This is the first in a series of battle reports exploring Üthdyn, our homebrew fantasy setting. Üthdyn was developed collaboratively using Microscope with the idea that it it would be a shared fantasy setting, not tied to any one particular game or rule set, that we can use to play out all manner of tabletop games, from small skirmishes to grand battles to RPG adventures, and more! It’s a genre mashup that combines our favorite parts of Warhammer, D&D, Game of Thrones, Tolkien, plus a bunch of other sources.
(Sidenote: If you’ve not played Microscope before, give it a shot. It’s an absolutely stellar way to sit down with your friends and engage in some collaborative worldbuilding. There’s enough structure to provide a basic framework, but there’s also a lot of emphasis on creativity and free form exposition. I guarantee you’ll be surprised at what you come up with after your first session.)
Anyway, this game was set during a period referred to as The Famines, when the small baronies and fiefdoms of Glostmurk were weakened by years of successive crop failures and economic woes. Think of Glostmurk like Eastern Europe … lots of small regions, all jammed together side-by-side and forced to deal with increasingly chaotic situations.
In our storyline, The Famines period leads directly into a period called the War of the Coins, which resulted in the collapse of the dwarven city-state of Miravec, so you can see where this is all going. As we imagined it, games set in The Famines will often focus on border raids and mercenary actions, rather than full-blown armed conflict.
In this game, foul ratmen raiders from beyond the borders of Glostmurk swept into the small hamlet of Glodd to carry off the grain stores and livestock that the pitiful villagers were counting on to see them through the winter. Luckily for them, the Wealth of Begovich (the main noble house in the region) anticipated this move and was able to muster a motley collection of militia and elite house guard to stymie the raid.
We used this game as an excuse to try out Dragon Rampant, which is quickly becoming our go-to game for medium-sized fantasy skirmish. I have played a few games recently, but this was to be John’s first game. He was commanding the Wealth of Begovich army, featuring some of his newly painted spearmen from RuneWars.
We used the “Crystal Gale” scenario from the Dragon Rampant rulebook, only instead of crystal shards, we were competing to seize livestock and barrels of supplies. This was a fun opportunity to use some of my livestock models that I’ve had bouncing around in my scatter terrain box for the better part of a decade.
The center of the battlefield was dominated by a few rude huts — all that remained of the hamlet of Glodd. The barrels and livestock represent the objectives.
As the game got underway, we realized that I was at a significant advantage, because my army had a number of units that moved 8 inches per turn, whereas John had none. I quickly pounced on a few objectives and it became clear that the odds were in my favor to win the scenario. But! There’s more to the game than just winning the scenario. We decided to play it out to see if the Wealth of Begovich could deliver a sting to the raiders.
Even as my ratmen were butchering cattle in the fields and quartering the carcasses for easy transport, John’s scouts and militia were creeping forward to ambush the attackers. Over in a copse of woods on the right side of the battlefield, a squad of infantry (light foot, in the parlance of Dragon Rampant) drew their sabers and pistols as they faced off against a pack of were-rats (lesser warbeasts in Dragon Rampant).
The giant rats gave as good as they got, and although they didn’t destroy any complete units, they definitely kept pressure on John’s flank. He could never completely ignore them, and at times he faced some tough decisions about where to commit his reserves, knowing that giant rats were scurrying around the backfield.
The main clash came down in the center of Glodd, which was home to several objectives. My newly painted Skaven slaves (vintage metal, baby!) swarmed over a barrel of jellied fish heads, carrying off the pungent prize and then vaulting the low stone wall to advance further into the village.
Meanwhile, John’s advance ran right up against an interesting rule in the Dragon Rampant rulebook, which states that no unit can be closer than 3 inches to another unit. I’ve always casually brushed that rule aside, as it seems needlessly strict and doesn’t seem tied to any particular game mechanic. But we decided to play it as written this time.
For John, that meant his units had a hard time converging on the barrels in the center of Glodd, because they had to carefully maneuver around each other to stay 3 inches away. Here’s a look at his determined advance.
The leader of my warband and his foul retinue (elite foot in Dragon Rampant) stuck to the shadows, allowing their massed infantry to do the dirty work. This was for good reason — before the game began, we rolled randomly to select a unique trait for our leaders. My poor ratman rolled “Weakness” as his trait (yes, a few are negative, though most are positive). We interpreted this to mean he was HUNGRY and weakened from lack of food.
In game terms, his unit rolled one less dice in combat, so I wisely tried to keep him away from the front lines.
Meanwhile, John’s skirmishers continued to pepper the ravenous ratmen with arrows as they lurked near a low stone wall. These guys were able to use their “skirmisher” ability to move and shoot a few times during the game — once actually evading combat entirely by melting into the trees when the ratmen slaves tried to charge in!
When the slave finally reached combat, it was against a vastly superior unit — John’s elite foot, which included his leader, Lady Almira Begovic! Oops…that was not the matchup I was seeking with my lowly unit of slaves. So we clashed, with predictable results. The slaves were beaten badly and forced to flee, where they stayed for most of the rest of the game, doing a whole lot of nothing while the game was decided elsewhere.
Here’s an overhead look at the battlefield shortly after the slaves fled. You can see the they have far fewer models now, and a red marker indicating their “battered” status in the game. Battered is Not Good and typically results in the unit continuing to bleed casualties and/or flee until it is annihilated.
After a couple turns maneuvering and fighting on the flanks, the armies finally positioned themselves for a decisive clash in the center of the hamlet. John managed to bait my plague monks (bellicose foot in Dragon Rampant) into charging his light infantry due to the monks’ wild charge ability, which meant that they had to charge the closest unit in range. This ability is intended as a drawback, but it’s balanced out because bellicose foot are quite good in close combat, and they can charge through rough terrain without a penalty.
Here are the monks emerging from a small wooded area, hoisting their rusty, filth-encrusted weapons.
I had give these plague monks the Venomous special rule to reflect their plague-drenched weapons. That made them cost 7 points — easily the most expensive unit on the battlefield for our game. I like that special abilities like this in Dragon Rampant are flavorful but not unbalancing. Nothing is cheap enough that you’d want to take it by default — for example, if I gave every unit in my army the Venomous ability, I’d only be able to field half as many models.
Anyway, Venomous means that any sixes I roll when attacking count as two hits, rather than just one. Combined with the already-great combat abilities of bellicose foot, that meant I was expecting a lot from my plague monks!
And they delivered. Here’s the epic clash with John’s newly painted spearmen.
I ended up rolling four (4) sixes in that combat, inflicting 8 automatic hits in addition to a handful of additional dice that scored hits. The result was a near-rout for the spearmen. With that, we proceeded to declare victory for the ratmen.
In the narrative, the ratmen slaughtered the livestock and stole the food stores and torched the huts and poisoned the wells and salted the fields and basically behaved very badly, before slinking off to their hideout in the hills and leaving Glodd to rot.
Of course, we’ll need to schedule some subsequent games to see where this narrative thread goes. Maybe the ratmen muster a larger horde and press their advance by besieging a fortified Begovic border stronghold? Maybe Lady Almira recruits a few of her family’s clanking, steam-powered war machines and employs them root out the squeaking menace that plagues their lands? Leave a comment and tell me what you’d like to see!