It's time for my annual Halloween battle report. In other years, we've usually played Witches vs Witch Hunters, using the excellent Song of Blades and Heroes [SoBH] as the ruleset:
- 2015: The Witch of Nether Thicket
- 2014: The Flames of Justice
- 2013: Night of the Witches!
- 2012: [Hordes of the Things, rather than Song of Blades and Heroes] All Hallows Eve!
This year, we played our usual SoBH game, but added a twist. Since there were 4 players, we'd have 4 warbands; as well as the regular witches and witch hunters, we introduced the Three Musketeers [except that there were 5 of them in our game] and a Plague of Rats.
Let the match commence!
An unholy alliance of rats and witches has descended on the small, sleepy village of Simply Bibbling in the dead of night. Most of the villagers have fled, but a few unfortunate souls have been captured by the forces of evil. These prisoners are being herded from the village towards the nearby dark forest; should they enter that then their fate is sealed and they'll never be seen again.
However, all is not yet lost! 2 bands of armed men are blocking the escape route. If they can prevent the prisoners from being carried off then the witch's evil plans will be foiled, hurrah!
- Each side is made up from 2 factions. These activate independently, but can interleave their activation attempts in any order, as they see fit. For example, the "good" side may decide to attempt an activation from the Musketeers, then from the Puritans, then from the Puritans again, then from the Musketeers. If one faction cannot continue [because it has rolled a double failure or because it has run out of models that it can activate] then the other faction in the alliance may continue to activate its models until it finishes. Only then does the side's turn end.
- The evil side [Rats & Witches] starts with 3 townsfolk prisoners. To move one of the prisoners against his will, a captor in base contact must spend 1 action "subduing" the prisoner. Further actions from that captor in the same turn may then be used to move both captor and prisoner together.
- If during any turn, a prisoner isn't subdued in this fashion then the opposition [i.e. the Puritans or Musketeers] may attempt to activate the prisoner themselves using Q5+. Presumably this would be with the intent of making the prisoner run away, since they have no combat score and cannot be involved in any melee.
Very simple; this is determined entirely by the number of prisoners that are carried off by the bad guys:
- If the evil side can move all 3 prisoners off the far side of the board then they win a major victory.
- If 2 prisoners are moved off the board then the evil side score a minor victory.
- If the forces of evil take only 1 prisoner into the deep, dark woods [i.e. off the other side of the board] then they suffer a minor defeat.
- If all the prisoners are rescued, or all the evil forces are killed/flee then the evil side have a major defeat.
Each faction has about 250 points, according to the Song of Blades and Heroes rulebook:
- Musketeers: D'Artagnan, Porthos, Athos, Aramis (all very competent, with varying extra skills & abilities), Leroux (a points filler, not quite as competent as the other four).
- Puritans: John Sterne (professional witchhunter), Major Fairfax (leader), Sergeant Stone (unfit & reluctant), 3 musket-men & 3 soldiers (inexperienced country boys).
- Witches: Meg (magic-using leader), 3 hellhounds (savage critters), 4 ghouls (gangrel misfits).
- Rats: Plague Priest (middling leader), Rat Monster (terrifying, overpowered behemoth), 3 giant rats (vicious rodents), 5 rat swarms (chittering tide of vermin).
How did our game play out? Read on...
The first turn was mostly predictable. The evil forces advanced slowly from the outskirts of the town, herding their captives along with them.
There was an exception, though: the rat monster caught the scent of humans and bounded off into the distance, snarling as it went [its berserk attribute meant that it had to roll all 3 dice for activation and then use all its actions to move towards the nearest enemy. Even though it was only Q4+, it scored 3 successes and moved 3 times in a beeline for the Musketeers].
At this point, the players on the evil side were quietly amused by this; either the monster would tear some men apart and terrify the rest, or else it would tie up large numbers of enemies as they tried to surround & outnumber the ogre to even the odds. Either way, it would mean that the rest of our forces could just saunter past the melee and vanish into the dark forest with our prizes!
The rat ogre continued its canter towards the men with another 3 successful actions in its next turn. Worryingly, it didn't quite reach them (it was about 0.5" short) and the Musketeers swarmed the monster before it could catch its breath. Even with 4:1 numbers against it, the rat ogre wasn't to be taken lightly, or so I thought. However, Leroux managed to trip the creature up; it ended flat on its back and therefore lost its berserk status.
The remainder of the evil forces tried to pick up the pace, but ended rather spread out as certain models just refused to move at a decent speed. In particular, the witch ordered all 3 hellhounds to attack the Puritans, but only one of them sauntered forwards. The other 2 beasts skulked at the back and wouldn't do as they were told.
The Puritans then spent the best part of 2 turns pouring shot after shot towards the one hellhound which had advanced towards them. Although the creature was knocked over, most of the firing resulted in just a lot of noise and smoke. Throughout this, the witch cursed and swore at her other minions, but none of them would move up to assist the endangered hound [the witches warband is becoming somewhat infamous for the number of failed activation rolls it makes, I fear].
The musketeers continued to fence with the huge rat creature. Even outnumbered, its formidable combat rating of 6 [C5, +1 for being huge vs man-sided opponents] should still have given it quite an advantage. However, the musketeers barely worked up a sweat; Porthos ran his sword through the monster's heart and it dropped to the ground, dead. [What?! How did that happen? Porthos attacked it; he rolled a '6' and the rat ogre rolled a '1' - the only result that would kill the tough creature outright rather than wounding it]
This, of course, freed up the musketeers. They now came pouring forwards to threaten the scattered and dismayed forces of evil.
Almost unnoticed, the seething swarm of normal-sized rats was carrying one of the prisoners away, with none of the men in any good position to stop them from escaping.
Whilst a few of the Puritans made a half-hearted attempt to catch the river of rats on the flank, the musketeers swept onwards, into the ghouls. The men slaughtered 2 of them [Porthos strikes again!]; the other 2 ghouls fled for their lives, leaving one very relieved little boy prisoner to be rescued by the Frenchmen.
Then, the musketeers and the Puritans joined forces to attack the remnants of the witch's warband from both sides. The giant rats made a noble (?!) effort to impede them - for one brief moment they threatened to take John Sterne down - but there were just too many Puritans and the rodents were outnumbered and overwhelmed.
Meg was forced to release her captive in order to defend herself, but to no avail. She was cornered by a common soldier, thus allowing Porthos (him again!) to cut her down. Seeing her fall, the 2 remaining hellhounds fled.
We called the game at this point. Although the rat priest had been skulking about in the background all game, there was no realistic prospect that he could take on the rampant forces of men to recapture even 1 of the prisoners. I suspect he blended into the shadows and slunk away quietly...
Well, that was another fairly disastrous outing for the witches! We (Steve & I, representing the forces of evil) didn't even cause a single casualty to the combined forces of men. I'm not sure that we won even one combat roll!
In my games, it's becoming quite common for the witches to be hammered; mainly due to recalcitrant underlings who just won't do what they are told. I'm seriously considering switching allegiance to the forces of good.
Still, all was not lost. One of the three prisoners was carried off the board on a tidal wave of rats; the men failed to stop us from this. Consequently, we only suffered a minor defeat, despite the casualty figures. Remember you victory conditions, kids!