Tuesday, 29 August 2017

1st Mittelerdian War: Game 2 - A Plague On Both Their Houses

This game follows on from our last, Ambush at the Border. With this game and the next we want to segue into the summer campaign, so that come the end of September we can return to our story here and have lots of fresh new narrative to play with.

Links to other games in the campaign: Game 1, Game 3, Edge of the Abyss

And now, to set the scene (after all, this is a narrative campaign!):

Prince Ingemon of house Enneiros stepped off the boat and onto the peer with practised ease. Walking along the recently-restored masonry, his stride was at once detached and focused, bearing him swiftly toward his goal. Soldiers were disembarking behind him, golden crescents resplendent on their helms, while dock labourers tethered the small landing craft. In the distance a larger ship could be seen. It was an elegant vessel, whose slim form suggested the capacity for great speed. Its sails displayed the head of an eagle, the symbol of house Enneiros. Mere feet off the starboard bow lay the diffused point of a great shadow, projected to the north-west by the early morning sun. Even in its semi-ruined state, the tallest tower of the island-fort Tiriant Dalath stretched towards the heavens, dominating the horizon. Signs of repair were visible on many buildings as well as on the outer walls, with patches of clean stonework blending into weather-worn, and wooden scaffolds attesting to the ongoing work.

Captain Sæwon stood ready to greet Ingemon at the harbour. He made a quick assessment of the approaching prince and noted that, despite his youth, he wore his battle-armour with confidence. Whether or not such undeniable self-possession is deserved, Sæwon thought, remains to be seen. The captain had fought in many campaigns, and served under all sorts of characters drawn from among the nobility of his kin. Self-belief is a vital trait for leadership, and far from lacking among the ruling class, he thought wryly. The hint of a smile touched his lips, and then was gone. Prince Ingemon had almost reached him.

“My Lord Ingemon, we are honoured to receive you. I am Sæwon, captain of the fort's garrison, it is a pleasure to...” Ingemon strode past him, his pace unchanged. Frowning, Sæwon followed just behind, attempting to lock step with the prince's determined rhythm. So the prince was that sort. “I am sorry that we are unable to provide a more befitting reception, but as you can see, we are still in the midst of rebuilding the fort. Perhaps, my Lord, if we had received word-”

“Word was sent when we departed Walldeep.”

This surprised Sæwon, as the communications of their kin rarely lost their way. He recovered quickly.

“Of course, my Lord, only we have received no messages of any kind for almost four months, nor responses to our own. When Master Iólon ran out of birds to send, he-”

“Where is the mage? Set up in the tower I expect?” They had passed through the main square and were swiftly making their way towards the steps leading up to the keep. Along their path elves paused in their work to watch the pair stride by. Others had come to visit the island-fort since it had been reclaimed six months past, but Ingemon was the first royal to do so.

“Not presently, my Lord, no. Master Iólon left Tiriant Dalath just over a week ago.”

Ingemon, who had just begun to mount the steps, stopped. It was clear this had been the last thing he had expected to hear. He turned to face Sæwon, who braced himself to receive the prince's ire, but Ingemon's eyes showed only alarm.

“Where?” The word was spoken with concern, and the captain realised he may have to revisit his earlier assessment of the prince.

“North, to the lands of men. As I was saying, my Lord, he sent numerous requests to the King's court asking for permission to make contact with a populace calling itself the League of Rhordia, and once he ran out of messenger birds, well...” Sæwon wasn't sure how to end; it did not bode well to discuss the matters of mages, nor nobles for that matter.

“I see. So he decided to go anyway.” Ingemon resumed climbing the steps, but more slowly, apparently deep in thought. Sæwon followed, content to await the prince's next words. He did not have to wait long. At the top of the steps and before the great door, Ingemon stopped.

“He has left me no choice.”

He turned once again to Sæwon.

“I shall have to pursue him. My men and I will need supplies for the journey, as well as all the information you have on the local territories.”

“At once, my Lord.”

Ingemon inclined his head appreciatively, and turned towards the door. Folding his arms, he looked up at the building before him. At around six hundred feet, the tower at Tiriant Dalath was an uncommonly large structure this far north, but was as an ant to a mammoth when compared to Therennia Adar, in whose shadow rests the great city of the Sea-Kindred.

“I shall also require half your garrison.”

Now it was Sæwon's turn to be alarmed. “But my Lord, that would make the fort near indefensible!”

