The Beast of Blood Hill
“Trolls? They’re hiring trolls?”, asked the Dwarf king incredulously,” I find that hard to believe even for this human oath breaker.” In response the wizened Ranger said,”All our reports show them camped near the orc village. What else could they want there? Doubt they want anything to do with those pig riders and there’s been no sounds of fighting.” The king didn’t like it, didn’t like this at all. If it wasn’t undead clawing at the borders it was orcs and goblins terrorizing villages. Now, to make things worse, the fractious human kingdoms, who had previously been happy to peacefully kill each other, had been united by an upstart prince with dreams of conquest and his sites on dwarf lands. Rinn Ursula had clashed with his forces more than once already so the dwarfs were keeping their eyes on him. Unfortunately she was busy elsewhere as were much of her cavalry so fast recon was out of the question. No, if he was going to get any answers it was going to be handled the old way; Guns, Stone, and Steel. Besides, it sent a clear message. The king turned, looking his old friend in the eye, “Alright, here’s what we’re going to do…”
I recently took advantage of a day off, packed up my dwarfs, and met my buddy, Ryan, on the field of battle (okay, his living room). Once again we chose Kings of War by Mantic Games as our rules system and picked forces of 2200 points simply because we had heard that is a popular tournament choice. I was excited to be fielding TWO newly trained units, my new Greater Elemental from Reaper Bones and Regiment of Hasslefree Miniatures Ironwatch armed with crossbows. The latter looking much more complete with the two more minis recently glued to the base.
With a new Elemental to field there were fewer points for mounted dwarfs so Rinn Ursula and some of her Brock Riders were patrolling the northern borders instead of investigating this rumored alliance. What this force lacked in speed it made up for in bang, fielding two bombards and an Organ Gun. Despite claims of the scouts, there were no trolls in the human force. In fact, the entire orc village at the river’s fork had been cleared out for some time. There was some strange, smoke belching machine parked among the trees but no greenskin mercenaries. Oh good, nothing to worry about. The two armies lined up facing each other across the river which was relatively low this time of year.
Once the troops had deployed the Rangers used their Vanguard rule to move up into the woods. While this gave them a commanding view of the ford it also made them a prime target for the human guns. On the first turn they were wavered, ducking down as mortar shells burst overhead, shredding the tree tops, and the second turn they routed off the table. Sigh, not a good start for my bearded force.
They were around long enough to report seeing a strange contraption in the enemy lines. Ryan was running a Citadel Steam Tank as his Kingdoms of Men Beast of War unit. I just call it the Beast.
There seemed to be a tank in the human army and I was worried it was going to take more than two Greater Elementals to deal with. It would take a lot more in the end and take even more down with it. Beast.
Both sides moved their flanks forward to engage the enemy and fired every cannon, mortar, ballista, handgun, and crossbow at each other any chance we got. While the human Mounted Scouts scored some early wounds it was the Brock Riders and Elementals that scored the first kills with Mounted Scouts and Heavy Infantry crushed in the opening turns. The cannon, Ironwatch with handguns, and organ gun blasting the regiment of knights in the center helped soothe the pain of my poor Rangers shelled out of the forest by mortar and gun fire. The fifteen attacks of the organ gun got a lot of unwanted attention even without a Warsmith to make them elite. A unit of Mounted Scouts charged straight up the hill to try and silence the deadly war machine. Now they were in my deployment zone!
The Greater Elementals on the dwarf right flank proved why they are to be feared taking down the heavy infantry in their charge only to see the new guy crushed beneath the steam powered wheels of the Beast. Duane charged it in retaliation only to bounce off, bracing for the counter charge. The Arquebusiers kept the Ironwatch Wavered which their Headstrong roll failed to shake.
Being just inside their charge arc the Mounted Scouts found themselves charged in the flank but the rookie Ironwatch were only able to Waver the accursed riders. and the Berserker Lord was too far away to help.
The Beast crossed the river, crossbow bolts bouncing off its armored hull and cannon balls flying overhead. It quickly ran down the crossbow wielding dwarfs before backing up to home in on the regiment of gunners. Now they were in two of my flanks. Arghhhh!
