Short fiction, ramblings and occasional miniature warmongering.
I’m sure some of you reading this will be aware that I’m having a month or two away from my beloved Trolls. It’s not that I hate them all of a sudden, I just felt a bit gamed out with them with all the big tournaments over the past few months. So I have been painting and playing a little faction called the Protectorate of Menoth (but more of that soon).
This was all well and good until I became aware of a brand new Trollbloods Warlock due for release. But then – he’s not due out til mid-late September … so nothing to worry about. Until not only was Jarl Skuld being pre-released at conventions, but I had an offer of a Ninja shopper to pick one up for me. How could I refuse?
More over … when he arrived 5 days later, how could I do anything but paint him as quickly as possible to make best use of his early arrival? Menoth were shelved temporarily (for which I’m sure I will burn at some point) and a pistol welding Troll took centre stage (well, desk).
Waking up late on a Saturday morning (my wife offered to get up with the girls) to a small internationally marked parcel is excitement like no other. I tore the box open quickly to bask in its glory – then remembering that the convention releases had a special stat card, I opened the blister to observe the radiance of the golden halo added to each card.
The baby was already asleep again and my other daughter thoroughly occupied, so I took advantage and started work on the mini. Cutting the tabs off his feet I instinctively tilted the model and quickly decided what I wanted to do with the base.
I rummaged through my box of slate bits to find a piece perfect for Jarl to step down from. With only a minor twist and bend to his left foot, he sat perfectly. I just about managed to drill his feet and arm and got pins in place before the baby woke up for lunch.
To keep things consistant with the majority of my Trolls, I painted all the flesh with Hawk Turquoise and wash it with blue after. I then highlighted back up with Hawk Turquoise, adding Elf Flesh gradually as I went. Other details followed, the purple for his tartan and eye patch, highlights on the metals, especially his pistols and the leathers.
More detail and metal work followed, including adding bronze and a touch of thinned metallic purple to the barrels. I started work on the base as well, basing the slate in Granite, then washing black. I painted PVC over all the inner base areas and added a mix of sand and fine gravel, washing this in Devlin Mud once it was dry.
Another highlight followed on most of the browns and metals, as well as details like his one eye and another wash over the eye patch to increase the contrast. The purple had had a purple wash and aq highlight by now as well so I added the fine lines in Bleached Bone, again to tie him in with my other Trolls.
The slate base was then drybrushed a few times with a light grey to bring back the stone look and the sand/gravel given a brief going over with a mid brown. I went round a the model a few more times, picking out details I had missed (like his bottle and adding some Bleach Bone to the rope) before adding spots of PVC and static grass to most appropriate places. Jarl Skuld then had 2 coats of spray varnish before I added two tufts of longer grass to give him that ambush feel.
I am very happy with the result, he is unlikely to win any painting awards, but then I did finish him with 36hrs of receipt and a clear month before the official release date. Jarl will be hitting the table this week. I will get a few games under my belt before drawing any real conclusions on him.
Game 1 – Diversion
Tom from Crossed Swords
Khador – pButcher – Spriggan, Destroyer, Juggernaut, 5 Man-O-War Shock Troopers, 10 Winter Guard + UA & Kovnik Joe, Widow Makers, The Great Bears & Kell Bellock
Grim took initial control of the game and advanced his beasts quickly as the Dygmies burrowed. The Runeshapers flanked by Bombers with Grim and Impaler and Earthborn just behind Janissa’s Wall. Butcher’s response was also rapid, Winterguard ran down the left flank as a wall of metal, 3 jacks wide, advanced across the middle, with Man-O-War behind, shielding the man himself.
The Dygmies surfaced and, aided by the Fellcaller, charged headlong into the middle Jack, the Juggernaut, as well as the Widowmakers close to the right hand flag. The Widowmakers fell, but the jack’s armour proved too much for the list Pygs. The rest of Grim’s forces moved up behind as the left Bomber stepped into the woods and threw bombs at the closing Winter Guard, killing a few. The other Bomber ran to try and secure the right hand flag, left unguarded by the dead Widowmakers. Butcher’s forces advanced again where they could, the Winterguard killed several Dygmies as the Jacks in the middle maked short work of the other tiny Dygmies, The Great Bears charged in hard against the Bomber and killed it convincingly
Grim then sprung his trap and launched a full assault on the heavy jacks, The Runeshapers charged in and completely failed to knock down the jacks or do any damage to the Great Bears. The Earthborn charged in to the Spriggan and Juggernaut and although the Juggernaut was left a wreck, the Spriggan took almost no damage at all. Grim took cover behind Janissa’s wall again as the inevitable reprisals came.
Butcher’s jacks pushed forward as the Man-O-War took a step or two to help remove the Runeshapers. The Earthborn took a barrage of attacks from both jacks and Man-O-War, but eventually fell.
Grim retreated into the safety of the woods just as the Khadoran forces parted and the Butcher himself charged in to finish Grim.
Game 2 – Overrun
Christian from Team Bitch Slap
Khador – The Old Witch & Scrapjack – Behemoth, Widowmakers & Marksman, 10 Kayazy & Underboss, The Great Bears & Nyss Hunters.
The Old Witch gained control early and her forces quickly covered the ground towards Grim. Nyss on one flank, Kayazy on the other. The Bomber stepped forward and threw wild bombs into the woods the Nyss were hiding, killed a few of them as the rest of Grim’s forces advanced quickly, but carefully. The Dygmies burrowed.
The Witch pushed her forces even harder, driving down the throat of the Trolls at a frightening speed. The air was sudden full of strangling chains, threatening to cut Grim’s forces to ribbons if they dared advance.
Grim could see his defeat looming – but yet there was still a chance. The Dygmies surfaced at a conservative distance and aimed at the nearest Kayazy assassin. It took all 5 of them in range, but he eventually fell to slug gun fire. Grim took a risk of the chains and stepped around the nearest Kayazy and shot at one of the GreatBears guarding the Witch. A line of fire now opened, the Impaler helped his big brother, the Bomber throw further as the Bomber stepped into the breach and threw bombs at the crone. It only took one good hit and she was no more.
Tom Hutchings from Team CGC Awesomesaurs
Circle – eKruger – Pureblood Warpwolf, Feral Warpwolf, Megalith, Woldwarden, Tharn Ravagers + Chieftain, Shifting Stones & UA, Blackclad Wayfarer.
Grim took an early chance and literally charged up the table as his beasts ran and the Dygmies burrowed under.
Kruger advanced his beasts rapidly as the Ravagers tore down the right flank and the Blackclad advanced up behind the building on the left.
Grim took a pot shot as he advance and the Blackclad fell. The Runeshapers took up defensive positions as the other beasts advanced behind Janissa’s wall. The Dygmies surfaced and charged into Megalith and the Woldwarden, with the encouragement of the Fellcaller. Neither heavy beast fell – but the Woldwarden took significant damage from the little Pygs. Megalith stomped on some Dygmies as the Feral Warpwolf delt with a few more and the Ravager continued their dash down the right flank.
Grim saw the narrowest possibility of a strike and sprung his trap, making his enemies easier to hit and harder to move. The Earthborn dashed forwards and wailed on Megalith until he fell and followed up with a few swings against the Pureblood. The Runeshapers tried to knock down the two Warpwolves, but to no avail, leaving the Bomber to edge forwards and shower bombs on eKruger. After minor damage for himself and a few hard hits for his beast, Kruger used his magic to move the Pureblood forward to the edge of the Shiftingstone’s influence. The Pureblood then suddenly appeared next to Grim and wailed upon him. But Grim’s whits and armour held out against the assult. Janissa slid the ground out from under the hulking wolf as Grim stepped to one side and combined his fire with the Bomber again to finish Kruger.
