The Downfall of Darius

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PART I

After purchasing a pdf download of BattleGames magazine vol.2 from the Wargames vault, I was very interested to read an article called ‘Campaign in a Day’  by Dan Mersey.  The campaign system is very simple to use as it consists of only 4 battles between an invading force and a defending force starting with a meeting engagement and escalating to a full pitched battle. After each battle the winner rolls a D6 and reads out the relevent result for the next game, this could be anything from reinforcements arriving to swell your ranks to having your cavalry pursuing the beaten foe too far and being left out of the next battle!

I decided that these campaign rules would be perfect for running a campaign with a friend of mine using Hordes of the Things rules and the 15mm Blood Dawn fantasy orcs which I purchased from Magister Militum at Salute 2012. They would be pitted as the defenders, fighting to hold back Graham’s Persian Hordes in their quest to conquer the mysterious Dead Lands.

Although we didn’t get it all done in a single day as the name suggests (there’s always something that gets in the way!?) it only took a couple of sessions to complete, the story of which can be found below.

Darius the Lost

As the Persian Empire reached out to the very edges of the civilised world, the Great King Darius’ hunger for power and conquest was still not sated and so he now turned his attention to the mysterious and uncharted Dead Lands of the south, to this end, he built a great army to conquer this new domain.

Whilst marching in the border lands towards the Mountains of Lost Souls the Persians came upon an orc hunting party, Darius deployed his forces and attacked with alacrity, his vastly superior numbers sweeping over the orcs and completely destroying them so that no word of the coming invasion could reach any ‘would-be’ defenders, however, unbeknownst to Darius as his hordes made the arduous trek through the mountainous Snake Pass, goblin scouts watched from the hills and reported back to the orc war boss Urxkull Crag-Tooth at his lair on the banks of Blood River. As the Persian invaders marched out of the southern end of the pass, they met Urxkull’s war host baring the way and battle was joined. Although outnumbered, the orcs charged into battle with a ravenous blood lust and after 6 hours of vicious fighting had managed to smash the Persian hordes asunder, killing and wounding thousands of their number, until their will to fight was completely extinguished and, having had their escape route through the mountain pass cut off by the orcs, the survivors fled east across the Blasted Wastes in search of another way to escape.

Thousands died during the long march through the Blasted Wastes, many during rearguard actions against the pursuing orc war host but most perished through disease, starvation or just disappeared into the night, never to be seen again. Darius hoped to evade the orcs and make it to the coast from where he could signal the Persian fleet that had been ordered to sail the narrow strip of sea between the Dead Land coast and the Maelstrom, a huge roiling majick vortex that raged several miles out to sea. The reinforcements and supplies onboard the vessels would allow him to field an army big enough to deal the orcs a crushing defeat.

Darius managed to evade the orcs and his army waited at the Bay of Tears having erected signal fires in caves in the cliffs to either side of the bay thus shielding them from the orcs further inland. Weeks passed with no sign of the fleet and whilst searching for food, a foraging party was captured by an orc patrol. They were taken back to Urxkull’s camp and tortured until one man agreed to lead the orcs to Darius’ location.

In the seventh week, piquets stationed on the inland side of the bay reported a vast dust cloud in the west, Darius was in no doubt as to its source and quickly mobilised the remnants of his army to face the oncoming orc war host. As the orcs came within view the Persian soldiers were horrified to see that prisoners taken during the Battle of Snake Pass had been shackled together and marched in font of the war host, forced to fight for survival against their erstwhile brothers-in-arms. The ensuing battle was nothing short of a massacre; the orcs tore into the dishevelled ranks of the Persians and crushed them utterly, Darius fought bravely from the back of his mighty war elephant but he could not hope to stop the tide of green drowning his army in a sea of blood and sand.

