Monday, March 12, 2018

Mortal Empires, Part XVIII - Bastion of Mankind


2506 IC was the complete reverse of 2505 IC. All the gains made by the Empire in the previous year were wiped out in the face of the Chaos invasion and the encroachment of the Dark Elves. Franz and Todbringer were forced to retreat from Norsca to defend Nordland and Marienburg. All the territory liberated from the Norscans by Ludenhof in the eastern Oblast and Kislev was destroyed by the marching Chaos armies. Erengrad had to be abandoned. By summer the Empire had been driven back to Wolfenburg, the capital of Ostland and the staging point for the offensive the year before. But in retreat Ludenhof exacted a heavy toll on the Chaos hordes. By the time they approached the walls of Wolfenburg no less than three Chaos armies had been destroyed by the Elector Count of Hochland. Using hit and run tactics mastered by the light horsemen of Kislev, and combining these with the gunpowder armaments of the Empire, Ludenhof was able to surround Chaos armies and pick them apart with firepower. The warriors of Chaos were formidable fighters, able to withstand a cavalry charge and hack mounted knights to pieces. Ludenhof's answer to this was to avoid combat entirely. His entire army was composed almost entirely of outriders and pistoliers, and their combat doctrine consisted almost entirely of riding into range, unloading their blackpowder weapons, then riding away to reload. Ludenhof, now mounted on his two year old griffon and accompanied by Imperial captains on pegasi, struck surgically and swiftly on the battlefield, eliminating enemy fast cavalry and daemonic artillery and then flying away before the enemy could exact retribution. Once the enemy was reduced to their slow but powerful foot infantry they could do nothing except rage at the fast cavalry surrounding them, who stayed beyond the range of their wicked halberds and blasted them into oblivion.


Pistoliers and outriders were the mainstay of the Imperial armies fighting in Kislev and Ostland.

At Wolfenburg Ludenhof was finally brought to bay by two more Chaos armies, but he simply retreated behind the fortified walls and waited for relief. Ludenhof and Franz were in constant communication, and Franz's army, returning from Norsca, caught the Chaos armies in the rear. Sandwiched between two armies the Chaos armies were thrown into disarray and routed. It was a great victory for the Empire, but tempered by reports from scouts near High Pass that more Chaos armies were sighted coming down from the Chaos Wastes.


Ludenhof about to apply the coup de gras to a decimated Chaos army. Ludenhof's army is composed almost entirely of pistoliers and outriders.

Worse news was to come. Franz and Todbringer left Norsca in ruins in their campaign of 2505 IC, but in 2506 IC those ruined settlements were taken over and settled by marauding Dark Elves. The establishment of Druchii ports across the Sea of Claws was grim news for the Empire, as now Malekith and his slavers had several staging points close to Nordland and Marienburg. The frequency of raids grew exponentially, and this was soon followed by full scale invasions into the Empire itself. Marienburg was besieged twice, and was only able to repel these attacks through the tenacity of Volkmar and the great sacrifice of the flagellants and penitents flocking to his army. The coastal towns of Norden and Dietershafen were sacked and razed. Salzenmund was besieged, and only Todbringer's timely return staved off disaster. The Dark Elves were not Norscans or Chaos - they brought disciplined soldiers supported by missile troops, repeating ballistas, fast cavalry, scouts and dark magic. They also brought their own flying troops. Grotesque harpies darkened the skies, and most terrible of all, great black dragons belching poisonous fumes shattered the Imperial lines wherever they went.

The Empire and its list of generals.

By the end of 2506 IC the Empire had held onto the key cities of Salzenmund, Marienburg and Wolfenburg, and destroyed several Chaos, Dark Elf and Norscan armies. The victories appeared to be for nothing, however, as yet more Chaos armies appeared in High Pass, and more seaborne Druchii armies sailed up and down the Sea of Claws. The skill of the Empire's generals and the valor of the common soldier was keeping the enemy at bay for now - the only question was whether they could keep it up in the face of seemingly unlimited numbers. But help would be coming from a most unexpected quarter. As weary Imperials waited for another wave of Chaos incursions, outriders were astonished to see the Chaos armies being set upon by the dead. Mannfred Von Carstein had arrived.

I made a mistake in advancing so far to the north-east. I'd basically allowed myself to take the full brunt of the Chaos invasion in the Old World by advancing all the way to Volksgrad, because that's the avenue through which Chaos enters the Old World. Eight armies in total just plowed through the territories we'd recently acquired, and I was forced to fall back all the way to Wolfenburg. By retreating to Wolfenburg, however, I'd left a channel open to the south by which the Chaos armies could enter Vampire lands. After repelling them at Wolfenburg the Chaos armies decided they didn't want anymore of Franz and Ludenhof, and started sacking Vampire cities instead. The Vampire Counts didn't like this at all, and started bringing up armies to fight Chaos as well, so we actually ended up working together. We wiped out the first wave completely, but this was my second mistake. As soon as the last Chaos army was defeated eight more spawned in the Chaos Wastes. The exploit which Total War players use in both the first and second titles is to almost wipe out a wave, but leave one army alive and limping somewhere on the map. This stops a respawn, and keeps Chaos numbers manageable until Archon arrives for the final invasion.

I am essentially being double teamed by Chaos and the Dark Elves, who are allies. I thought Chaos hated everyone, but apparently not in Total War 2. I am just hoping that my alliance with the Wood Elves and High Elves is enough to deter the Vampire Counts from stabbing me in the back. There are three points of attack I have to defend - north-west, through Marienburg; north across the Sea of Claws; and north-east, in the Oblast region. Everything I have is committed to these theaters, and there is a long and empty expanse to the south without anyone guarding it at all. In addition the Dark Elves, being the second most powerful faction in the game, are fielding top tier armies composed of their best units. These include Dragons and War Hydras, and they are frequently led by generals also mounted on Black Dragons. One on one Franz can kill Dragons at a cost of perhaps one-third to one-half of his health. But more and more Franz is finding himself outnumbered at least two to one, and usually three or four to one. It's fortunate that the AI is still dense and you can implement hit and run to isolate individual Dragons, kill them, then run away to repeat the process. But you can't make a mistake. If Franz gets double teamed he will die.

Not all armies are led by Franz, however, and so I'm finding myself ceding ground whenever I don't have Franz on the field. Ludenhof can fill in for Franz at a pinch, and he's probably my second best general. Todbringer is tough, but he can't fly, so he has wait for the Dragons to pick their spot before he can counter. Same applies for Volkmar. Gelt is great at sieges because his spells can decimate defending infantry garrisons, but they're not very efficient at taking out large targets. He struggles against the monster heavy armies. Our armies can smash Norscan and Chaos armies with ease using our fast cavalry composition because they don't have many missile troops, artillery or flying monsters. The Dark Elves have these, which makes them much, much tougher to crack. Even when we win we take heavy losses, and they have more men (elves?) than we do. At the moment we're at a stalemate, and I'm in a bit of a loss at what to do next.

1 comment:

  1. Ludenhof was able to surround Chaos armies and pick them apart with firepower.
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