Paul Mansfield from PM4Life
Skorne – Mordikaar – Bronzeback, Titan Gladiator, Rhinodon, Nihilators, Paingivers, Gatormen & Paingiver Task Master
Grim took to the field early and led his forces up quickly as the Dygmies burrowed. A wall of Titan and Rhinodon muscle advanced as the Gatormen with their Task Master sped up the right flank.
The wall across the middle of the table was a far too tempting point of defense. One Bomber ran up the left hand side as the Runeshapers spread out and took out one of the Void Walkers. The Dygmies surfaced and charge in against the heavy Rhinodon and Gladiator, but only managed to inflict minimal damage with their slug guns. The rest of the Trolls advanced up close to the wall as Janissa put another obstacle next to it.
With the heavy beasts held up by the mini Trolls, The Rhinodon swung his tail out wide and killed several of them. The Gladiator took out a few more as the Nihilators moved between the beasts to almost finish them off as well as getting up close and threatening with Grim.
The nearest Runeshaper took care of the Nihilator as Grim sprung his trap – it was now or never, he knew that if he didn’t act now it would be an uphill struggle. Grim’s rifle rang out as the Bombers stepped forward. But it was not to be, several bombs fell short of Mordikaar, and other failed to do enough serious damage to threaten him. The Earthborn killed a few Nihilators, but more seemed to get up than fell down. The Gatormen charged in from the right flank and quickly began taking huge chunks out of the nearest Bomber. Mordikaar reinforced his position, inciting the spirits and making his army much harder to hit. The heavy beasts advanced and removed what was left of the Dygmies.
Nothing in Grim’s army could hit anything, except Grim himself. The tide had turned … and not in his favour. The Earthborn tried in vain to bring down the Rhinodon, and only succeeded in leaving Grim vulnerable. As the Bomber fell to Gator snapping the Earthborn was shoved out of the way allowing the Titan Gladiator a clear charge on Grim. After only a few hits, it was all over.
Game 5 – Command and Control
Andrew Galea (rapidly becoming my tournament arch enemy) Team Rage Quit.
Cygnar – Kraye – Hammerfist, Cyclone, StormClad, Squire, The Black 13th, Arlan Strangeways, Ayana & Holt & Journyman Warcaster.
Grim was the first to make a move and as the Dygmies burrowd, he advanced his forces cautiously, warey of the power of Cygnar ranged fire. The Runeshapers out in front, with the Bombers just behind and Grim safe behind Janissa’s wall.
Kraye was also conservative in the approach of his jacks. A line of big blue heavies took up station close to the large central zone and the Cyclone laid down surpressing fire. A large electrical storm errupted as the Black 13th took up position next to the jacks. Kraye remained a safe distance behind as the Stormlance cavalry dashed towards the woods on the left hand side.
Grim’s response was again, careful. The Dygmies surfaced – but rather than dash themselves againsy so much Cygnar armour, they ran towards the far table edge and fanned out. The Fellcaller made his way up the right flank, behind a building, should the Pygs need his support. The Bombers both took turns throwing at the Hammersmith, who was just visible between the hails of fire, but the hulking jack took very little damage. The Runeshapers spread out in front and aided by the Earthborn and Grim, looked more sturdy than ever. Janissa, Grim and the Kreilstone until took cover behind her wall.
Kraye saw a potential opportunity, even from so far out. He increased the speed of his warjacks and launched the Hammersmith at the right hand Bomber as the Sentinel raked Dygmies with fire. The Bomber stood firm and after a devestating initial strike, the Hammersmith’s mighty blows either failed to connect or glanced off the beasts hide. The Stormclad then came in as fast as it could to finish off the poor Bomber as several Dygmies died to Sentinel cannon and Gorman’s acid bombs. Stormlances streaked across the field towards the other Bomber and Earthborn, but both beast’s remained strong.
With so enemy units so close, Grim was pinned in. But these Cygnar jacks and cavalry were also a long way from the rest of the force. Janissa stepped up as tight as she could to the remaining Bomber and lifted the ground, sliding the engaging Stormlance well out of the way. The bomber then stepped around and pounded one horse into the ground, but couldn’t reach the other. Grim stepped back out of the way and sprung his trap, he directed the Earthborn as he marked the Hammersmith. The Impaler threw a cheeky spear, but failed to knock the Hammersmith off his feet as the Earthborn charged in. The Hammersmith was quickly scrap and the Stormclad followed soon after. As the Dygmies re-burrowed, the battle had swung.
Kraye could see action had to be taken, lest he be sorrounded and out numbered. He increased the speed of the remaining heavy, the Cyclone, who, despite Grim’s trap, was still able to make it to the exposed Bomber. He picked up the huge beast and threw it down towards the waiting Cygnar infantry. The combined fire of Holt, Black 13th and the Journeyman quickly reduced the huge Bomber to ash. To prevent reprisals, Gorman stepped into the open and threw a black oil bomb at the Earthborn, causing no damage, but incapacitating him for now.
Grim saw one last opportunity, as the Sentinel stepped back to try and guard Kraye as best he could. The Impaler charged and removed Gorman from the picture as Grim took a shot at Kraye. The Sentinel took the hit for him as the Dygmies charged in. The Sentinel was soon a pile of scrap, but he had done his job, very few of the vicious little pygs could get in close enough to Kraye. And those that could – were unable to inflict significant damage.
Kraye stepped away from the wrecked Sentinel as the Cyclone picked up the Earthborn this time and threw it directly at Grim! Both of them collapsed as the huge beast landed. Grim was still behind Janissa’s wall – but prone on the ground. There was little he could do. Aiyana ‘Kissed’ Grim as every gun that could be brought to bare on Grim fire. Kraye’s second shot rang out in the end and finished Grim.
The ETC has been my most enjoyable of the big 3 weekend tournaments. More than anything it has a more relaxed pace, you are playing with team mates and it’s very social in general. I had also learnt a lot about my lists and big game play in general (both the numbers of people, and playing well at 50pts) which helped with the weekend.
I’m already signed up with Firestorm Fairies for next year. Time for a hiatus from Trolls for me, but I’m sure Domination will change that as all the new shiny toys arrive.
The Welsh Open was the largest Warmachine tournament I have attended so far, with 64 entrants and 6 games over 2 days. 3 x 50 points on the first day and 3 x 35 points on the second, each warlock could only be used once on each day.
I chose to stretch myself a little by running 5 different Warlocks and quite varied lists of Trolls. My warlocks of choice (in order of use) Grissel, Gunnbjorn, eMadrak, Grim Angus and Calandra.
First game of the weekend was Incursion against Dean and his Retribution. Vyros took the initiative and his army of Dawnguard raced up the table at full speed. Grissel responded with even greater pace, her Kriel Warriors impossibly engaging the enemy in their own territory while the Dygmies burrowed. The Pygs Bushwackers managed to only scratch a Destor, before advancing again as her battle group and Kriel Stone moving up close behind.
