Notes on the Battle

This is for those among you who like this sort of thing. I can’t imagine there are many of you!

This was a ‘play-by-email’ battle (due to distances and pandemics!) Put very simply, the scenario was as follows:

The skaven player must get the annihilation mortar to the river’s edge to be in range of the city. If he achieved this then the engine could attempt to fire, which might actually kill just about everyone in the city.

In truth, the situation was much more complicated, as the annihilation mortar was a very unreliable contraption, and the grenade it was to fire entirely untested and unstable. (See the rules below.) Indeed, should it be damaged, destroyed or misfire, it was potentially deadly to everyone on the tabletop! This means that the skaven player, as described in the prologue story (link) had to choose the escort/guard force carefully – getting the balance between effectiveness and disposability just right!

The skaven had several 1000 points of forces in the tunnels (other forces were acting as garrisons), plus the annihilation mortar. Their scouts reported there were likely 3500+ pts of men and dwarfs in the city, being the Compagnia del Sole mercenary army and a brigade of Karak Borgo dwarfs, with plenty of guards posted and regular light-horse patrols. Also present in the city was the fire wizard Perette, commander of the last remnant of the Bretonnian ‘Brabanzon’ company.

The men and dwarfs were NPC factions, or at least, the dwarf king PC wasn’t present in the city and so couldn’t technically be involved. They knew a lot about the skaven assault on Ravola as Perette was there, and were also aware of the existence of some sort of new and incredibly poisonous contraption which arrived at Ravola after its capture. Despite not having seen it with their own eyes, the brigand ‘Arrabiatti’ riders had reported the dead and deadly ground left behind it wherever it travelled.

In order to make success more likely, Lord Urlak (well, the campaign player playing him) ordered a distraction involving arson, riot (etc) at the settlement of Buldio to the north of the city, in order to draw out as many of the enemy’s forces as possible, so that they would have less available to send against the engine. Annoyingly, however, the emissary he had previously sent to create a secret, underworld faction of servants had recently died. Such work is inherently dangerous! Obviously, the emissary would have been the best by far at organising such distraction – not only was this area of expertise, but it was he who had fashioned the bonds, cemented the allegiances, and created a secret, petty ‘empire’ of criminal scum he could manipulate (see the story – link). Now only a spy and assassin remained operational within the city, both of whom excelled in other skills!

I would have given the emissary a 6+ (on 2D6) chance of getting a ‘good’ result at Buldio, but as it was the spy and assassin attempting to employ the ‘network’ the emissary had already built, I stipulated an 8+ (on 2D6) chance of getting a properly noticeable result. A poor result (7 or less) would mean perhaps one fire, or some bar brawling, etc, which would most likely only cause a small force to be sent to investigate, if even that. A good result, 8+, would achieve something more impressive – several fires spreading, joining, and some frantic activity in the form of panic, plundering and rioting, which could even appear like a skaven attack. This would mean the GM (me) determining what % of the available forces were sent to deal with the trouble &/or threat, with the exact choices of units being rolled for. Importantly, whoever and whatever went to Buldio would NOT be able to ‘support-move’ south onto the tabletop of the game.

Do you follow me so far?

Myself and the Skaven player had a great time hatching all this. Boy did we feel foolish near the end of the game when it dawned on both of is that there was a massive error of logic in Urlak’s thinking!

His aim was to destroy the enemy army. He intended to use Clan Skryre’s deadly invention to do so. Worried that the enemy might send out enough of a force to prevent the engine from approaching close enough, he orders the distraction.

Sounds great, eh? But can you spot the flaw?

It is this: Suppose everything works. The distraction draws a substantial, enemy force northwards out of the city, while the engine manages, despite the force sent southwards from the city to stop it, to shoot. The city is destroyed! Hurr …. Wait! How much of the enemy army is now in the city, if several regiments were lured north?

All this effort and it is possible the enemy army is still substantially intact!

Still, Lord Urlak’s player could console himself that if the engine failed spectacularly, then at least (at the cost of him losing whatever he sent with the engine) the enemy forces sent south would all most likely perish!

Further scenario details …

The skaven player had to decide exactly what units would enter the field (i.e. table) with the mortar, and what unit(s) he wanted near enough to the field to have the option of a support move onto the table from his own edge. These latter units would be affected by a table-wide miscast blast result, but at a reduced effect as they are that bit further away – 1 T test per model instead of D3?

The mortar must cross the field to the river’s edge (near the far side of the table) to be in range to shoot at the city. The river would be about 28 or 30″ from the edge of the skaven deployment zone, and as the engine moves 2D6″ a turn, i.e. an estimated 7″ per turn, it would take (on average) 4 turns to get there.

The game, being neither a set battle (6 turns) or a siege (8 turns), but somehow in between, would last 7 turns. If the mortar was not in range by the end of turn 7, it could fire for a 50/50 chance of reaching the city, which after all the misfire possibilities, etc, would not leave it with much chance of success. Indeed, if it had not reached the river by the end of tit’s last move it would really have to fire, because by then it would have been clattering around faster than ever done before leaving the crew terrified not to fire the grenado for fear of it almost certainly blowing up in the barrel. Up until now, the engine had been ‘steady as she goes’ with attendants clearing a path. Not so careening around a tabletop!