The human infantry on the dwarf left flank, unshaken by the deaths of the Mounted Scouts in front of them, crossed the river and slammed into the Brock Riders destroying them. The Shieldbreakers and IronGuard charged the two human units in retribution hurting them but not worrying them in the least. Thus began the back and forth on the river’s edge, neither side seeking nor offering quarter. We were both able to roll well in combat but seemed unable to do more than Waver the other (Ryan’s Nerve Checks were uncharacteristically bad) and I actually made my Headstrong rolls so we just slammed back and forth.
In the end the combined efforts of the Ironguard and Berserker Lord were just able to take down the Elite, Ensnaring Phalanx regiment while the Shieldbreakers went down fighting. They inflicted almost a dozen wounds on the horde of heavy infantry before succumbing to their superior numbers.
After he survived the Beast’s counter charge (Ryan rolled a three!) Duane charged into the Arquebussiers mostly to keep them from shooting him and did astounding damage. To give me hope I rolled boxcars on the Nerve Check! I was so excited, glad it had at least caused the Waver not realizing it was actually enough to destroy them. Unfortunately, Ryan’s Standard Bearer caused a reroll which was just shy of even the Waver. Crap, at least they wouldn’t be firing those Piercing(2) handguns at point blank range.
Meanwhile, in the center the horde of Bulwarkers advanced across the river under a steady hail of fire from the horde of arquebusiers and sporadic cannon fire. They were saved some grief when their own artillery took out the enemy mortar while the human canon had to focus on the organ gun whose crew had just reloaded and were preparing to enfilade the stubborn cavalry. Sadly they never got to fire the shot as an enemy shell landed directly on them leaving nothing but their boots. Damn, change of plans…again. Despite mounting casualties (and my own forgetting they could Move At the Double at the ford) the dwarf Phalanx horde slammed into the human horde and another back and forth began. As with Duane, the Bulwarkers were just glad to slow the gun fire.
The Beast was able to run over the dwarf hand gunners, again few shots could wound it and I couldn’t roll well. The damage 12 Attacks with Crushing Strength(2) AND Thunderous Charge (2) is overwhelming. Even Ryan’s low rolls (though stubbornly not double 1’s) couldn’t fail. In the end, literally on the bottom of turn Six the Bombard crew was able to blast the thing to pieces. Fortunate as the game went to seven turns and they would have been left as wheel ruts. The rookie Ironwatch regiment took down the Mounted Scouts before being overwhelmed by the badly wounded horde of Foot Guard who in turn were killed by the remaining Ironguard who had to go it alone as the Beserker Lord had finally succumb to the wizard’s fireball spells. Really making it Blood Hill. The Stonepriest Surged Duane into the Standard Bearer out of spite more than anything. He was running away after all.
When turn Seven closed it was far easier to count the survivors especially as the Kingdoms of Men were left with nothing but characters. Of course there wasn’t much more left on my side either, a horde, some guns, a Stonepriest, and Duane. The difference was just under 500 points giving another very narrow victory to the dwarfs. What a blast. The more I play Kings of War the more I like it. That all the rules and army lists are in one book mean we only have one place to look up questions and really don’t anticipate much of that in future given the simplicity of the system. What I am seeing a lot of is trying out new forces. The subtle differences in stats plus the scattered special rule really makes for characterful units and races without needing completely separate tomes.
The king took another long pull on his tankard while re-reading the battle reports. It had been a close run affair, probably closer than any of his commanders wanted to admit. The Stonepriest and his rocky friends had again proven their worth as had the retooled organ gun. It was the drawings of the steam powered human contraption remains that intrigued him most. Even the broken and blasted bits showed amazing promise on the part of the human engineers. They had missed, in the eyes of the king, a wonderful opportunity. He finished off the stein of cold beer and reached for the speaking tube attached to his desk. “Call in the Master Engineers,” he commanded his assistants on the other end,” tell them I have an idea I want explored immediately.” The noble dwarf turned to the Stonepriest who had delivered the reports from Blood Hill. ” Tell me more about your friends the elementals. I have some ideas for them as well.”