With the left hand objective removed, Vyros responded, advancing as much as his troops were able, several Kriels fell, but the line held. The Dygmies surfaced and quickly moved to help the Kriels push back the countless Dawnguard. Grissel’s battlegroup surrounded the central objective as Pygs on the right flank held up the pair on Destors further. So 2 objectives held? Not quite, a single Dawnguard just about contested the middle while a Destor did the same on the right. (big mistake, as the Dawnguard would have been so easy to dispatch). More Kriels and Pygs fell before Grissel’s Axers and Bouncer managed to remove the contesting Dawnguard and Destor. 2 control points!
Vyros was now desperate and empowered the Phoenix for all he was worth, which then charge straight at Grissel. After Grissel had been forced to make her warbeasts take several lethal blows for her, Vyros had to step in himself. He wailed on her as well, but she was just too tough for him.
Grissel had survived an onslaught, but before she could complete her plan, the flames from the Phoenix fiery sword got the better of her and she fell.
My second game was Close Quarters against Aaron and his Cryx led by pDeneghra. Denny took the initiative and came quickly up the field. Gunnbjorn’s Bombers laid down surpresing fire in response, but the Satyxis only took minor casualties. The Scouts then charged in, but again only brought down one of the Raiders.
The Deathjack advanced as the Raiders charged in. Dygmies came up but found the rear of the Deathjack protected by Bane Thralls. They charged into the Banes instead, with help from the Fell Caller and removed most of them. But that was nearly the end of the Cryx casualties. The Banes nearly wiped out the Dygmies, leaving the Deathjack free to murder a Bomber. The other Bomber fell to Satyxis hands and Gunnbjorn found himself paralysed as the Deathjack finally rounded on him.
Game three was Command & Control against yet more Cryx in the shape of pSkarre and Marc Morgan. eMadrak took control early and advanced his army of Fennblades, beasts and Champions up the board. Skarre came up fast as Dygmies surfaced and did considerable damage to the Seether and a BoneJack. Satyxis charged Thrullg, but failed to hurt him. Madrak moved up and empowered the Fennblades to hit harder as they charged the Seether and some Mech Thralls. All the Mechs disintegrated and the Jack quickly followed. The Reaper tried to skewer Madrak, but Janissa’s wall gave him enough cover to avoid the shot as the BloodGorgers rushed forwards. The Mech Thralls killed a few more Dygmies as the Champions rushed through the gap left behind and Madrak saw his best chance. The Pyre troll stepped behind him and shoved him just close enough to hit all 3 of the closest blighted trolls. The 2 Bloodgorgers died, but Gerlack held on. The Champion swung at him, but he was just too tough. Mulg swung at everything close to him before charging, and destroying, the Reaper as Madrak stepped nearly past Gerlack and removed him. Skarre was so close, but too far for Madrak to reach. His attempt failed, Madrak waited for Skarre to step forward and remove him from Caen.
So after 3 losses on day one, day two could only get better.
Up first was John with his Mercenaries led by Fiona the Black fighting over the Sacrifice scenario. eMadrak took the initiative and his army moved up at full speed as the Dygmies burrowed. Fiona’s forces moved up, the Nyss and Alexia on the right with Freebooter, Nomads and the Devildogs heading towards the control point. The Dygmies surfaced and charged several of Alexia’s thralls, a Devildog or two and ran infront of the approaching Jacks. The Jacks responded by killing a few Dygmies along with the Thralls. Madrak helped his Fennblades hit harder as they charged the Jacks before them, causing significant damage to all three. The Dygmies reburrowed as Madrak then had the Fenns all hit again, scrapping 2 jacks and leaving the last Nomad heavily damaged. Fiona’s remaining forces tried to fight back, but with such massive hitting power all but gone, they struggled. Except the Nyss that is, who swung round to guard the Flag and tried to kill off the Fell Caller, but he was just too heroic. Three Fennblades finished the Nomad as the rest rushed forwards towards a retreating Fiona. Dygmies surfaced and charged her, but failed to hit as the Fell Caller took the Flag and paid the ultimate price for it. Fiona responded by killing 2 Dygmies and forcing Fennblades to turn on one another. Several were lost as the Nyss advanced and also killed a few members of the Kriel Stone unit. The Runebearer granted Madrak his own brutal power just as the Pyre Troll shoved him forwards to help the Charge into Fiona. Two hits later, Fiona was lying on the ground.
The next game was Process of Elimination against Andy. Back to Cryx and pDenny again. Grim Angus has always seemed to have a personal hatred of Cryx and his forces sped up the board as the Dygmies burrowed. Rorsh and Brine went up the right flank, Scouts up the left, the rest in the middle. pDenny bought her army up quickly as well, confident in their stealthy protection, as a PistolWrath took an early pot shot at Brine, chilling him to near death, momentarily at least. The Dygmies then surfaced as Grim shot Tartarus right between the eyes and removed the Bane Thrall’s defensive stealth at the same time. The Fellcaller lent the Dygmies his booming voice as they charged the Banes. Almost all fell to Dygmy axe or gun. Denny advanced and bespelled poor Brine yet again as the other forces killed several brave young Dygmies. Grim came forward again and spread the net, closing the trap. Even with his disabilities, Brine trashed a Bonejack, securing the right hand zone. Dygmies killed one of the Withershadow combine and dented the other bonejack as Grim’s rifle rang out again and scored a few valuable points off Denny herself. Unable to come back from Grim’s paralysing abilities, Denny’s army limped forward, but did minimal damage as the FellCaller and Swamp troll dashed across to secure the left hand zone and close out the game.
The last game of the weekend was Capture the flag against Sabiel with his Garryth led Retribution.
Chris Cawthorn, hot on the heels of the successful ‘friendly’ intro tournament in October 2010, held a Warmachine/Hordes Tiers only event last weekend (9th April 2011). It presented an interesting twist for list building, especially for me as I do, at times, have to fight the urge not to be obsessed with the Theme lists. I find it hard to turn free points away.
When I came to look at creating a competitive list, I found my usual go to Troll warlocks somewhat lack luster. I love eMadrak – but his current Tier really doesn’t do much for me (and no free Horthol? ). So I broadened my scope and toyed with several lists for weeks until I discovered Calandra’s Tier 4. At 35 points I really didn’t think it was viable until I just put it on the table and tried it – I was blown away by my options (and Advanced Deploy EarthBorn Dire Trolls!)
After very little tweaking my list ended up as:
Calanda, Runebearer, 2 x EBDT, Axer. Full Pygmy Burrowers, Troll Scouts and a Fell Caller.
The day didn’t start as well as it could. I over slept and arrived at the event approximately 10 minutes after the first game has started. Talent: that’s what that is. I was fortunate that Chris knew I was en route and had listed me as a bye (due to an odd number of players). So I was awarded a win for being late – but without any points (obviously).
My first game (round 2) was a Capture the Flag scenario against Mike Chomyk with eButcher and 24 Doomreavers! I had met Mike before and we regularly abuse one another on Twitter ( @MrChom btw) … but this was our first game across the table. The rest of Mike’s Khador was made up of Fenis, a Berserker and a Spriggan.
More Doomreavers that should have been possible raced across the table as Dymies did what they do best (burrowed!) and both Dire Trolls moved up on the right hand side, trying to make the best of the terrain with the Scouts outside them on the flank. Doomreavers tried to mob the Dygmies marker, but misjudged the location and they appeared behind them, charging both the Spriggan, the rearmost Doomreavers and a few brave souls made for Butcher. The Scouts laughed off the flailing Doomreavers who charged them, and double teamed each of them, seeming them off with relative ease. One of the Earthborn trolls charged and very nearly scrapped the Berserker as his counterpart Trampled yet more Doomreavers to engage Fenris.
