Kings of War/The Ninth Age/Warhammer - Empire, Part I

The Empire is my most beloved Warhammer Fantasy Battle army, as evidenced by my collection at home, the amount of times I've played with them in friendly games and tournaments, and the fan fiction I wrote about them on this blog while playing the computer version of the game. I love their look, their background fluff, and what they represent in the world of Warhammer - fallible beings trying to hold the line against the encroachment of darkness. As the dwarves try to hold onto past glories and the elves slowly diminish, it is up to the humans to uphold civilization and resist the tide of entropy in a world populated by dragons, daemons and magic despite their inherent shortcomings as a species. Much like the world now is faced by the onset of human wrought climate change, the Empire and the other mortal nations of the Old World must band together and take collective action to prevent the onset of disaster. Can humans put aside their petty quarrels and unite in the face of a common foe?

First battle of the campaign.

Of course not. We're all doomed.

So is the Empire, if we follow the GW mandated fluff which destroyed the Warhammer world and brought about the Age of Sigmar. Luckily denial is a powerful tool, and old die-hards like myself can use it to veto the direction GW chose to take with their fantasy IP. We have staunch allies in the folk who play Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, which is now in its 4th edition and remains rooted in the Old World. We have the Herohammer crew in Kashiwa playing older versions of the game, cheerfully using Winds of Magic cards scrounged from the Internet and ancient army lists published more than 20 years ago. We have the excellent Total War: Warhammer and Vermintide franchises keeping the flame alive in the digital realm. Finally, if the rumours are to be believed, Games Workshop will be returning the Old World to their shelves in three years time. The Old World is alive and kicking, contrary to rumors about its demise.

My last outing with the Empire was in Kashiwa on 9 June and 21 July this year. I have to confess to having burnt myself out somewhat, having played a ton of miniature games across a vast variety of systems over the first half of the year, at the cost of neglecting my health. This led to me taking a break from wargaming since July. I recognize that the waxing and waning of interest is a cyclical thing with me. I just have to resist doing anything stupid, like throwing out or selling my miniatures. They just have to retreat back to the display cabinet for the meantime. But as a kind of last hurrah I went to Kashiwa on 9 June to play the Idol of Gork campaign with Joshua, a stalwart of the Oldhammer community here in Japan. Joshua is a fellow Aussie and an amazing painter, having worked at GW in the UK back in the day. His miniatures are painted to an exceptional standard, and are ample motivation for me to lift my game. He is also a big fan of campaigns. This particular campaign was released during the days of 5th edition, and pitted my beloved Empire against Joshua's greenskins in a battle for a border province. We played a total of three out of the four scenarios on that day. The scenarios are linked, meaning that success in one influences the troop composition of the final battle.

Halberdiers get absolutely smashed by a bunch of fanatics.

The first scenario pitted a swarm of night goblins in a dawn raid on an Empire encampment. Their goal was to acquire some kind of magic crown, and doing so would immediately end the game in a sudden victory for the greenskins. The crown was positioned smack bang in the middle of the battlefield, and my only defense was a sole unit of halberdiers, with the rest of the Empire line having to deploy back on their table edge. The game became a race for the rest of my Imperials to get up and support the halberdiers before they were overwhelmed by the goblin horde. This never happened. The halberdiers were hit by a total of five fanatics which absolutely decimated them, and then they were charged by a large unit of goblins with the Bad Moon Banner which allowed them to strike first despite having great weapons. The halberdiers were cut down to a man, and the goblins scuttled off with the crown. If I were to play this scenario again I would take a massive unit of halberdiers to soak up casualties. 30 was nowhere near enough. I think I would at least have 40 and even more to give the rest of the Imperials time to engage. The halberdiers got hit on turn one of the game and had no chance to manoeuvre. Their only option was to take whatever damage that was coming, and hope they pass their Panic or Break tests. This did not happen, so Joshua's greenskins were able to add the night goblin shaman and his magical items to his army list for the final battle.

Second battle of the campaign, in which orcs ambush an Imperial column.

The second scenario was another greenskin ambush on a column of Imperial troops. This time we had a turn or two to react. The greenskins' instant victory goal was to destroy all our war machines and kill our wizard, so I shielded my single hellblaster volley gun behind a unit of unbreakable flagellants, and kept my mounted wizard moving to keep him out of harm's way. My wizard had a spell which created an impassable pillar of fire, and he used that a couple of times to pin the orc infantry advance. The volley gun was either going to be a dud or an unstoppable engine of destruction, and this time out it proved to be the latter. It wiped out Joshua's boar riders along with his general. This victory secured the use of the wizard and war machines for the Empire in the final battle of the campaign.

The final battle of the campaign.

The final scenario we played on the day was an Imperial raid on an orc encampment. Our sudden victory goal was to set fire to four orc huts, and for this purpose we were allowed to take as many archers we could muster. I eventually fielded over 60 archers, the most I've ever done for any game of Warhammer I've ever played. I had to use Bretonnian archers as proxies, and luckily for me I had a ton of unpainted ones I could use. They didn't help me in the end, however, as the archers units were flimsy in combat, and were taken apart by the orcs before I could accomplish my objective. Joshua used the Hand of Gork spell in cunning orky fashion, teleporting his units all over the battlefield to engage my archers faster. The orc victory meant that Joshua would be bringing heavy duty magic to bear on my Empire in the final battle. The only consolation I could take from the battle was that my captain survived, and could hence be used in the last scenario.

The orcs are at the walls, captain!

Joshua and I played the final battle of the campaign a month later on 21 July. The Empire was tasked with defending a castle on their side of the board against a marauding horde of greenskins. At first the Imperial defense appeared rock solid, with the state troops holding their own thanks to the defended obstacle rule (attackers must roll 6s to hit until they win a round of combat). The Imperial archers were able to draw out Joshua's fanatics, and they splattered harmlessly against the walls of the keep and caused no damage. Things took a bad turn for the defenders, however, when wolf riders surged down the Imperial left, and a bunch of enraged squig riders started hopping madly all over the battlefield. Things became worse when the orc marauders at the walls finally won a combat, and soon the human defenders were being overrun by a green tide. We had a backup plan, however, which involved holding a second line in the keep's interior, where our fleeing troops would hopefully rally, and link up with my cavalry waiting in reserve. We also had a ton of artillery waiting to give the greenskins a whiff of grapeshot as they came over the walls. Sadly for me the hellblaster volley gun, so lethal in the second scenario, was a dud in the final battle, exploding in its first attempt to fire. The knights didn't fare any better, with my White Wolves running into Joshua's previously hitherto mentioned Bad Moon Banner unit. I can't remember what happened to my Knights Panther - the game was over four months ago now - but the White Wolves were eventually ground down, and the battle ended with the orcs swarming the keep and chanting, "'Ere we go, 'ere we go, 'ere we go..." while the shattered remnants of the Empire force fled the castle.