“Nevertheless, it is what I require.” He turned to face Sæwon. “Do not worry yourself, captain, I am reasonably certain that the fort will be untroubled by the war.”

“The war, my Lord?”

Ingemon nodded. “A great war. Perhaps the greatest since winter's rage itself.” He paused. “A war of change at the very least, although what kind of change remains to be seen.” He turned and pushed open the door. “I shall be in the mage's study, alert me when my men have been supplied with what we will need.”

“As you wish, my Lord.”

Before he began his descent, Sæwon noted that Ingemon once again moved with focus: the prince was confident of his decision.


Unbeknownst to Prince Ingemon, he was not the only one in pursuit of Iólon. Far to the north, goblin biggit Grotti-khan had rallied a handful of his mounted gits and set off in pursuit of the elf. Even carrying the wounded mage, Iólon's tallspear soldiers covered ground quickly, and by the time Grotti-khan got the gits together they were beyond sight. No matter, he thought, Rip-fang has them. His wolf knew the stink of elves well, and would not lose their trail.

Among his assembled crew were two other wolf-mounted goblins, and three riding great spiders. Good enough for raiding a lone merchant, perhaps, or even an ill-prepared convoy, but Grotti-khan had his doubts about rushing head-on at this group of elves. That said, the mage-elf had burned him. He had burned his wolf. His eyes narrowed. That had hurt. Nobody hurt him and lived, not this elf, and not those orcs. They had beaten Grotti-khan, many times, and he had killed them, killed them all, knife in the throat while they slept...

He shook himself from the memory. Besides, the elves had loot, good loot, and we never lets good loot go, no no no. They outnumbered him now, it's true, but many more goblins followed him. He just had to keep tracking the elves, and wait for the moment to strike.

Rip-fang stopped for a moment and began investigating. Grotti-khan stroked his mane. This was not so much an act of affection as it was respect. While the biggit felt the sting of fear about as much as the rest of his kind, this wolf was near fearless, and Grotti-khan drew on that, found steel in it.

They pressed on, and soon enough a small farming settlement appeared on the horizon. Smoke rose from a number of buildings, and the fields too showed signs of having been burned. While some might have mistaken this for the aftermath of a raid, Grotti-khan suspected that, like many of the other settlements they had come across, it was committed by the population itself as they abandoned their lands.

Suddenly Rip-fang's head shot up, sniffing at the air. With a whimper it shrank back, its ears flat. The two other wolves displayed similar agitation. A new smell had been carried by the wind, one that had struck fear into the beasts, even into the near-fearless Rip-fang. Grotti-khan stood up in his saddle and looked around, straining his neck for any hint as to what might have provoked them.

“There!” cried one of the gits, pointing west. Grotti-khan looked, and for a moment saw nothing, until he realised that the dark cloud emerging over the horizon was not natural. Nor was it the dust of an army marching. It was far faster, and far worse. Pestilence.

He looked again at the settlement. There was one building, a large hovel, that was unscathed by the flames, and was almost certainly where the elves had established themselves. To have them right there, only for those things to interfere... Slowly, a malicious smile began to form on his face. The death the mage-elf is going to suffer at their hands will surely be terrible beyond imagining, and though neither the revenge nor the loot would be his, this at least was a comforting thought. He turned Rip-fang away from the settlement.

“We're done here.”


Inside the hovel, Sergeant Pennor woke from sleep. The twenty-five elves shifted positions like clockwork, some taking up sentry posts at various vantage points while those relieved of this duty prepared to rest. They did not actually need to sleep – they could remain awake for several days if necessary – but since the situation demanded they stay put, there was no reason not to take advantage of it. The small building provided little room for comfort, especially for so many, but it was undamaged and had good lines of sight to the surrounding area. Pennor inspected the men. In their flight from the goblins his tallspears had managed to join up with the surviving kindred archers. While spirits could not be described as high, their discipline and determination remained firm. They would get their charge to safety. His gaze shifted to the mage. Iólon had been placed on the only bed in the building, and it was there the elves had patched his wounds as best they could, removing the vicious goblin's arrow from his chest. The bleeding had stopped quickly, and his heart had slowed to a crawl. One would be forgiven for thinking the mage at death's door, but Iólon's lack of consciousness was actually a meditative state, an act of self-healing, common enough among those elves educated in the ways of magic.