On the opposite flank, yet another unit of Doomreavers failed to secure the objective as the Fellcaller shouted several of them out of existence as yet still more approached. The objective was lost while one Earthborn made short work of the damaged Berserker and the other knocked Fenris of his mad horse. Butcher gathered all his strength to remove Calandra once and for all. After wading through several Dymies he enhanced the closest Doomreavers to her. They charged and wailed 7 attacked on her between them, but Calandra’s abilities enabled her to avoid all but one of the blows. The Axer then removed 2 of them, allowing Calandra to heal the Earthborn and confuse the Spriggan. As the Scouts finished Fenris, the Earthborn then mercilously charged Butcher head on … and even Butcher couldn’t take many hits from those his fists.
Round 3 was against Matt (who I was apparently lined up to play in round 1) and his Cryx. The scenario was Sacrifice, a knew one for me, and Matt’s Mortenebra army was very jack heavy: A Leviathan, 3 Slayers, 2 Warwitch Sirens, a Skarlock and The Deathjack.
The objective point was on the other side of the board, but the area objective was on mine … Calandra took the initiative and sent both Earthborns straight across towards the point as the Dygmies burrowed and the Scouts made for the area. The Cryx jacks all came up fast, holding a line as the Deathjack ran at the Scouts. Calandra lent her gift of fate to her army as one Earthborn charged the Leviathan and reduced it to spare parts. The Dymies charged at a pair of Slayers stood next to one another, scrapping one and crippling the other, while the Scouts tried to tangle with the Deathjack but failed to do any damage.
Mortenebra clearly felt threatened, she charged and killed one of the Dygmies and drove the Deathjack on. The Deathjack then moved around the Scouts, killing one, but fell short of threatening Calandra and had to settle with killing the Fellcaller. The Earthborn then turned on the closest Siren and tore her in half as the Scouts mustered a charge on Mortenabra herself. Thrown axes bounced off Morty’s armour, but once they had closed, it only took a few hits to ruin her.
Round 4 was a Killbox against Chris Roberts and his Ashlynn led Mercenaries. I had played Chris in the first round in October, and I could see he wanted payback for all my well timed tough rolls back then. With Ashynn he had 2 Vanguards, 2 units of GunMages, a Mangler with the DevilDogs together with Gorman, Taryn di la Rovissi and Anastasia di Bray.
Ashlynns forces came across the table fast. Quickly taking up position behind obstacles and buildings. True to form, the Dygmies burrowed and the Earthborns went up the flank while the scouts moved through trees just inside them as they ran to engage the closest GunMage unit.
Ashlynn tilted the board in her favour as the rest of her army advanced, the Gunmages stepped out of combat with the Scouts unscathed and opened fire, cutting all but 2 of them down. Gorman approached the outermost Earthborn and blinded it with a grenade as the other advanced on the Gunmages and Ashlynn. The Dygmies came up and advanced on the front rank mix of Gunmages, jacks and solos and utterly failed to hit anything. One of the Vanguards neatly sidestepped the advancing Dygmies and readied itself for an attack. It slammed violently into the Axer, shoving him back into Calandra. With both of them on the ground the free GunMages advanced on them and cut Calandra to ribbons before she could get up.
Over all I came 6th and only lost to the overall winner. If I had actually managed to arrive for a 1st round there was a good chance I would have been better placed. It was a really good training ground for my Calandra list, which has now more than proven itself.
Warmachine: HardCore. 50 points. One list. 7min turns.
2011 is the first year of the UK Hardcore series One. Several heats through the year culminating in a final in October. http://www.rankingshq.com/ukhardcoreseries/
I rolled up to Firestorm Games in Cardiff for heat 3. eDoomshaper in my bag with his trusty Dire Troll force: Mulg, Earthborn Dire Troll, 2 Maulers, 2 minimum units of Champions, Runebearer, a Skinner and 10 whelps.
My first game was again Gary with his Menoth led by ESeverius. With him he had The Blessings of Vengance, The Avatar, 2 Reckoners, a min TempleFlame Guard unit with UA 3 wracks and the usual support solo plethora.
I won the initiative and 3 of the 4 Dires ran up the table, with one of the DTMs loitering around Doomy, flanked by Champions. eSeverius moved up a little, but was clearly warey of the charge range of Doomshaper’s Trolls. The heavy Trolls moved up aggressively again, taking position on or passed the half way point.
The Blessings of Vengence then darted to the left and with a swift stroke, dispatched the rapidly advancing Skinner. The Templeflame Guard charged the forward Mauler and Mulg, dealing very little damage. Very little had a chance to move up to engage as Gary’s time had ran out, and to his shock and mine … eSeverius was not inside the 24” kill box. He had handed me the game before a Diretroll even threw a punch.
Game 2 was again Ruth with her Circle and Kromac the Ravenous. Kromac brought all three varieties of Warpwolf (Feral, Pureblood and Stalker) as well as an Argos, a unit of Ravagers with Shaman, a Whitemaine and WarWolf.
I won the initiative again and Dire Trolls thundered up the table. Kromac took up position on the nearly central hill, his Warpwolves forming a living shield before him as Ravagers made rapid progress up the flank.
Doomshaper saw an opening and the Earthborn launched forward and made short work of the nearest Warwolf, the Feral. Before being goaded out of the way. Then the Mauler charged in and shredded the Pureblood before also moving clear. Doomshaper then popped his feat, stepped forward into the edge of the woods and unleashed Mulg. Mulg charged up the hill, through the gap made by the other Dires and set to work on Kromac. After only 2 swings Kromac was saved by the bell, literally.
Kromac, understandably not wanting to remain stood before the towering Mulg, beasted out, stepped sideways, before leaping clear over him and swung his axe at Doomshaper. The rear guard Mauler took the damage for Doomy, but Mulg was not impressed. He immediately turned and swung at Kromac, forcing him to make a beast take his damage. For every swing Kromac made at Doomshaper, Mulg swung at him. His Fury fast depleting he put all his effort into a final swing, leaving nothing left to defend himself, Mulg’s tree-club brought him to his knees. Having done his best to recharge himself, Kromac swung again, but it was just not enough. And the mighty club of Mulg finished him.
Game 3 was against Andrew and his Cygnar.
Now, here I felt I made a school boy error. We were drawn and deployed before the lunch break. Then wondered up to Subways together. Those of you who know me, know I talk. I like to talk. I talked too much on this lunch I feel. I basically showed my entire hand without realising that Andrew was doing no such thing.
I won the initiative and went first. Doomshaper’s Dires flying up the table at max speed, as before, but the fun ended there. Haley rushed up the table and practically froze all Doomshaper’s massive Trolls as the rest of her force advanced around her, the Thunderhead in the middle at the front.
Haley then mentally shoved the Thunderhead forward, before helping it’s movement and retreating herself. The Thunderhead then strode round the Menafix and electrocuted everything it could reach. Doomshaper stumbled, but took the hit. The Thunderhead then pulsed again and again. The Mauler took the next few hits for Doomshaper, but the last nearly finished him. Katherine Laddermore then carefully advanced and added her electrical influence to score the final wounds on Hoarluk.
Game 4 was again the infamous Pat Vance and his favourite 3 Ravagors (oh, and some Legion).
I went first and the Earthborn hugged the centre wall for the ARM bonus as everyone else came up just behind.
