It's Halloween and once again I've arranged a seasonal battle to mark the occasion. Like last year (see here), this will be a battle between the Witches and the Puritans (Witch Hunters). This time, each of these forces will be supported by some rather uneasy allies, respectively the Rat Plague and the Five Musketeers.
[On a side note, I believe that this will be the 500th article on my blog. I had no idea the number had grown so large until I was looking for the links to insert in the previous paragraph...]
Very simple: witches, ghouls and other beasties intend to raid the village of Middle Dorking and carry off at least some of the locals (for use as sacrifices, slaves, playthings, food... Use your imagination!). The local authorities would like to stop them.
3 villagers have been placed along the table's centreline. Each of these can be moved, at a reduced rate, by anyone who has a model in base contact at the start of an action. Whoever holds the most at the end of the game wins! Note that in order to foster some unhealthy competition, each side (i.e. good or evil) wins or loses according to the number of objectives they have caught/saved. Within each side, the force with the larger number of villagers will be declared the major victor and the other force will only be allowed a minor victory.
For example, if the Puritans rescue 2 villagers and the Musketeers none then the Puritans win a major victory and the Musketeers must be content with a minor win. Even if the Witches have caught the third villager, the evil side still loses completely. Clear?
The rat monster is an exceptionally dangerous foe; as well as its very high normal combat score it gains another +2 for its berserk attribute. It loses this attribute as soon as it throws 3 failures in a single activation roll. In this game, that happened in its very first turn - so the creature was no longer berserk. Sighs of relief could be heard from the Puritans and Musketeers; this seemed like a very good omen for them!
Initially, the witches and rat swarms on the right surged forwards, though their bigger monsters on the left were sluggish and didn't make much progress. For the good side, pretty much the same pattern occurred: the musketeers advanced rapidly on their right, whilst the Puritans on their left were slow to move.
Athos grabbed the nearest villager and tried to drag him to safety - but the shocked young man wasn't easy to pull along and the rat monster was overhauling the pair rapidly!
In the centre, near the unlit pyre, D'Artagnan and Leroux bravely tried to stop the rat priest from taking away the blacksmith. They did look to be heavily outnumbered, but perhaps French élan would be enough to carry the day?
Nearer the wood, Aramis stomped on a seemingly endless swarm of rats and killed many of them, whilst Porthos faced off three huge, but distinctly reluctant, hell hounds.
At the other end of the village, Major Fairfax and his soldiers saw a ghoul trying to drag off a small boy. Whilst one of the troopers led the rescued child away, the rest of them set upon the evil ghoul and butchered it!
So far, the few casualties had all been on the evil side, but that couldn't last forever. Even as help approached, the beleaguered D'Artagnan was felled by the rat priest and his minions.
Another tragedy occurred when Black Agnes zoomed in and commanded her hell hounds to attack Porthos. The musketeer could not resist the combined attack of such fierce opponents and he too fell in a bloody mess.
As he came into the open, John Sterne (the witch hunter) bellowed a challenge to Meg (the witch). He fired both his pistols at her - but missed (despite having a reasonably good chance of killing the crone with a single shot).
Sword drawn, Sergeant Stone then charged forwards - but he was intercepted by a ghoul and thus couldn't prevent the rat priest from dragging away the kicking and screaming blacksmith. He was promptly struck and transfixed by Meg's baleful glare.
When the ghoul tore apart the disabled Sergeant Stone, Leroux ran for his life. Meg then cast another evil spell, this time at the witch hunter himself. With an epic lack of situational awareness, John Sterne didn't see the attack coming and was bound and made helpless by witchcraft!
A long way from the action in the centre, a lone ghoul attempted to recapture the child from the village. Major Fairfax and his lads fell upon the creature and butchered it; the child will probably have nightmares about the scene for the rest of his life! [Normally in Song of Blades and Heroes, doubling an enemy's combat result kills it, whilst tripling it results in a gruesome kill. Combined, these Puritans scored seven times the ghoul's defence. Result: dead ghoul, though probably not recognisable as such any more...]
The rat monster chased down and finished off Athos, but rather than attempting to capture the nearby villager it turned and ran up the village street towards the Puritans. Some of them shot at it as it came, but this merely seemed to annoy the creature...
In the open area, the rat priest continued to plod along with his prisoner, the blacksmith. Aramis fought for his life against two huge hell hounds, but surely it could only be a matter of time before he made a fatal mistake?
The rat monster may not have been berserk any more, but it was still huge and fierce. It charged down the main street of the village, tossing aside any soldiers who stood in its way. One corporal attempted to shepherd the village boy away to safety, but he was really moving too slowly.
Eventually, most of the remaining troopers broke and fled, leaving the rat monster free to recapture the boy [and if you think he would have had nightmares about being taken by a ghoul then feel pity for him now!].
This tore the heart out of the good side and left them with very little in the way of forces. Most of the Musketeers were dead; now the Puritans were also dead or dispersed.
For a brief moment, it looked as if Aramis might salvage the situation all on his own. He slew one of the hell hounds, shook off the other and charged at Black Agnes. The witch felt the Frenchman's steel as his rapier passed right through her body and with an unearthly shriek she fell, dead!
It was heroic, but it wasn't enough. Meg used her black magic once more, paralysing the last Musketeer and making him easy prey for the nearby hell hound.
We did play on for a little while after this, but the outcome was already pretty much decided. Major Fairfax rallied a couple of soldiers and chased after the slow-moving rat priest. They nearly stopped it before it left the table - but couldn't quite do so. After that, these last remnants of the human side chased after Meg - until the hell hound intervened and killed the major. At that point, we called it...
That was a bitterly-fought game, for certain! Initially it looked as if the Musketeers would triumph over everything in their path - but there just weren't enough of them and in the end they were outnumbered and overwhelmed.
The rats and the witches concentrated a lot of their force in the centre. This gave them numbers against some of their enemies, but conceded some easy, early kills to the Puritans. However, these Puritans seemed hard to motivate; their advance was very slow and a little bit fragmented. In the end, the charge of the rat monster scattered the bulk of them past recall.
Man/Woman/Creature of the Match: A tough choice:
- On the one hand, Aramis cut his way through most of the rat swarm, one hell hound and the witches' leader (Black Agnes).
- On the other hand, Meg was instrumental in killing Sergeant Stone, the witch hunter (John Sterne) and Aramis.
I think I'd probably give it to the witch, because she survived and was on the winning team. Her actions made a difference!
Biggest disappointment: I think it's a toss up between:
- The giant rat ceasing to be berserk on turn one
- The witch hunter failing to kill Meg with his pistols.
Take your pick!
Victory goes to the evil side, very obviously. The rats held all three villagers at the end of the game, so they are declared the clear winners, with the witches taking the consolation prize.