A sharp whisper broke the silence of the homestead: “Sergeant!”

Pennor moved swiftly to the elf that had spoken. “Movement?” The elf nodded, and moved aside. Pennor peered through the small window. He could see a narrow path between two hovels, and a heavily damaged stable on the other side. He watched for several seconds, but there was nothing. “Where did you-”

A small arrow leapt from the shadows of the damaged stable, and stuck fast in the window frame. “Goblins!” yelled Pennor, and the elves were up in an flash, tallspears making ready to pour out of the single doorway with precision, the archers preparing themselves at the windows.

There was a shout from outside. The language sounded harsh to Pennor's ears, but it was also unlike any goblin tongue he had ever heard. The elves stood ready, and for a moment there was quiet. Then the shout came again, repeating its demand (it certainly sounded like a demand). Pennor was sure now; whoever they were, they were not goblins. He decided to yell back, tell them to show themselves, but before he had begun filling his lungs he felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned to find the mage had awoken, and was standing at his side.

“They want us to identify ourselves,” Iólon said, before releasing a great length of syllables through the window, sounds that closely resembled the newcomers' speech. There was a pause, and then a single word was returned. Before Pennor realised what was happening, Iólon had opened the door and stepped outside. Inwardly cursing the mage, the sergeant signaled his men to follow quickly. They flowed through the doorway like water in a stream, and moved to form a defensive formation. When they attempted to interpose themselves between the mage and the source of the voice, Iólon flung out his arms, yelling “Back! Keep your weapons down!” before once again addressing the hidden speaker.

Slowly, a group of very short, human-like men emerged. Pennor blinked. It was as if they had been hiding in plain sight, so obvious should they have been in their chosen hiding spots, but even his keen elven eyesight had missed them completely. They carried bows that were knocked with arrows, although undrawn and pointing to the ground. They wore uniform blue coats that were dirty from mud and navigating rough terrain – they were clearly scouts. Their faces bore looks of total astonishment. It was clear that not one among them had ever seen an elf in the flesh before, not to mention a regiment of Sea-Kindred soldiers, resplendent in their gilded, ruby-inlaid armour.

One of the halfmen stepped forward. Unlike the others his coat was a deep green, although he wore a blue broad-rimmed hat with a long white feather, fastened to it by a bronze pin in the shape of a skull. In place of a bow he carried a sling, which he held casually and without threat, though Pennor had the sense that this could change in an instant. Focusing on his face he saw that, while the halfman was clearly surprised by what had emerged from the dwelling, he was not so much awed as amused. He spoke, addressing himself to Iólon in what sounded like polite, if somewhat informal tones. They began to converse, the conversation remaining friendly despite the occasional difficulty in communication; it appeared the tongues were close but not an exact match. More halfmen began to emerge from behind the scouts, these ones being equipped with a variety of melee weapons. Some men (full-sized) also appeared, hefting great polearms on their shoulders. Men and halfmen alike wore a variety of blue garments, and Pennor realised that this must be a militia.

The dialogue stopped and both turned back to their men. Iólon approached Pennor, “Well, we have found men of the League at last. Specifically a band led by Master Sergeant Gotthard Zeeman Visser-” on hearing his name the halfman turned to the elves and bowed low, “they are marching to join forces with their duke, and have been checking settlements on the way, both for survivors and to make certain that nothing has been left to the goblins. Although the word he used was closer to 'vermin', which works just as well I suppose. He spoke of a war, which I assume is the one being inflicted on them by the 'vermin'. He also mentioned that they are being rallied to 'the wall', which I assumed was some sort of fortress but he said no, and then nothing much he said after that made sense. Regardless, we shall join them. They will take us to this duke and I will begin discussions with him.”

“But Master Iólon, begging your forgiveness, these lands are utterly blighted! What value could there possibly be in-”

Iólon waved him silent, and was about to say something when a commotion broke out among the League militia. Iólon turned, and (Pennor presumed) asked what was wrong. Gotthard spoke rapidly, and turned back to the men, by the looks of it giving them orders. They began to gather in formation, facing west. “Master Iólon?” Pennor asked.

“He says the 'vermin' are coming fast, into the village square. Get your men ready, sergeant.”

In a matter of moments the elves were arranged into fighting formation. Pride swelled in Pennor's heart upon seeing his Star Shields arrayed before him. He hefted the regiment's banner, and gave a blast on his horn. They began to march.

