Monday, 27 March 2017

Thaddeus Skates on Thin Ice


The mood at the Cloven Hoof had been sombre for days. Everyone from Thaddeus to Franck, the newly-hired treasure hunter, had been troubled by disturbing dreams and portents. To make matters worse a freezing, cloying fog had closed in on the ruined city and tales abounded of horrible creatures (well, more horrible than usual) roaming the old buildings.

The haggard Summoner looked up as Oddleigh the apprentice and Halfinch the thief burst through the door, rubbing their hands and stamping the frost from their feet.

“By the Lords it’s colder than ever out there!” chattered the Hobbit.

“Never mind that – what have you discovered?”

Oddleigh pulled the scarf from his face. “We’ve been a little further down the river – there are some ships still stuck in the ice.”

“Aye,” his diminutive friend concurred, “and I smell treasure.”

Thaddeus rose stiffly from his seat. “Very well, let’s see what’s to be found in this confounded fog – ready the men!”

And so we’re on to the second game of the day – the Battle on the River! Quite an open battlefield this, with hurriedly painted blocks of polystyrene representing the banks of the river. Step off the banks and watch you don’t slip on the ice…

A mere 4 treasure tokens are placed and we roll to choose a bank to come in on before deploying. Thaddeus and his warband line the river on one side, making for any handy jetties that will take them onto the river.

On the opposite bank, Toddlebrew can immediately see the disadvantages of such an open playing field. Knowing that Thaddeus has a bone dart or two up his sleeve, he seeks to mitigate this by casting draining word on the spell, making it more difficult to cast.

However this doesn’t stop Thaddeus’ crossbowman from shooting at an enemy ranger and striking true! Meanwhile the rest of the summoner’s band are getting into position, while Thaddeus himself clambers onto the ice (thus gaining some experience).

I get to the treasure first, but this triggers a spooky spectre. It floats up the river perilously close to where Oddleigh is directing his fellows (including a rather explosive minor demon summoned pre-game).

Situated on my right flank, the summoner’s apprentice decides to keep his crew out of sight from the spectre by casting a wall spell. Who will the spook head for?

Using a handy potion of teleportation, Sir Pierre the knight transports himself to a treasure-laden lump of masonry embedded in the ice on the opposite side of the river. Unfortunately this brings him in direct view of the spectre, which floats towards him…

In the centre, one of my infantrymen makes for a wreck that has sunk to the waterline and the treasure that lies on it’s shattered decking. An enemy treasure hunter beats him to it, only to see the treasure chest zoom out of his reach thanks to a telekinesis spell. For good measure my infantryman spears the fellow for his impertinence.

On the frozen outcrop, Sir Pierre defeats the spectre with his magic sword as one of Toddlebrew’s archers clambers up the masonry after the treasure.

Sir Pierre is having none of it, and runs his sword through the minion. Watching from below, an enemy thug sizes up his chances. Meanwhile Thaddeus is just climbing back onto the riverbank when thwip! thwip! two arrows thud into his body! Badly wounded he swigs a healing potion and crawls into cover.

Suddenly a figure emerges from the ice-bound wreck! An evil-looking wizard, no doubt laden with valuable goodies. Having slain the treasure hunter, the infantryman is in position to head him off, wounding the disfigured spellcaster. All around him more of Thaddeus’ band moves toward the fray.

Fluffy skids across the ice to reach Toddlebrew with an aim to keeping him busy. Alas the warhound is slain by one of his underlings, but it is enough to encourage the sigilist to make a strategic withdrawal.

This leaves Thaddeus with the field, not to mention all four treasures, and whatever the mysterious wizard is carrying! (Oh, and some sore backsides from slipping on the ice - at times it was like an episode of You've Been Framed!)

A complete victory for me, marred only by the death of Fluffy in the survival rolls. To be honest the terrain was more of a winning factor than any tactical skill on my part (indeed I nearly lost Thaddeus to Giles’ archers). Having the river banks raised so high was bound to favour the ‘shootiest’ warband (i.e. mine) as they could easily target their opposite numbers and cover the treasure tokens, which were all placed out in the open. It wasn't my intention to build the terrain so favourably - it was something of a rush job and I had to use whatever I had to hand.

If we play this scenario again I think I’ll lower the river banks (using something other than lumps of polystyrene) and/or add some rigging to the wrecks to help block line of sight. Still, I was happy with how the scratch-built terrain looked, and six rolls on the treasure table (including two on the Lich Lord table) isn’t too shabby!

With the battling warbands long departed, night drew in on the frozen river. The once mighty hulks that lay shattered and rotting in the ice creaked as an eerie miasma descended between the cold stone banks.

There, among the splintered vessels, lay the body of the recently slain wizard; his wind-tattered robes shifting amid the stillness.

Then movement! The silent jetties and quays suddenly swarmed with thin, broken figures. Shambling zombies, skittering skeletons and howling ghouls lined the river as an eldritch green light played over the corpse.

“Pathetic mortal…”

An aeons-dry voice hissed over the frozen river.

“Your work isss not yet done. Arisssse!”

The wizard stood up stiffly and unblinking he faced his master.

“I obey…”