Many months later the unconscious body of Darius was washed up on the Persian shore; tatty, ragged and emaciated, he was discovered by a beautiful maiden and nursed back to health with the help of strong healing majicks. Darius swore to one day avenge the humiliation dealt upon him by the thrice-accursed Urxkull Crag-Tooth…

We decided to call the campaign an orc victory after the third game as Graham had rolled so badly for bringing back troops for the next game that he would have been outnumbered by nearly 3 to 1! As the story suggests, my orcs did indeed roll a result after the second battle in which I was able to steal a unit from Gray’s army in the next battle, Persian Immortals no less!

All in all I really enjoyed the campaign (and not just because I won!) It allowed me to learn how to fight with my new HotT orc army, but also inspired me in to getting units assembled and painted (including any orc lair, pictures of which I will be posting up soon!) hopefully Urxkull Crag-Tooth will be marauding across the kingdom of man sometime very soon, Silea looks like a nice spot for some slaughterin’ and pillagin’!!

PART II

I’m going to cover the second campaign that I have recently played with the afore-mentioned Graham to give a better impression as to how the campaign rules work, and so, having repulsed the puny ‘Oomans  from the southern Dead Lands, Urxkull Crag-Tooth unleashed his war host on the unsuspecting Peoples of Silea, the province bordering the Mountains of Lost Souls. King Darius, newly recovered from his narrow escape during his disastrous campaign to invade the Dead Lands the year before, took up arms to defend his empire from the unholy hordes. Well, that’s the premise of the campaign, let’s get started!..

I would be playing the role of the invader this time so my first task was to pick an army. To this end we decided to start with a 30 point invading army. This is a little higher than a normal Hordes of the Things army, which meant that I was going to have to get some reinforcements from the bits box!

Urxkull Crag-Tooth’s War host

1x Orc Warband General (Urxkull himself)

2x Orc Warbands

2x Orc Spears

3x Orc Shooters

2x Squigosaur Beasts

2x Beastman Blades

1x Giant Rock Troll Behemoth

1x Orc ‘Frog’ Mortar Artillery

GAME I: ‘Over the Border!

Having assembled my newly reinforced orc war host we were ready to march! In this game the invader runs into a border patrol. This force is only half the size of the invading army and cannot include units that are considered ‘noble’. For Graham that meant no Persian Heroes or Knights and so he chose a force of Riders and Shooters lead by a spear General. As the defender, Graham placed the terrain for the battle and I, the ravening invader, declared my preferred table edge and successfully rolled for it. We deployed our armies and Graham took first bound. As the battle progressed his small mobile force disrupted my battle lines and caused horrific casualties on my orc war host, my Behemoth, two units of Beasts and a unit of Spears were killed thanks in part to my own over-confidence at outnumbering Graham’s force and to his ability to simply run rings around me, sowing confusion amongst my ranks! I managed to destroy 50% of Graham’s army and thus won the day, but due to the high casualty rates within my own army, we agreed to call it a moral victory (In campaign terms a Slight Success) And so I rolled a D6 and consulted the Results Table I.

Results Table I – Invader Slight Success roll of a 2:

‘Following up after the battle, your cavalry pursues the enemy a little too keenly and is waylaid sacking an enemy village. One cavalry unit of your choice sits out the next game, arriving after the action has finished with plunder aplenty.’

After my attempts to bring back destroyed units in time for the second game on a D6 roll of 5+, the only unit to return was a single unit of beasts, which count as a mounted unit in Hordes of the Things, and were therefore unable to make the next battle anyway!.. Oh well these things are sent to test us!

GAME II: ‘Meeting the local Lord

After the humbling experience of the first encounter I resolved to do the job ‘nice and clean’ in the second battle. With my much depleted force facing off against a defending army of two-thirds size, Graham again laid out the battlefield and I rolled for my preferred edge. Graham fielded a Hero General, a unit of Knights, and a force of  Shooters and Hordes. We both agreed that , as this battle had both a Hero and a stronghold on the defending side, destroying either of these would be a Famous Victory whilst destroying half of the army would be a Slight Success. With a much more cautious approach  I managed to break half of Graham’s army and win the field, having lost no units of my own this time (A fortuitous result as my ability to bring back lost units had to this point been somewhat lacking). 