We decided to play a 650pts game of Dominate, which would introduce the Ratkin and League of Rhordia to our campaign. Since we were playing at a small points level we used a smaller board, although we still kept the deployment zones 24'' apart.

The Ratkin raiding force consisted of:

Regiment of Blight
Regiment of Brutes w. Helm of Confidence
Regiment of Warriors
2x Regiment of Vermintide
Blight Lord w. Soul Drain and Weakness

In the Elf/League Alliance, we had:

Regiment of Kindred Tallspears
Troop of Kindred Archers
Elven Mage w. Inspiring Talisman

Regiment of Halfling Braves
Troop of City Militia
Troop of Halfling Scouts
Halfling Master Sergeant w. Bow

Deployment Overview

Elves & League Turn 1:

Seizing the initiative, the elf/man/halfling alliance moved to defend the settlement.

The melee forces pushed up while the archers readied a volley.

The troop of militia circled the house, hoping to catch the enemy's flank exposed.

Leaning over the obstacles, both the elf and halfling archers targeted the two vermintide regiments. The swarm targeted by the elves shrugged off the hail of arrows sent their way but the others, despite receiving only 2 damage from the halfling scouts, panicked and broke for the hills (double 6 on the nerve roll!). 

Ratkin Turn 1:

The verminous horde moved forward, careful to maintain formation. 

The surviving vermintide pressed towards the elven archers, who would have one last turn to halt their advance...

Elves & League Turn 2:

As he led the Star Shields into the square, Sergeant Pennor was finally able to take in the enemy that was pouring towards them. Disgust clawed at his mind – these were not the goblin hordes they had encountered many times before. Walking on two legs in a mockery of the higher races were huge rats, equipped with an assortment of weapons and shields. They were descending upon the square with horrifying speed. Around half of them appeared loaded with disease, their eyes bleeding and their mouths frothing, in frayed yellow-green rags and carrying rusted armaments.

Gotthard began shouting, making sure he had Iólon's attention. When he was done Iólon gave a nod, and turned to Pennor.

“We are going to draw them in and surround them. The halfmen are the bait, get ready!”

“Understood!” Pennor cried, “Star Shields, wall!” The tallspears formed a phalanx around the sergeant, and awaited the order to advance.

On each flank the trap was set. The militia prepared to catch the blight off-guard, while the tallspears readied to spring on the warriors. True to their name, the halfling braves boldly claimed the centre, moving into the charge range of the ratkin and daring them to attack.

The elven archers once again targeted the vermintide, and this time were able to waver them. The halfling master sergeant and the scouts combined their fire into the blight, and despite the noxious cloud shrouding them the blight suffered 2 damage, although it was not enough to deter them.

The halfling master sergeant and the scouts combined their fire into the blight, and despite the noxious cloud shrouding them the blight suffered 2 damage, although it was not enough to deter them.

Ratkin Turn 2:

Plague Lord Festeek was hungry. They were all hungry. The pink-things had burned everything. They had burned the food! It made no sense, it was total insanity. But it's fine, he thought, totally fine. Because pink-ones are delicious.

Especially the little ones.

And here they were, on a platter. A big, square platter. He didn't even have to give the order, his ratkin had surged forward with famished glee. As he ran behind them, however, he spotted something out of the corner of his eye. Taller pink-ones had appeared from behind one of their surface-boxes and were preparing to attack the ratkin flank. It was a trap!

There was no use trying to alert his kin, so all consuming was their hunger for what stood before them. He tried to cast magicks at the sneaky pink-ones, but it was rushed and clumsy, and the spell failed to materialise. This could be bad.

Charge! The warriors and the blight descended upon the halflings with glee. The wavered vermintide on the flank made good use of their nimble to hide behind the tower, enough to claim cover at least.

The brutes moved to join the fray at the earliest opportunity. The blight lord attempted to cast Weakness on the militia, but the spell failed.

In the combat the ratmen underperformed, causing only 4 damage, but with a decent nerve roll were at least able to waver the braves.

Elves & League Turn 3:

The trap was sprung, with the tallspears and militia charging into flanks. The halfling scouts spied the brutes over the combat and managed to inflict 1 damage, which the brutes ignored. The elven archers hopped the obstacle and put another volley into the vermintide, which was enough to send them scurrying. 