The enemy was to have one randomly chosen light horse unit (possibly with a character) on the table. As one of three such units on regular patrols they would be the one that spotted the engine’s approach. They would also have whatever unit (plus character(s)?) were guarding the bridge, again randomly chosen from a list of the sort of units that might be assigned such a duty.

The enemy’s other two light horse units would be able to attempt a support-move onto the table, on turn 2 with a 4+ roll, then by rolling 3+ on any subsequent turn. The GM to roll a D8 to determine where exactly they arrived: 1-4 via the bridge, 5-6 left-flank table edge, 7-8 right-flank table edge.

The rest of the men/dwarf army, whatever remains left in the after the GM has rolled for whatever goes north, can begin support moves onto the table from T2. Each turn it can allowed to support move one unit (with a 5+ chance of a character) on from its own table edge, being the far side of the river. The GM is to roll to determine which exact unit, using a list of what is in the city. This would represent whatever happened to be close enough!

(Note: If a player had been in charge of the men/dwarfs, I would have allowed them to choose the unit they wanted to support move, then roll to see if the unit did so. If it failed, they could choose another and try again, and so on until a unit arrived.)

The annihilation mortar

This is meant to be the current culmination of Clan Skryre’s warpstone weaponry. Not high fantasy, I don’t think, but very ‘low fantasy’, due to all the difficulties it presents, even to its users. Even just moving it – or more accurately, not moving it – is difficult due to its poisonous aura! And it has all innate unreliability and instability such an experimental skaven weapon should have.

It was a fun modelling project, has inspired three stories so far, and is a challenge even for the Skaven player to employ. It was meant to make the skaven a suitably challenging campaign threat as the Ogres are gone, the Undead are fading fast, and the Sartosan pirates are somewhat limited in the threat they present (certainly in terms of their likely longevity). Oh, and the skaven have been part of the campaign from the start, from before the start, sneaking about, manipulating, spying, etc. They were even mentioned in the second campaign story! (Unresolved as yet.) Also, it is a case of: “Have army, will get it into the campaign!”

First, we needed rules for the now well (story) established poisonous area around the engine.

The grenado has been brewing for some time. This is why the attendants and the engine’s guards wear lots of protective gear. Units coming close to the mortar should suffer from its now famous poisonous aura, presenting an interesting challenge in tabletop battles. It leaves a trail of withered vegetation and dead animals wherever it passes!

It could be damaged (admittedly at great risk to everyone on the table) by a war engine. BUT it is likely that skaven advance scouts would spot any war-engines ahead and that therefore there could be a game when the skaven try to knock out said engines. If an entire army was with the engine, or any substantial force, then skaven advance troops would fail, or just not attempt an attack, but the enemy force would be in great danger if it ends up on the tabletop with the engine. Besides, the skaven advance guard could forewarn the mortar’s attendants and it could then travel a different path to close in on its target.

All of this means that it is likely (though not guaranteed) that it would be some speedy, mobile enemy force that tries to take on the engine. It could be deployed with an army, and fighting against an army, obviously, but this is not what its designers intended, and if such a situation was about to happen, the engine might just lob its very long-range globe at the enemy army anyway! Probably, while it was a safe distance from the skaven main army! Which again leads to a tabletop scenario in which enemy scout types take it on, or some other form of outlying force, even a defensive force!

Whatever sort of tabletop scuffle it became involved in, it is an engine which kills the very land over which it passes, and requires suitably protected attendants, and thus will harm any who get too close. We needed rules!

There was potentially useful information in the existing Skaven rules:

Skaven Book, p. 46 Censer Bearers, Plague Censer rule

This is useful as it shows the effect of being close to the gaseous mixture (described as a ‘fog’) of warpstone and poisons.

Skaven Book, p. 49: Plague furnace “Enshrouded by fog” rule

There is also similar T test (etc) when the furnace uses the Billowing Death effect (template based) in Shooting phase.

Also from the Skaven Book …

p. 47 “Fume addled crew” – Plague-claw catapult crew’s senses dulled by the toxic fumes.

p. 59 Poisoned Wind globes.

p. 63 Poisoned Wind Mortar.

So, I came up with a first draft set of rules, passed it to the skaven player, tweaked quite a lot, then got the other campaign players to ‘ok’ them.

The rules …

Proximity to the Mortar

At start of each of its own side’s turns, roll D6 on following table. Effects apply until the next turn, then roll again.

1 Everyone feels queasy near the engine. No game effect.

2 Everyone within 12″ of the engine’s muzzle is at -1 S & -1 Init (being dizzy & disorientated).

3 As 2. Also any unit within 6″ of the engine’s muzzle during the skaven shooting phase takes D3 hits, each affected model rolls a T test, with no armour saves, & if fails, takes a wound.

4 As 2. Also any unit within 12″ of the engine’s muzzle during the skaven shooting phase D3 hits, each affected model rolls a T test, with no armour saves, & if fails, takes a wound.

