A Blast From the Past – Orcs and Goblins vs Vampire Counts

So I’ve been pining for some good old rank and flank gaming of late. Partly because I always found I enjoyed Warhammer Fantasy more and partly because I think it’s a form of wargaming that’s easier for someone who is blind/VI – less units to keep track of and all. Well as it happened I was in luck.

With Dark Heresy falling through again and three of four in my boardgame group busy, the last the latter, Ben, was keen to play some Warhammer Fantasy Battles (WFB) 6th edition. Why 6th? Because it’s the best edition, and because I have hardcopies of the rulebook and 6e army books for Orcs and Goblins and Vampire Counts.

So I rustled up my old forces, dusted them off, and got ready for some Old World fun.

The Armies

While not the prettiest things, most being unpainted and a good chunk of what was having been done before I became decent, it turned out I had quite a bit of stuff. So much so that with a bit of proxying Ben and I came up with two 2,120 point lists. Why 2,120? Because that’s how much we got the Vampire Counts to and we did them first.

Orcs and Goblins

Level 4 Night Goblin great shaman with the Staff of Badum, Dangly Wot-Nots, and a dispel scroll

Black Orc Big Boss with heavy armour, an extra hand weapon, and Crumpa’s Club of something or rather

Level 2 Night Goblin shaman with the Staff of Sorcery,

Level 2 Night Goblin shaman with a dispel scroll and a power stone

Two units of 20 Night Goblins with spears, both with three fanatics

Two units of 20 Night Goblins with shortbows, both also with three fanatics

16 Arrer Boyz

Two units of 8 Goblin Wolf Riders with shortbows (half proxied with Forest Goblin Spider Riders – clearly they’re wolf spiders)

25 Black Orcs (15 proxied with regular Orc Boyzz)

(All units had standards, musicians, and bosses)

Vampire Counts

Level 4 Master Necromancer with the Rod of Flaming Death, Book of Arkan, and a dispel scroll

A Blood Dragon Vampire Thrall on a nightmare with barding with a lance, shield, Talisman of Protection, and blessed with Red Fury

Level 2 Necromancer with a Power Familiar (proxied with a Wraith)

A Wight Lord with heavy army and the Hell Battle Standard (I think that name is correct, unit he is with causes Terror. Proxied with a regular old skeleton standard bearer)

Two units of 20 Skeletons with spears and light armour plus champion, musician, and standard bearer

Two units of Zombies with musician and standard bearer (half are zombie-fied Empire militia)

19 ghouls, including a Ghast

6 Fell Bats (one is just a stand, requires fixing)

9 Black Knights with the Screaming Banner (proxied with a Wight converted from an Empire captain, a mounted Wight, a mounted Von Carstein vampire, and six Norman knights)

The Battlefield

I set up a battlefield with a couple of hills, some woods, and a big chunk of marsh.

From the perspective of what would become my side, there was a one hill positioned left of the middle in my deployment zone. Forward of that, through the mid-section, a wood obscured the left flank, while from that to the centre line was clear. Opposite the hill, nearer the centre of the opposing deployment zone, stood another wood.

In my deployment zone and near the centre line, or just right of it, was another wood. Forward and right of the trees the marsh spanned through the mid-section up to the mid-point between the deployment zones. Beyond the marsh was a stand of trees right of centre. Right of these trees lay the second hill. It was forward of the opposing deployment zone and obscured that flank.

The Battle

We had a roll off to choose our side that Ben won with a 6. We then took turns deploying one unit at a time, as well as rolling all our spells.

The Greenskin Horde

From my right to left, Ben positioned his two units of Wolf Riders behind the hill, then Arrer Boyz behind the tree-line. The two units of speargoblins were positioned either side of the wood in his deployment zone. The first unit of shortbows was then placed left of the left-most unit of spears, the Black Orcs behind them, and second unit of shortbows on the far left flank, obscured by the wood in the mid-section. His shamans were positioned between various units.

Corpse Wall

As for my deployment, going left to right, I went with my Black Knights left of the hill in my deployment zone, unit of Zombies and unit of Skeletons on the hill with Master Necromancer between them, then my battle standard Skeletons and my second unit of Zombies with the other Necromancer beside the latter. Right of that came my Ghouls facing the marsh and Fell Bats on the far right flank.

Ben won the roll off for first turn, again with a six, and the battle commenced.

Right off the bat the second Wolf Rider unit decided fighting amongst itself was the order of the day while the first unit shifted back to wait for my Fell Bats to near. The rest of the Goblin force marched up and Mork’s gaze saw some Skeletons crumble to dust. Gork also got set to go on the warpath, prompting me to use my dispel scroll to avoid a stomping.

Greenskins after Turn 1 movement

In my turn I flew my Fell Bats up, but kept them obscured by the hill, while the ghouls marched through the swamp. The rest of my army marched up, which led to the first onslaught of fanatics.

Half a dozen whirling loonies scattered themselves about the place. Two ploughed into my battle standard bearing skeletons, while others interposed themselves between my battle line and Ben’s. I moved up my other units just shy of seeing a further three fanatics being unleashed. I also crossed my fingers and hoped Gork and Mork wouldn’t see fit to push any of them into my general.

Turn 1 Undead movement

In my magic phase, I reanimated all the destroyed skeletons and set a bolt from the Rod of Flaming Death into one of the fanatics. And so Turn 1 ended with everything more or less as it began, though with our armies closer together and Fanatics all over the place.

Turn 2 and things went from funny it hilarious as the second Wolf Rider unit continued to squabble, while the first decided to show them what’s what and shot at them. The rest of the greenskins kept it together, but only thanks to the encouragement of the nearby Black Orcs.