In the combats, the tallspears inflicted 11 damage on the warriors and broke them, while the militia managed 7 on the blight and sent them packing. With the ratkin front line collapsed, the men and elves turned to face the remaining rats.

Ratkin Turn 3:

The brutes charged into the tallspears, failing to regenerate their 1 damage in the process. The blight lord moved to protect the brutes' flank from the militia, casting Soul Drain into the tallspears as he did so. He only managed to inflict 1 damage, but was at least able to heal the brutes in the process.

There was no time for celebration. As they scattered the rat-filth before them, a grotesque roar sounded to the Star Shields' left. “Left!” ordered Pennor, and he gave a blast on his horn. In a flash, the phalanx reformed to face the source. Pennor had barely a second to process the nightmare before their eyes. The brutes slammed forward, and the formation was shattered.

The brutes rolled well in the combat, inflicting 5 damage on the elves. They then rolled high for nerve twice, getting a 9 the second time which with the help of brutal forced a rout! With the elves scattered before them, they turned to face the inevitable counter charge.

Elves & League Turn 4:

Once again true to their name, the halfling braves charged past the fleeing elves into the brutes. The militia decided to try their luck with the blight lord, in the hopes of at least shutting down his magic, while everything else closed in on the centre.

The militia scored 3 damage on the blight lord, disrupting his magic. The halfmen put 3 damage on the brutes, which was not enough to halt their rampage.

Ratkin Turn 4:

Both the blight lord and the brutes counter charged, the brutes regen bringing them back to 1 damage. The lord only managing 1 point on the militia, which they ignored. The brutes rolled abysmally, managing only 1 damage, bringing the halflings up to 5. Some lucky rolls on the nerve combined with brutal was once again just enough to send them fleeing, however.

Elves & League Turn 5:

While the militia continued to trade blows with the blight lord, the rest of the army had lined up to combine fire on the brutes. Through combined fire they inflicted 6 damage, bringing the total to 7 and, despite the Helm of Confidence, routing the unit. The militia brought the blight lord up to 6 damage but were unable to remove him.

Festeek dodged another swing from a taller pink-one. Grabbing the polearm, he pulled its owner toward him and sunk his teeth into his neck. Deliiicious. He ripped back, taking as much flesh with him as he could. As the pink-one fell gurgling to the ground, his comrades were frozen for a moment by the sheer horror. Festeek surveyed the battle. His kin were in disarray, dead or in full flight. For a moment his sheer rage at defeat wrestled with his fear of death, but eventually fear won, as it always did with his kind. He uttered a quick incantation, and a noxious cloud flooded the air around, causing his enemies to back away coughing. He made his escape.

At this point my brother decided that the blight lord would no doubt cut his losses and high-tail it (probably with a little help from pestilent magicks). Elves and League win!

As soon as he realised what was happening, Iólon cast a blast of air at the green cloud. It seemed to resist pulling apart, but began to disperse nonetheless. Their leader was gone.

The halfmen scouts ran forward and began cutting the throats of wounded rats, shooting arrows into those that still looked like they might have fight in them. Gotthard approached the mage.

“Well fought, Master Iólon. I see the tales of elven valour are not exaggerated.” His tone was respectful, but there was just a hint of mockery in his eyes. Behind them Sergeant Pennor's horn could be heard as he rallied the surviving tallspears.

“And well fought to you, Master Sergeant. I take it you have encountered these creatures before?”

He nodded grimly. “I first heard word of them last year, but I didn't believe any of it. Their attacks began several weeks ago. Add that to the recent upsurge in goblin numbers and, well, let's just say we've seen better days.” The scouts were finishing their work, and the elves were occupying themselves with the wounded.

“Your wounded are in good hands,” said Iólon, “I will see to them myself. I hope we have sufficiently demonstrated our good intentions.”

“Of course, Master Iólon.” He scanned the battlefield. “We will need to burn the dead. They'll return to eat them if we don't.”

“I'm sure. We, however, will deal with our own.”

Gotthard nodded. “I understand. We'll leave when the wounded are ready. I will take you to see the duke.” Iólon followed the halfling's gaze to the statue standing in the square. The mage realised that this was Primovantian in origin, likely a rendering of Mescator, Celestian and God of Justice. It was smeared with ratkin blood. When he turned back to Gotthard, the halfling was looking at him. He wore a curious smile. “You'll like the duke, I think. He is... an interesting man.”

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