Lylyth and the Seraph both moved up and helped 2 of the Ravagors up the table a little … then both took pot shorts at the EBDT. Both Ravagors also spat at him as the Striders moved over and added their firepower to finish off the hulking beast.
Mulg charged at the Striders and managed to chew through several of them before reaching the left hand Ravagor. One of the DTMs ran in as well andheld up the other 2 Ravagors as Champions moved to cover Doomshaper. The Ravagors then focused their strength on Mulg and together with the BlackFrost Sharde managed to kill Mulg. The DTM then wailed on the centre Ravagor, ripping it to shreds before stepping to oneside as the other Mauler charged at the right hand Ravagor. As the Ravagor fell, the Mauler stepped forward to Lylyth, but his fist missed her.
Doomshaper panicked slightly as both beasts had fully exerted themselves, leaving him somewhat defenceless. Lylyth stepped to oneside of the Troll beasts and sniped at Doomy a few times, doing minor damage, but softening him up enough for the Ravagor and BlackFrost Sharde to finish the job.
My final placing was 6th. Absolutely gutting when only the top 5 qualify for the final in October.
This is not the first event where I have won my first 2 games and lost the next 2. Hardcore is a fantastic, yet unforgiving format, and despite the night-before coachings on twitter from @Blackear77, it would still appear I was unprepared. It always feels good to get the early win, but the following games are always going to be harder. If there are 2 things I took away from Wales HC … it is that I must not chill out or take my eye off the ball after round 2 and that Beasts look after themselves if you can just keep your caster alive. Both the losses were due to mistakes relating to Doomy. One where beasts were over furied and the other was all about positioning (and underestimating the threat range of eHaley and the Thuinderhead).
I’m already looking forward to the Birmingham heat – there will be a list change, but not a big one. 4 Dires is still scary for anyone to have running across the table at them.
As a warm up to the impending Warmachine tournament season and my first since November last year, I wondered up to Ross-On-Wye last Sunday to play in a 25pt Steam Roller.
It was a 2 list, 25 pt Steam Roller. My lists were:
eMadrak, Pyre Troll, Bouncer, Rune Bearer, Fell Caller, Min Fennblades, max Pygmy Burrowers and max Kreil Stone unit.
Grim Angus … With some Gators and other stuff (its not really relevant, lol).
Game 1 was against Martin, he was new to Warmachine, and was playing with a borrowed Menoth army.
Martin was using Amon with Castigator, Dervish, Devout & Crusader. Plus Choir, 3 Wracks and I’m sure a solo or two. The scenario was Outflank, Outfight, Outlast (the one with the 2 huge circles) I quickly read through the paper, as SR 2011 has a few changes. Offered the scenario to my opponent who didn’t seem that interested. I lost the initiative roll, but a Martin offered me the first turn!
The Dygmies Burrow with Blood Fury on them as Madrak charged up the middle of the table with his beasts close to him, the Fell Caller on the left, Fennblades on the right and the Kriel Stone bringing up the rear. The Menoth ‘jacks gingerly came around the buildings on the far side, the Crusader in the middle and the others over on the right. Amon tight in behind the larger group and the Choir stopped me from shooting them (with what I wasn’t sure). The Dygmies then appeared within charge range of the Crusader, and with the help of the advancing FellCaller (and Blood Fury still) proceeded to bring significant pain to the ‘jack. But failed to do any crippling damage. The Fennblades advanced into the middle of the right hand objective, while Madrak, his beasts and the KSB took up the middle of the table.
The Crusader smashed a few Dygmies which his mace, while the Dervish came around and killed a few more. The rest of the army advanced up as the Castigator was given a spell to increase his speed and advanced on the Fennblades before killing half of them with fire. But without anything contesting the left hand objective, the FellCaller secured it. The Castigator was the only enemy model in the right hand objective – I knew that all I had to do was remove it and it was all over. The Fennblades failed to do much more than superficial damage to the huge jack. Madrak charged the Castigator, with help from his Rune Bearer and Pyre Troll, and left it a smouldering heap after only 3 hits. It was all over.
In fairness, it was Martin’s first tournament game and first Steam Roller scenario game. The only thing that let me down was the lack of VP I secured.
John was using eNemo with the Thunderhead, IronClad, Firefly. 2 Storm Smiths (might have been 3) and Min Sword Knights
The scenario was Destruction on a board with more woods than open ground. I should have gone with Grim, but I chose eMadrak again (eMadrak is like pringles).
John won the initiative and went first, deploying most of his force on the far right hand side, opposite the objective he had to destroy. I then setup opposite him, I couldn’t see the objectives playing a huge part in this game – unless I slipped up massively, it was more likely to be able a caster kill.
The Cygnar ran at me en mass. The Firefly in the woods in the middle, the Thunderhead over on the far right and the Ironclad between them. The Swordknights stayed relatively back with Nemo.
In predictable form, the Dygmies burrowed while the Fennblades ran up to oppose the heavy jacks. Madrak advanced with his beasts and KSB.
The Thunderhead, accelerated by Nemo, stepped up and electocuted half of the Fennblades as the Ironclad charged down another one. The Firefly advanced further towards the middle and Swordknights behind. In response, the Dygmies emerged behind the Ironclad found they couldn’t charge the Thunderhead due to polarity shield, so they advanced on both jacks and, with the help of the FellCaller, cut both their damage boxes in half with their pickaxes and guns. The Fennblades consolidated to the right as Madrak charged up through the middle, straight into the Ironclad and cut what was left of the jack in half with ease with his flaming axe, courtesy of the Pyre Troll and Runebearer. The Bouncer then moved up to cover Madrak’s left, and all were bolstered by the KSB tight in behind.
Nemo saw his opportunity, with Madrak only protected by a thin curtain of Dygmies, he looked vulnerable. Nemo came forward a little cast a few spells and popped his feat, enhancing all his jacks. The Firefly moved in and attacked the Bouncer, without much success, but it’s little friends the StormSmiths arced with him to snipe out several Dygmies and one of the remaining Fennblades. The Thunderhead, still without a charge lane to Madrak, stepped forward and killed most of the remaining Dygmies and Fennblades before punching the last few.
With no attacks left to inflict damage, Madrak saw an opportunity to retaliate. With Blood Fury still on him, the Pyre once again added fire to his weight and he charged at the StormSmith directly in front of him, only just in range. Killing him with ease, Madrak then stepped sideways into the first SwordKnight, dispatching him as well. He then swung at the last 2 SwordKnights together (via his feat) and stepped again, bringing him within axe range of Nemo. After missing the first swing, the remaining blows both connected and Nemo fell.
Game 3 was against Stuart Hunter with his Skorne
Stuart ran pMorgul with BronzeBack, Titan, Cyclops (shield), Basilisk Drake. Paingivers and a Totemhunter.
The scenario was Incursion (the 3 flags, one of which disappears in round 2) I tried very hard to use Grim, but failed again. I won the initiative role and went first. Deploying in the middle of the table edge ready to take the middle and swing which ever direction the flags did not vanish. Stuart deployed his beast heavy Skorne opposite. Madrak and co advanced as fast as they dared – staying behind linear walls and a small building, Dygmies burrowing of course as usual. The Skorne in turn took up position on the edge of a wood across the board, Titans threatening to charge anything that stepped forwards towards the objectives.