Results Table II – Invader Slight Success roll of a 3:

‘A prominent enemy commander turns to religion before the next battle, leaving his men leaderless whilst he becomes a monk. 1 randomly selected unit (not the general’s) must roll 1d6 at the start of each turn, needing to roll 3-6 in order to act. A failed roll sees them standing on the spot, contemplating joining their former commander at the monastery.’

My dice rolls for returning units were atrocious and so I would be facing a full 30 point defending force with my surviving 24 point army in the third battle. It could have certainly been much worse, by the third game of our previous campaign Graham was down to half of his original strength!

GAME III: ‘The Main Armies Clash

In this battle I would be slightly outnumbered but I was confident that my war host wouldn’t let me down. As before Graham, as the defender, set up the field and I rolled for my prefered deployment edge, we deployed forces and let battle commence. I have to confess that the battle was all a little bit of a blur for me and I can only remember clearly that the Knight unit that would be affected by the last game result did in deed spend most of the battle staring into space! Even though Graham only needed to roll a 3+ at the start of each turn he obstinately rolled ones and twos! The battle ended as a Famous Victory for myself, having again destroyed half of his army with only the loss of a single Orc Warband.

Results Table III – Invader FamousVictory of a 1:

‘Your last battle went a bit too well: the local church has declared a holy war against the invading barbarians (they’re scared of losing their land rents), and your opponent receives two units of peasants to bolster his ranks.’

As had become the norm for this campaign, I failed to bring back any casualties at the end of the game. Fortunately for me Graham had no better luck and, even with the two free units that he had been awarded from the result of the battle, he would be back to half points again for the next one.  Urxkull’s rampaging may have upset the locals but with fewer troops left to call upon Silea was going to have to get used to their new master, unless of course, Darius was able to beat the odds and bring the hated invader to account!

GAME IV: ‘The Follow-up Engagement’

When we were able to convene again to do battle, I felt pride for my Orc war host, they had performed admirably throughout the campaign and all they needed to do now was destroy the impertinent defenders in one last orgy of bloodshed! Facing my now slightly depleted army was a defending force of only 15 points. Graham’s Hero General now only had 1x Behemoth, 1x unit of Hordes, 1x unit of Knights, 1x unit of Spears and 1x unit of Shooters. This time I was gunning for Graham’s stronghold, I had as yet failed to capture one during the previous battles and worst still had failed to get even close to one! To this end I tried to pin his battle line in place and send my only unit of Beasts to attack the walls of Graham’s fastness. The Beasts failed to achieve their mission but my main force was able to destroy the Persian force in short order and I even managed to kill Graham’s Hero General! Darius had fought bravely till the end only to fall, shot by a stray cannon ball.

Results Table IV – Invader Famous Victory:

‘Victory indeed! The defenders bloodline has been either completely wiped out or has fled across the sea. You may now consider yourself king of a new territory. Put your feet up and ask you opponent to pack your games table and figures away for you!’

And so, with the winter drawing a close on the campaign season Urxkull can settle in to his new domain. I’m sure his hunger for land and plunder will only be abated for a short while but for now I will let him and his army enjoy the spoils of war.

The future

This campaign system has proved to be very entertaining and, as I hope I have shown through this article, can create an interesting narrative to your gaming. I will always look back and smile at those leaderless Knights on the hill gazing into space as the battle raged before them or the look on Graham’s face when I stole a unit of his beloved Spears (with the number of troops he had left to carry on the invasion, that was just adding insult to injury!)

Although originally devised for medieval wargames, the result tables are emminently customisable, indeed Graham has been inspired to use some of these ideas for his up and coming Space Crusade campaign. And me? well lets just say that with some tweaking I could well be embarking on a 6-day campaign in the Sinai Peninsula…

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