misfire chance (as per the packing an extra charge rule) but the worst misfire result actually counts as a success (except the success also includes potential casualties – D [whatever number of men are present] deaths)! Damage cause = Str 10 + D6 +2. That’s a +2 to the standard rules. 15+ breaks the gate, 16 + destroys it utterly (so need a 3+ roll on the D6). If it’s a miss a turn type misfire, it can be relit by one of the petardiers for another try!
These will start behind the 24″ line deployment, with the pushing unit behind. They should therefore be dropped at the start of turn 3, and although technically the carriage has to be pulled aside, I will allow the unit behind to declare a charge over and against the walls (should be a 10″ charge). A failed charge means that the rolling aside of the carriage prevented their progress! They can then attempt their charge in turn 4.
Movement: With 15 men pushing, and at least 5 attending, the bridge can march move normally. Once the attendants fall below 5, it can only march move in a straight line, if it turns it is a non-march move. Once it falls below 15 pushers, it cannot march move at all. At only 10 pushers it loses 1″ movement, then 2″ lost for 7, 3″ lost for 4. At 3 or less, it cannot move at all.
‘Other considerations’ (as passed on to the players) …
In past battles, including the recent Ravola game, it occurs to me that not all non-missile defenders, were on the walls, thus minimising further the damage from the attacker’s missiles. There are no missile troops in the undead army, and so they could perhaps (as Matt and I have already discussed briefly) deploy behind the walls, ready to mount the parapets as the enemy close in?
If the defenders are not on the walls (apart from tower window wizards (perhaps) then the first few turns will be about the cannons’ battering and whatever magic is conjured. I can’t really discuss anything else here and will shift to individual e-mail threads for that. BUT if there’s an issue with any of the above, you can and should say here!
A last consideration ….
Taking a walled and moated city should be hard, although in this case the lack of defender missiles makes it easier, the fact that they are undead might make it much, much harder to take the walls! The Portomaggiorans might finally face a real challenge, after two great, if easy, victories!
This could be a great and hard fought battle, and as such a great ‘finale’ for Biagino (if it is his finale).