The Dygmies appeared in response, and with the help of Blood Fury and a Fell Call, charged both Titans. They killed neither – but both had their wounds halved. The left hand objective vanished, so the Fennblades ran up to cover the right hand one as the Madrak, his beasts and Kriel Stone crew took up the centre objective. Morgul then darted forward, cleaving the middling stragglers of the Dygmies unit, before jumping back into the safety of the wood. The Paingivers enhanced all of the beasts just before both Titan’s trampled forwards over the Dygmies. The Gladiator wailed on the Bouncer at the end of his trample, but failed to inflict serious damage through his considerable armour, while the Bronzeback found itself unable to make any additional attacks due to spiritual damage done by the Dygmies. The Totemhunter charged in from the left and managed to kill one of the Kriel Stone Scribes, but another was too tough for him.
It was then time for Madrak to just take a step forward and swing his axe. A single hit brought down the Titan Gladiator, two more swings brought down the Bronzeback and the position was secured. Over on the right flank the Fennblades consolidated to secure the right hand objective while the last few remaining Dygmies utterly failed to do any damage to the Cyclops Brute.
With 2 objective points and the centre well and truely held, there were very few options for Morgul. The Cyclops stabbed and bashed a few Dygmies to death as the Drake killed a few of the Fennblades and managed to get close enough to contest. But as the end of the turn closed, it was obvious Madrak was unmovable in the middle and so a 3rd objective point was secured for the win.
Game 4 was against Adam Stone with his Cryx.
Adam ran pSkarre with 2 Stalkers, 2 units of Satyxis Raiders, 2 Stitch thralls and more Mechanithralls than I thought existed.
The scenario was Revelation with 2 flags in the middle. Having said that – very early on (pre deployment) I think we have both silently agreed that the scenario was going to play very little part in the game.
I won the initiative and opted to go first. The middle of the table was dominated with a huge hill, so first turn both armies rushed towards it, the Dygmies burrowing and the Mechanithralls just about making it up to the edge of the summit. It seemed that for the whole of the rest of the game, the whole world revolved around what happened on that hill. Any figures not on the hill were forgotten or discarded. Literally.
The Dygmies appeared, charged the front rank of Mechanithralls, with a few of the back ones where they would reach through the gaps, and wasted them. Madrak’s and his beasts then moved up onto the hill with the Kriel Stone in tow. The Fennblades were completely lost and forgotten. In response, several Mechanithralls were reanimated and others advanced on the Dygmies, finding them tougher than expected, but many brave Pygs still fell. Satyxis moved in on the bored Fennblades as both Stalkers moved down the opposite side.
The mess of melee continued until Skarre bravely came up the hill, having enhanced her armour with a massive amount of Focus from a previous turn spell (don’t ask me what’s it’s called). Madrak saw a slim opportunity of success and charged her, taking out several of her escorting Mechanithralls on the way. He swung at her again and again, inflicting blow after blow. But to no avail. His energy spent, Madrak waited patiently for the end to come from Skarre’s blade.
So after 4 games, I had only lost one game and that was against Adam who was declared the overall winner. The one lesson I take away from this day is to pay a little more attention to victory points for killing things. I went for the throat a little too much a few times and didn’t cause any more casualties than I needed to. Very fluffy approach for Trolls, just kill those you have to, but not so great for potential tournament standings.
Hard to argue with a day like that though, I was placed 3rd in the end, so I went away very happy with my performance.
My blog has taken a definite hit over the last few weeks. My intention of weekly posts have met with utter fail.
But! (you knew there was a but) It is not without good reason … and that reason is my new baby girl.
She arrived on January 5th 2011 … so it’s more than about time that I made a new post and got my blog back on track. Or at least make vague attempts at it. Anyway … here are a few more pictures.
I’ve been playing Hordes and Warmachine since Hordes Primal Mk1 first came out in April 2006.
I had seen the Warmachine starter boxes when they were released, and although The Protectorate of Menoth had a certain something about it, I think I got hung up on the thin legs on the warjacks and passed. But a little later, something about the initial model releases and previews for Hordes really got my attention.
I remember initially considering Trollbloods, but it was the Legion of Everblight that was of particular interest. Without any knowledge of the the saga of the dragons of Immoren, or any other background, the models and sculpts appealed on their own.
So, I bought the starter box set, Thagrosh and Hordes:Primal and promptly got married and took said book away with me. My wife and I both like to escape into the written word when on vacation, so the fact that I almost never put it down (even for stretches of the drive across south Wales) did not cause any distress. However, when I got through the initial fluff and read the rules a few times I reached the Trollbloods history and fluff. My mind could not have been more changed if it tried. Something about the underdog has always appealed to me. I was commited to the plight of the Trollkin right there and then.
So 3 days into our honeymoon, after a morning with yellow pages in hand, I dragged my new wife off to find a small shop in Swansea to start my Trollblood collection. The rest, as they say, is history. The Trollbloods are, and will always be, my first Warmachine/Hordes army. I have nearly as many Trolls and everything else combined. But I’m a magpie gamer – so, of course, they are not my only Warmachine/Hordes army.
Around the time I was furiously slapping turquoise all over my new obsessions, I was gradually discovering that there was a hell of a lot more to this that just 4 armies with hulking beasties. I bought No Quarter #6, and it changed everything for me. Now, I don’t consider myself a Cygnar player, I know that sounds somewhat contradictory, but I have no time for Trenchers or any of the lightening weaponry. It just leaves me cold. But, a mage with a pistol on which he casts spells as he shoots? … that really appeals.
Gun Mages are the reason I own Cygnar – although they will all be more Llael than Cygnar in the near future. Sure, I own a few jacks, and even some Swords Knights. But the only casters I use are Caine or Sloan and always Merc heavy. But less of this – as it feels like I’m stood up at a group meeting already.
Once I had painted and played the current crop of Trolls, I bought the first two Warmachine books, Prime and Escalation. I read them and was the first thing I noticed was that the different races had different versions of the history, from their Hordes counterparts. I found it fascinating.
Then I read about the invasion of Llael, a whole nation occupied. The narrative had moved irreparably forwards, no take backs, no pretending it didn’t happen. The country had gone.
Even before the second colour card decks were released with Highborn Covenant details on one of the cards, even before I held the Superiority book in my hand, I was painting my Steelhead Halberdiers with purple on them. I knew from the start of my Mercenaries collection, that I wanted them to look like rebels of Llael, fighting a last stand against the great red machine of Khador. It probably helped that the two people I was playing the most against, both played Khador at the time. It might be worth pointing out at this point that, arguably the most important Merc warcaster, Magnus, has never interested me, in fact if it didn’t look like it had risen from the ashes of Llael, I just didn’t want to know. Luckily, that includes a lot of the Merc stuff that appeared in Superiority. Needless to say Ashlynn led the way.
I’m actually having trouble remembering exactly when I starting collecting Menoth. I remember I already had a painted Castigator jack before the Superiority book was released. Feora was definitely a part of it, she is a walking tank. I got bored of the Kreoss ‘pop & drop’ pretty quickly and a Zealot and Temple Flame Guard (plus UA) with Feora leading from the front, quickly became my staple.
The Protectorate army book has rekindled my interest after nearly 2 years of not burning myself on the fires of the creator. Without my ongoing Trollblood obsession there is little doubt I would be painting countless Exemplars Errant and Cinerators.
Last, but by no means least, I’d like to talk about my love of bacon. The farrow have always interested me, there was always something about them. I always wanted them to be something they were not, I think. The unit presented in Primal never seemed to have a defineable role, at least not in a Trollblood army, but I still liked them, even if I never used them. However I did buy the Bone Grinders and made extensive use of them to enhance my Troll warlocks and beasts.
