Sunday 18 December 2016

HotT: Santa vs the Barbarians


Once a year, sometime in December, I pull my Santa army out of storage and use it in a game of Hordes of the Things.  If you're interested then here are the previous reports:

As you can see from these battles, Santa and his friends have faced all manner of enemies, but today's fight would pit them against a new foe: a musclebound, unwashed, barely articulate mass of Conanesque Barbarians!

This would be a straight up fight, with no special rules or scenario plots.  On with the story...

The Forces

In the red corner, trying to topple the festivities and loot & pillage Santa's workshop, we have:
  • Barbarians:  24AP of steroid-abusing narcissists with very little self-control.  This force is made up mostly of heroes and warbands with a few shooters as well.
  • Kung Fu: 24AP of inscrutable orientals.  A mix of heroes, blades and hordes, plus a cleric.
In the blue corner, defending all that is decent, right and proper:
  • Santa: 24AP of elves with firearms, polar bears, an animated toy cannon and hordes of snowmen.
  • Tileans: 24AP of Condottieri/mercenaries.  Pikes, crossbows, heavy cavalry, assassins and a flying machine.

The Game

From the outset, the attackers charged across the battlefield:
  • The Kung Fu army raced for the hill in front of Santa's house.
  • The Barbarians tried to close with their enemies as fast as possible (since the defenders had a lot of missile weapons!).  A single barbarian archer unit was sent to claim the other hill.
On the other hand, the defenders all edged forwards slightly, apart from the Tilean flying machine.  This made a huge, sweeping flank move and ended up on the other side of a forest, out of sight and out of mind.

As expected, Santa's shooters and artillery knocked backwards elements in the barbarian line.  This would make it much more difficult to mount any kind of coordinated attack.

Santa couldn't resist attacking the isolated barbarian archers on the hill.  It helped that flying elements are not penalised for being downhill of an opponent, but even then everyone was surprised when he wiped out the bowmen.  By far the most likely result would have been a simple recoil of the archers, which wouldn't really have bothered the barbarians one little bit.

Sensing a challenge, the barbarian general ran and leaped up the hill to confront the enemy's hero.  Some of his warband followed him, whilst others surged forward into the snowmen.

Here's the thing about hero vs hero fights in Hordes of the Things: unless there's a tie, the loser dies.  As a rough rule in HotT, the loser of a fight recoils unless their combat score is doubled [pretty much impossible in this situation] -  but not when it's a hero facing another hero.  Oh, no - I guess they're just too stubborn to retreat or something like that.

So, Santa and the Barbarian king fought each other.  The odds were in the barbarian's favour as he had support from some of his tribe.  He duly rolled a better combat score than Santa (just!) and the man in red went down.  Game over, man!

The loss of their leader caused Santa's followers to panic.  Some fled the field immediately, whilst many of the snowmen were slaughtered by rampaging barbarians.

On the other side of the board, the Kung Fu army charged down from their hill into the Tileans:
  • With some luck on their side, the orientals smashed down the units at both ends of the Tilean line.
  • Although the Tilean assassins tried a sneaky rear attack, they were put to flight easily by the Kung Fu reserve.

After this, it was only a matter of time before the eastern hordes rolled up the Tilean force.  By the time  the Tilean general fell, his army was in tatters and demoralised.  Nobody even noticed when the flying machine slipped away quietly!

Then it was just a question of mopping up, whilst deciding which force would get bragging rights from looting the toyshop!  A barbarian warband was first to reach Santa's house, but these impetuous warriors fell to the magical defences.

The Kung Fu priest attempted to break in to the workshop, but his efforts were all thwarted.  Finally, the barbarian heroine was the one to smash her way in, capturing the stronghold and finishing the game.  Mind you, by this time there was only a single defending element left on the table (a Tilean pike unit), so Santa's defeat was complete and somewhat inevitable!


I don't think that the defenders really had a plan in this game.  Either they should have moved aggressively for the 2 hills and used the height advantage to hold them against all comers, or else they should have stayed on their baseline and used their reasonably good firepower to disrupt and damage the attackers.  Instead, they advanced slowly to the point where the attackers could neutralise both of these potential advantages.

The big (indeed, huge) turning point was obviously when the barbarian chieftain confronted Santa.  I hadn't read the rules in detain at that point and consequently hadn't appreciated that:
  1. Santa would not be disadvantaged by being downhill.
  2. Hero-vs-hero fights are exceptionally deadly.
As leader of the barbarians, I didn't then have as much of an advantage as I thought I would - and the loser of this fight would have their general destroyed.  That would likely result in the loss of their command and, in due course, cost the entire game.  Truly a lot depended on this one combat!

Well, we know how it turned out.  But it could have gone the other way so easily...

Finally, here's a shot of the Tilean flying machine hiding behind the forest, just to prove that it did exist!


  1. Well done! Love a themed game, especially holiday themed. :)

    1. Thanks, Scott. I've done Halloween and Christmas games for a few years now and they're always fun. I plan to continue doing this for the foreseeable future :-) !

  2. This is just my type of thing. I see these games every year and think "I am going to do something like this!" and every year I fail to. Which is a shame as I do so admire these games. (And the Halloween Games)

    I really should get my act together!

    1. Glad you like it, Clint. I also seem to remember you saying "I really must do something like this" every year :-) .

  3. Wonderful! Thanks for the pictures and the narrative! :-)

    1. Again, thanks for your support; it's much appreciated!

  4. I love seeing Santa taking to the table, wonderful game.

    1. Santa has had better results in the past, but I'm sure he won't be down for long!

  5. Brilliant, I love the weird mix of troops too! Tileans and Santa fighting together awesome

    1. Well, the Tileans are mercenaries, aren't they? They'll fight for anybody (ideally as long as it doesn't involve having their expensively trained and equipped troops slaughtered!)

  6. So is Xmas cancelled now ?
    Another great aar, but a terrible outcome forall that is good and proper.
    (tileans ? )

    1. Indeed, it doesn't really feel like Christmas any more :-( . Still, Santa can't be down for good, can he :-) ?

      "Tileans" is the term that Games Workshop used for their "Italian" mercenary forces in Warhammer, some 15-20 years ago. They were more commonly known as "Dogs of War" and consisted of a core of Condottieri pikemen, crossbows, artillery & heavy cavalry surrounded by an eclectic collection of weird fantasy troop types.

    2. I always considered the Condottiere "Gentleman adventurer" type mercenaries.

      I'm sure the "Dogs" was reserved for the uncouth Imperials, and renegade Albanians, Spaniards or Moors who attempted to muscle in on their racket.

  7. Not "you've been a _very_ naughty boy this year!", then :-) ? He'll be back, I'm sure.

  8. Those beasts on Santa's army looked terrifying.
    Teeth, claws, appetite, bulk - even a barbarian wouldn't fancy that match-up.

    It was therefore a huge relief when the big man went down in the first and his army lost heart.

    1. I'm not sure that a true barbarian would baulk at taking on any beast, however ferocious. Would he/she?

      From the perspective of winning the game, beating Santa really early made victory almost certain. From a story-telling point of view, perhaps it wasn't ideal :-) .