5 As 2. Also any model within 6” of the engine’s muzzle during the skaven shooting phase, takes a Toughness test, with no armour saves, & if fails, takes a wound.

6 As 2. Also any model within 12” of the engine’s muzzle during the skaven shooting phase, takes a Toughness test, no armour saves, & if fails, takes a wound.

Note: The engine attendants & suited guards do not take these tests unless they are currently engaged in combat, when they are not quite as sealed up and protected (what with flailing around etc), in which case in each combat phase they are fighting the above rules apply, but they do get a 5+ ‘protective gear’ save (which works just like an armour save).

The mortar’s crew/attendants

If all the mortar’s attendants are killed (like a war engine’s crew) the engine cannot fire! 5 attendants, not 6, as the model in the wheel part cannot fire it. Kill him too (6th wound) and it cannot move. The crew should fight as per the normal war engine in combat rules. This vulnerability is why the protective gear wearing guard regiment travels with the engine.

Also, the attendants are required to nurse the engine continually, to regulate it and vent it’s emissions as required. As soon as the 5 attendants are dead, roll an artillery dice per Skaven shooting phase. A misfire counts as a misfire as if it was shooting. This is another reason the engine has an assigned guard regiment.

Firing the engine

Size-wise it is a bit like a plague claw catapult; in terms of mobility, it is like a doomwheel; while its armament is akin to a poisoned wind mortar in weapon – but much bigger and very much more powerful. One firing only.

A ranged shot into a settlement or an army

Range: Several table lengths (Effectively 3 or 4)

Strength and damage: It can kill a settlement, even a city, leaving only a handful of survivors, weak and ill. Each character in the city has to pass D3 Toughness tests to escape, with no character recovery roll if they die. (Most characters should, I think, get out alive.) Each unit within the city must pass D3 Toughness tests for every model to escape, with no casualty recovery rolls. (This should more than decimate the units.)

If it goes off anywhere on the tabletop

Use the same rules as above to escape the tabletop. Already received wounds might have weakened characters already, making it less likely that they escape alive. All deaths are counted as ‘overkills’ for casualty purposes, so there is no recovery roll. The attendants etc, do not get to count their special armour – this blast is way more than a mere poisonous leak!

To fire the mortar

Roll TWO numbered artillery dice. If either one is a misfire, it has misfired …

Misfire Chart, D6

1-2 Foomph! Explodes in the tube. The tabletop explosion rules apply. Anyone within 8″ of the engine is drained of all life and becomes a dried husk (like the Nazis at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark!).

3-5 Wildly off target. Roll D6, on 1-4 it misses the target city/army/camp/settlement and poisons a large swathe of ground nearby. GM to determine if anyone is hurt by the blast. 0n 5 or 6 it lands somewhere on the table, and then the tabletop explosion rules are applied.

6 Clogged. The super-grenade is stuck on the barrel. It can attempt to fire again, but next time must roll 3 artillery dice. Additionally, on any subsequent turn it does not fire, it has to roll a single artillery dice in the shooting phase to see if it misfires just sitting inside the barrel. If it does, roll on this modified chart …

1-2 Foomph! Explodes in the tube. The tabletop explosion rules apply. Anyone within 8″ of the engine is drained of all life and becomes a dried husk (like the Nazis at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark!).

3-5 Shoots. Roll D6, on a 1 it hits its originally intended target, on 2-4 it misses the target city/army/camp/settlement and poisons a large swathe of ground nearby. GM to determine if anyone is hurt by the blast. 0n 5 or 6 it lands somewhere on the table, and then the tabletop explosion rules are applied.

6 Clogged. The super-grenade is stuck on the barrel. It can attempt to fire again, but next time must roll 3 artillery dice. Additionally, any subsequent turn it does not fire, it has to roll an artillery dice in the shooting phase to see if it misfires just sitting inside the barrel. If it does, roll on this same chart again.

If it is destroyed (before firing) by either a war engine or a unit/character/monster

When it is destroyed, and every Skaven turn afterwards (unless it has already exploded), roll D6

1-2 Foomph! Grenado Explodes. The tabletop explosion rules apply. Anyone within 8″ of the engine is drained of all life and becomes a dried husk (like the Nazis at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark!).

3-6 Roll on the “Proximity to the Mortar” table.

The rest of the rules

* The mortar moves like a doomwheel, but due to its extra burden only goes 2D6 inches per move, not the usual 3D6. Due to the fact that the engine has made it this far there must be some sort of ‘release the pressure’ deceleration or brake, so the player always has the option, after rolling the 2D6 for movement, of rolling 1D6 to reduce said movement.

* The attendants and engineer fight like the ‘crew’ of a normal doomwheel, 2D6 Attacks, but at S3 not 2. (They are not rats, but rat-men!)

* Rolling Doom rules apply. (p.67) but at 2D6.

* Loss of control rules apply – including the ‘Out of Control’ rules

* Grinding down the foe rules: Impact hits apply, but there is no ‘grinding down’ as the big gun is in the way of the wheel.

* There are NO ‘Zzzap’ rules.

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