Rorsh and Brine were a very different story. I bought them as soon as they came out, and found them to be far more effective than they ever appeared on paper. As a flanking force they are second only to Cavalry – but pack way more of a punch against high ARM targets. And when the War Hog was previewed a few months ago I got ridiculously excited.
Lord Carver is already painted (a birthday present from a friend) … and I just have to see what turns up with my Christmas presents now. But sufficed to say, the Farrow and Thornfall Alliance are increasing in power and very much on the move.
All Characters, other names and images are Copyright Privateer Press. And are used without permission.
The alley was damp and dark.
I had just nipped out for a quick smoke. How is it, that even in a secret, dingy, members-only club, hidden in the back of a warehouse, you still can’t smoke? How nuts is that?
It wasn’t raining, but it had been. And another downpour wasn’t far away, so I pulled hard and the little glow trashed any night vision I might have had.
There was a clang, like an old dustbin being knocked over. Weren’t all these bins plastic now-a-days? Another sound. A solid thud. Very solid. And something dark and liquid slid towards me. I stepped out of the path of whatever it was and rounded the huge wheelie bins just in time to see a man being dropped into the far bin.
Dropped from where? – couldn’t say. There was no ledge, no steps, no window, nothing. But he was up there. And already falling when I saw him.
I heard a few more purposeful bangs and a side door opened, light spilling out into the alley. I saw a figure take the concrete steps two at a time. I stepped into the shadow, or at least I did my best. I ain’t exactly a ninja you know.
The guy was old, not pension old, but you know, greying and he looked sore. I saw his close cropped hair the short grey beard picked out by the light. He stopped in the doorway and turned slowly to look directly towards me. I’m not sure how well he could see me, but it was clear he didn’t mind me seeing him.
The door closed and the end of my cig sizzled into the puddle as I dropped it. A few drops bounced off my forehead and I reached back and pulled my pony tail tight. Time to get my game on and step up.
I walked back around to the what passed for the front of the club. It was just that, a front. Although how they accounted for the people coming and going from a sweet factory at 11pm on a Sunday night, was beyond me. My money was on bribery. That or it was one hell of a glamour.
Walking straight through the, apparently unguarded, delivery bay, I followed the glowing lines on the floor. Weaving in and around the machinery until I came back to the plain looking office door. I knocked 3 times, just like earlier, as I had been instructed. This wasn’t my first night in here, but I was a member now, not a visitor. That was a change … and definitely for the better.
A small window in the door opened and closed quickly and the door swung open. I nodded meaningfully to the burly looking guy behind the door as I went through. I just caught the corner of his mouth turn up, but ignored it. I was in, that was all that was important. Nothing else mattered, from this place I could not help but improve my reputation. My position.
I discarded my long black leather trench back into the cloak room. Possibly a more appropriately named space than any other I had ever seen.
“You telling that stupid story again, Darryl?” he asked, as he walked behind me. I hadn’t even heard him come in.
“It’s a great story, Mal,” I replied and shrugged.
“And you. You kids. Haven’t you all heard it at least a dozen times?”
The shrugs rippled through them. An apathetic Mexican wave.
“Suit yourselves; I’ll be in the back if you want me. I’m done with that over told, tall tale.”
“It’s not tall Mal.”
“It is, the way you tell it.”
So anyway, I walked into the club proper. The gothic crowd of usual suspects proliferate throughout the place. A sea of black, grey and red. I saw a familiar face towards the back wall and lifted my head a little when I caught his eye. To my surprise he gestured to the closed door behind him.
For 3 months I had been coming here, still very much a newbie, not quite accepted. On the outside looking in over my beer. And here was this guy, inviting me into the inner sanctum beyond the forever closed, dark door.
I tapped the thick envelope in my lower trouser pocket. I had heard stories of games behind the door, of chance and mystery. But most importantly of who sat round the tables. Contacts and a network protected. Not to the faint hearted.
I strode as purposefully up the steps as I could. My left knee shook a little as I paused to be granted formal entrance.
“You are expected, Mr Quick,” said the broad gentleman, who’s square, suited shoulders looked like he would need to turn sideways to get through the door behind him. He reached back without looking, and the door opened a little.
“But how did you …” I started to say, before catching myself. I stepped around him and pushed the door gently open.
Another wide suit greeted me on the far side and said, “I have been instructed to tell you. As this is your inaugural visit, you will be welcome on at the table in the far corner.” He gestured far across the dark, smoke filled room to a booth table glowing in a soft red light. I couldn’t help staring around, trying to take everything in through the gloom. I clearly didn’t move fast enough for his taste. I felt my arm gripped tightly, just above the elbow and I was escorted through the other ‘guests’ and placed before an empty chair.
“Sit,” said a voice from the dark far side of the deep green table. I pulled the solid wooden chair up behind me as I took my place.
“Hi, I’m …” I started to say.
“No names,” came back the voice, “and besides, we know who you are, Mr Quick.”
“Oh ok, you have me at a disadvantage then, sir.”
“Yes, will that propose a problem,” the voice was deep, but surprisingly smooth.
I shook my head gently, “then we will begin.”
I lifted the thick envelope out of my pocket. “Put that away. Your money is no good here.”
“But I was told …”
“Then you were misled … or perhaps lied to. You have been invited. Your stake has been taken care of.” Several piles of not quite white chips were slide towards me out of the darkness.
A well groomed, bearded man pulled out the heavy looking chair next to me. He removed his top hat and placed on the chair on the other side of him. Three chairs on one side of the round table … an unseen number of players and the dealer sat on the shadowed semicircle sofa opposite us.
Cards flew out from the shadow, beginning on my right and flowing round the table. Four inhumanly neat piles of four, no … five long cards. The man next to me collected his pile and fanned them to himself. I did the same.
“What are we playing?” I asked him, as quietly as I could.
“That depends entirely on the hand,” he replied, not all that helpfully. I looked at my cards, no hearts, diamonds or clubs were present.
“You play with Tarot cards?” I asked, trying to hide the shock in my voice.
“Will that be a problem?” the smooth, deep voice from the shadow asked.
“No, no. Just a little surprised, that’s all. I always understood it was poor form,” I replied.
“For whom?” asked the man next to me. I just shrugged at him. I felt so out of my depth, it was just ridiculous. I looked at my cards again, trying to make sense of what I was supposed to do. The player in the shadows to my right placed two cards face down on the table and slid them forward. I caught a glimpse of long fingernails, before the hand quickly retreated back to the dark.
Realising the hand was to me, I looked again at my collection of cards trying desperately what to do with them. I figured higher was preferable, so I discarded the two of wands and four of cups. It seemed logical. Two more cards quickly flew in my direction and landed perfectly together just in front of my fingers. I saw the gentleman to my left discard three cards and I returned my attention to my own hand again.
It was beyond weird now. I had two eights from before, and a six. I had now gained the Queen of cups and the Empress. How could this be a hand of anything? I thought.
The round of discards complete it seemed the betting had begun. To my right, four chips glided onto the paler circle in the middle of the table. I thought following suit would be the wisest, if only following suit was likely to work literally with the cards. But I doubted it.
More chips piled up in the middle, until it returned to the mysterious figure in the shadow to my right. Two more added to the pile. In for a penny, I thought. And did the same. As did the bearded gentleman.