Fighting within the ranks

To my relief the Fanatics weren’t overly troublesome. They mostly put themselves in annoying positions. One made its way toward the forest behind my line and another was even so kind as to plough through a unit of Night Goblin shortbows. Most importantly none went hurtling into my Master Necromancer.

The rest of the horde stayed put to focus its efforts on shooting undead and bring down Gork’s wrath. Evidently he was put out at having been put off last turn and so his big stompy foot came down with irresistible vengeance. Thankfully he failed to squish any Black Knights, but crushed some skeletons before slipping and flattening a Black Orc.

My turn began with a charge from the Fell Bats into the left flank of the first unit of speargoblins. After that, I continued to move everything up, which sent yet more fanatics hurtling into everything. My terror causing Skeletons were devastated down to only 5 models as the nutjobs ploughed through. I was quite fine with the losses though, the Necromancers would just have to earn their keep. I was much more cautious with my Black Knights however, given they wouldn’t be getting back up should they fall.

Bat attack!

None the less, I had them trigger the last three fanatics from the shortbows behind the forest. They could only be set up for mayhem next turn, and even then RNG might keep my units safe.

My magic phase was quite eventful. Not only was I able to replenish my devastated unit of skeletons back up to 20, Vanhel’s Danse Macabre sent the unit charging into the second unit of speargoblins. Unfortunately, while the first unit failed their Fear test on the Fell Bats, the second passed their Terror test and held firm against the Skeletons.

Combat was underwhelming. Casualties on both sides were exceedingly light. My Wight Lord in particular put on a terrible performance with his three attacks rolling 1, 1, 2 for 3/3 misses. When the dice stopped rolling however my Fell Bats won their combat and lapped around, the Night Goblins having held, while my Skeletons lost combat by 1 but didn’t lose a Skeleton thanks to my battle standard.

Turn 3 and you’d be forgiven for thinking the second unit of Wolf Riders would’ve gotten over their differences by now. They hadn’t and continued to squabble. The shortbows on Ben’s far right were also subject to animosity and moved up toward my Black Knights. Thankfully the forest slowed their movement enough to prevent them running into their own Fanatic.

Speaking of Fanatics: two of them clobbered half my Black Knights to death much to my dismay. In good news however, two put themselves into trees and a further two collided and took themselves out. With the good came the bad however, as every single unit within 6” of my terror causing Skeletons passed their Terror test, dashing my hopes of a Terror induced rout.

Wolf Riders finally join the fight – never mind the napping Arrer Boy

The greenskins continued to pick off undead, with the Arrer Boyz and first unit of Wolf Riders falling just one kill shy of inflicting 25% casualties on my Ghouls. Goblin magic this turn was terrible, with several failed casting attempts and a miscast that left one shaman unable to muster power for the rest of that phase.

Meanwhile our melees started to edge in my favour. While the speargoblins still held against the Fell Bats, the other speargoblins fled and were destroyed after losing to my Skeletons. This sent the Skeletons pursuing right into the Black Orcs.

In my turn I threw caution to the wind and charged everything I could. The Black Knights went straight through a fanatic and into the second unit of shortbows. Miraculously, while Ben rolled four or five hits he failed to wound with a single one of them.

Charge!

In the centre, my second unit of Skeletons charged the out of position Night Goblin Shaman, who promptly fled. As a result, the Skeletons ploughed into the Black Orcs and other unit of shortbows. They were joined by some Zombies, while the other unit of Zombies finally made their way across the bit of marsh they were stuck on.

Magic saw more Skeletons back on their feet, as well as the Wind of Death sapping the Night Goblin Great Shaman of his life force.

Knight fight

On to melee and the rout began. While my knights won handily, snake eyes saw the shortbows hold firm. The rest of the goblins weren’t so lucky. The Fell Bats finally caused the speargoblins to rout and chased them down. Meanwhile the Zombies broke the other shortbows and ran them down too. The odd unit out was, as to be expected, the Black Orcs. They butchered Skeletons with gay abandon and won their combat handily, leaving my battle standard unit with only five models left.

End of the battle

It was however quite obvious which way the battle was going, and Ben had to head off anyway. While the Black Orcs would undoubtedly hold on, my forces were free to swarm them, and my Necromancers had free reign.

Another shot of the end state

We did the Fanatics movement to see what would happen, but that only resulted in one spinning off the table and another two colliding. The second unit of Wolf riders stopped squabbling though. Better late than never.

We also rolled a one on one combat with my Vampire Thrall and Ben’s Black Orc Big Boss in which the latter was decapitated handily. Even allowing the orc to strike post-humous my Thrall managed to make two of three 6+ ward saves, granted thanks to his Talisman of Protection.

Aftermath

The battle was Ben’s first time of really playing WFB. Should he do it all over again, he said, he’d definitely deploy differently. The most important change of which would be to get the Black Orcs in the front line. I also advised he would’ve been better to take the side he gave me, using the height advantage of the hill and marsh to guard his flank.

For my part, I’m definitely not going to set up such a large marsh next time. I think it was too much of an impediment. Though I do need to double check movement and difficult terrain. Battle-wise, everything proceeded as I had foreseen *cackles in Palpatine*.

Final Thoughts

Ben and I had an absolute blast. WFB 6e was my first wargame and sure there’s a nostalgia element, but it was genuinely a highly enjoyable experience. It’s quite obvious why 6e is considered the best version of WFB. The rules are solid, the army books flavourful and balanced, and it was a time when GW was still about the hobby and not about building castles out of wads of bank notes (no surprises if there’s a chapel to Harry Enfield in there).

It’s given me real enthusiasm for getting some more fantasy stuff together and touching up all my old models. So who knows, maybe you’ll get to see more bony boys in the future?

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