Three more cards were placed out slowly and carefully just below the chips in the middle. A rough cackle erupted from my right and what I could only assume was his hand was discarded roughly onto the baize. I placed the eights together, with the six on one side and the two face cards on the other and laid them carefully down. Hoping against hope that I wasn’t making a fool of myself.
A whistle came from whoever was sat opposite me and the bearded gentleman next to me discarded his cards and leant over a little to say, “that, is a very impressive hand, my friend.”
I fought back the urge to say, ‘it is?’, instead I accepted graciously and thanked him for his politeness.
The other player in the dark also folded, so I gathered up the chips from the middle and tidied them neatly with the rest in front of me. Another round of cards began and ended much the same as the first. The gentleman leant towards me once again, “you clearly have more experience than your age lends one to perceive. Very astute.”
As a third sequence of cards began to pile neatly around the table, the empty chair was pulled out. It scraped against the floor as a voice, still hidden above the circle of light, said, “My humblest apologies for my tardiness, gentleman.” The bearded man removed his hat before he took his place in the empty chair.
I recognised him at once from the alley way. He looked straight at me as the remaining cards were dealt, and smiled a little before picking up his tidy hand. We discarded cards as before, and this time I gained major arcana cards for each that I had discarded. The betting began and was concluded in two circuits of the table. The three central cards were laid out, but no one tossed down their cards in disgust. This was clearly a tighter round.
The player to my right laid out five face cards, all suits, but he was clearly happy with it. I heard a small chuckle as he sat back and blew smoke out from the darkness. I arranged my cards as best as I could and placed them in front of me. The bearded gentleman placed his cards in a neat pile in front of him, folding.
I looked up to my left and caught the eye of the recent arrival. He pressed his lips together, nodded a little and said, “not bad. Not bad at all.”
The new gentleman carefully placed his cards face down in a pile and looked to his left. He then turned them over in turn, arranging them one at a time in the following order: Jack, Queen and then King of swords. Followed by the Fool and finally the Tower. As the Tower hit the table, the whole area around us seemed to shake violently. I grabbed at the tall back of the chair to steady myself until it subsided.
Even before the last player has showed his hand the dealer announced something he had not said on either of the previous hands. “The gentleman wins!” The table suddenly span under my arms. I could no longer see the cards or chips until it slowed and finally stopped. My pile of chips lay before me, but the cards had vanished, not just mine either. All of the cards were gone.
I went to tidy my chips back up into the neat piles they were in before, but somehow, despite the whirling table, they were stacked straighter than I could have ever managed. A new volley of cards began as a few of the other players began to shuffle in their chairs. The bearded man, put his hat back on, then took it off and hooked it onto the back of his chair. I could hear scratchings and scraping from the figure in the shadows to might right.
The only playing who seemed calm was the new arrival, the winner of the previous hand. Although what he had won was a mystery to me, as no-one really seemed to have less chips, and his pile had hardly increased at all. The cards stopped flying and I collected up my hand. Much as before I found myself looking at a surprising collection of suit cards from a tarot deck. I handed the lowest few back into the middle and awaited to see what would come my way in exchange.
As before, the replacements were all major arcana, face cards. The Magus and the Wheel. I threw my chips into the middle unwittingly when my turn came, again, I had no idea what made a good hand. But I was definitely getting better at giving the impression … or at least I thought I was. The ante was upped round the table. I continued to throw my chips in until everyone had finished.
I expected the new arrival to win the round again. But I was sorely disappointed to find that the table did not spin, and none was more surprised than I when all the chips were slid in my direction.
During the next two hands something seemed to change. I had very low cards, and when I handed nearly all of them back in, thinking I would get nearly a full hand of face cards, I was dealt plain swords or cups. Maybe my luck was done, I thought. I folded each hand after the ante, but my companions were not so wise it seemed.
There was no surprise who the winner of the hands had been. And by the time the next deal of cards started flying, many of the other piles of chips were vastly depleted. I picked up my cards as before and was more shocked than anything to find two major arcana cards in my initial hand. I did my best to hide my surprise, but my poker face was definitely absent for more than a moment.
I discarded all but the Emperor and the Priestess, again expecting to be rewarded with Wands or Disks. But this time yet more face cards appeared in my hands. I composed myself as well as I could and flung just a few chips into the middle, trying desperately to be as casual as I could.
I knew I had blown it as soon as the shadowed player, nearly opposite, threw all his cards in onto the table, followed swiftly by the other unseen play. The gentleman caught my gaze and held it firm as he very deliberately threw quite a collection of pale chips onto the small pile. Only the clatter of the chips snapped my eyes away from his. What was he doing? Trying to read my double bluff?
The bearded gentleman threw in a few chips, clearly willing to take a small chance on my song and dance. I added a few more of my own, still not wanting to overdo it. More arrived from across the table and the bearded man bowed out, the last of his chips in the middle of the table, he put on his superb hat and made his excuses.
I was left staring across the table. Those piercing eyes from the alley looked back at me, and more chips were piled in the middle of the table. I started to wonder if he had another super hand, was I about to look the fool? I couldn’t help wondering. But I threw a few more on in response, although who had contributed more I found hard to tell. It seemed like he had begun with more than me, but now was down to only three or four of his bleached tokens.
He threw the last few of his onto the pile; I went to do the same as I gathered the remaining handful up. Then the voice came from the middle of the dark shadowy area.
“If you place that bet, the gentleman will be unable to properly honour,” it said.
“I don’t mind,” I replied, “we can just call it ‘all in’, or something.”
“Dealers discretion, of course,” said the old man opposite, “but I would not consider it appropriate.”
“Then you will fold your hand?” asked the voice.
“Not just yet,” he replied with a small smile, “I have another suggestion.”
He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out quite a sizable ring of keys. He pulled at a small collection and ran them round the ring. It wasn’t huge or dramatic, but a three inch ring is larger than I have ever needed for my keys. After another moment a large super-sized Yale like key was tossed on top of the pile of chips.
“Call,” said the old man, as he sat back in his chair, his eyes grabbing hold of mine until he released me with a blink.
I looked to the middle of the dark area, waiting for the dealer to speak.
“The gentleman calls,” he said at last, “cards, please gentlemen.”
I laid out my five cards in the most logical, ascending, order. All face cards. All major arcana.
My opponent stared in disbelief at my hand. I tried to catch his eye, but now it seemed it was his turn to avoid my gaze. There was something about his shock … but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
“You win,” he conceded, tossing his cards down and shoving his chair back.
“The young gentleman wins,” declared the hidden dealer.
“What’s the key open?” I asked, without thinking.
“The front door,” the old man replied dryly, as he shook his coat onto his shoulders.
“Front door of what?”
“A shop,” he said.
“Wha …” I tried to say where, what, who. But all I managed was a mess.
The old man walked passed me, I assumed on his way to the exit. He stopped next to the back of my chair, put his hand on my shoulder and handed me a folded piece of paper.
“Look after her for me,” he said, “I’ll be back to check up on you … from time to time.”
“So who was the old man?” one of the rounder kids asked.
“Who do you think?” I scoffed, “you not been paying attention at all?”
“It was Mal,” said the goth girl sat next to him, “wasn’t it.”
“How can that be,” said the round faced boy, pointing at the tall figure skulking in the far corner “he’s not old. Look at him.”
“Things aren’t always what they seem,” said Malcolm from the far corner. Neither turning around or looking up from the book he was holding.