Celts vs. Dwarves
|Mike Demana (email@example.com)|
In the rain-drenched hills of Mullein Gar, tensions had slipped out of control between the dwarves in their caverns and the Celtic tribes on the forested slopes below. King Nori Yellowaxe was marching down the wooden plank road to avenge the death of dwarven merchants. The road itself was the knot in the center of the tension and strife. Wagon loads of dwarven goods used it to trade with men of the plains far below. To keep it in repair, dwarven road wardens had to chop down more and more trees from the tribal lands.
High King Angus MacNiall heard the tramp of iron-nailed boots coming and order his chieftains to raise the tribes. He had tried to soften the anger of his druids (upset at dwarven encroachment on sacred groves) and his tribesmen (resenting loss of hunting grounds and tempted to make good with the fat caravans instead). However, when King Nori disapproved raising the tolls, his cooperation ended. With more gold he could have hired more warriors to help guard the caravans. Also, a few golden scythes and offering bowls would have smoothed over the druids. No, the greed of the dwarves was too great and the loss of prestige would be fatal if he did not stand up to their bullying.
The armies deployed in a wide, forested valley. On the dwarven right, two bands of mercenary hill ogres guarded the heavy ballista. An earth shaman stood with the artillerists. Next, five companies of dwarven axemen, including the elite Emerald Rings led by Hothgar Crimsonshield, planted their standards and awaited orders. At the edge of a woods in his army's center, King Nori with two companies of crossbowmen sheltered under the trees from the light rain that was falling. Next along the line, a dwarven fire shaman checked the burning tapers of two companies of hand gunners. On the army's far left, Nori ordered three bands of ogres and six companies of axemen to move along the slopes towards the other side of the valley. This force would attack while he waited the Celtic advance on the right.
The battle was fought using Chipco's Fantasy Rules!. As an experiment, we purchased two wizards per 1,250 point army to see how the increased magic affected the game. Normally, we go with just one per army.
King Angus' main force was deployed opposite this dwarven holding force. Two squadrons of light chariots bounced ahead on the army's left. The main infantry ba ttleline followed, swarming over the hill. Angus had raised five companies of clansmen, three tribal spear phalanxes and two companies of bowmen. In the army's center, the druids had brought otherworldly aid. Two companies of magical "wee folk" (minor spirits) and one towering Sidhe warhero (major spirit) marched alongs ide the Celtic infantry. And from the deep woods, two warbands of tattooed, semi -naked fanatics brought up the rear. Before the battle, Angus had winded a long blast on his scaled, silver horn and summoned a small, silver drake. He sent the monster to lead four squadrons of light chariots to delay the ogres and dwarven axemen on the other flank. Angus marched at the head of his own clan, while the Archdruid Mac Beli and the wizened holy man Nennius also joined the tribe's rank and file.
The dwarves drew first blood. The Celtic holy man Nennius used much of the army 's magical energy to bless the battleline to aid them in combat. Sensing their d rained magical pool, the fire shaman called down a massive firestorm on the silve r drake, reducing it to ashes. As each units left wing advanced, the Druid Mac Beli struck back. Jagged sections of the plank road tore themselves free and show ered the dwarven artillerists, wounding many. The earth shaman grunted in pain a nd rocked the ground in front of the Celtic battleline, opening a chasm in their path.
This slowed and broke up the advance as they detoured around it. Since the armies had yet to contact or close within missile range, magic continued to be the on ly way to strike blows at the enemy. Mac Beli waved his staff and a rain of bran ches, dead tree limbs and trunks fell upon one of the crossbow companies, burying it completely. King Nori quickly advanced the other into the open. Mac Beli struck repeatedly at the dwarves, showing his religion's hatred for their damage to his groves. More sections of the plank road splintered, eventually slaying all the dwarven artillery crew. The earth shaman escaped, though, joining the ogres and moving them forward to guard the vulnerable flank of the axemen. In Fantasy Rules!, the side that suffers the most losses in a round drops one level on its "morale clock." Both sides start at "9," and the battle ends when o ne falls to zero. At this stage, the dwarves were reeling under the druid's blows, 8-5. Upon reaching "4," the army's wizards lose some of their magical points and one quarter of the troops become demoralized.
Despite the chasms, the more numerous Celtic battleline was closing in on the dw arven axemen. The Sidhe kept pace on their flank, leading the wee folk through t he woods. Suddenly, the fire shaman set the woods ablaze. They hurriedly exited , but the shaman proved even more deadly in the open. Another firestorm crashed down onto a company of the wee folk leaving them dead or fleeing the battle their clothes smoldering. Enraged, the Sidhe hero charged alone across the battlefield, smashing into the flank of the axemen. After initial success, the Sidhe was pressed on all sides by dwarven countercharges. The Celtic battleline was too far away to help, and he went down under the flashing dwarven axes. As the lines came into contact, the tide seemed to be shifting in favor of the dwarves. Another lava-like firestorm destroyed the last of the wee folk, leaving Angus' army with out its otherworldly aid.
Singing songs and battle cries, the Celts charged into the dwarves. One squadron of chariots wheeled onto the dwarven rear as the other faced sought to delay the ogres. Nennius railed the dwarves with his god's curses, demoralizing two comp anies. Into the confused fray, the earth shaman summoned an elemental, only to h ave him banished by Nennius. The loss of the round demoralized the dwarves, but King Nori's troops fought on stubbornly, as befitted dwarves.
The ogres charged into the melee, stabilizing the line. Hothgar Crimsonshield charged his elites, who had helped slay the Sidhe hero, into the exposed flank of the Celts. Throaty cries of "Barak Khazad" and lethal dwarven axes broke and sca ttered the Celtic infantry. Nennius was trapped in the press and slain by Hothgar. The earth bucked and shook as more chasms were opened up behind the Celts to prevent their recoil. On the opposite end of the battlefield, the Celtic chariot s charged the ogres. After initial success, they would soon find themselves pushed back, too.
On the chasm-riddled right, one band of ogres pushed a company of clansmen into the gaping hole. The other reeled back from a determined spear phalanx. And the dwarven axes bloodied the neighboring phalanx of spears. Ever so slightly, the momentum had shifted.
Losses dropped the Celtic army to demoralized status. Unlike the dwarves, who fought on resolutely, the Celts began to unravel. Mac Beli was captured when his unit was driven into the chasm by ogres. He later tried to escape the clutches o f the brutes, but was strangled in the attempt. Soon after, Angus' clan was sur rounded and cut to pieces. Shouting the MacNiall battle cry, Angus threw himself against the dwarves. Ferocity held against dwarf-forged steel for only a moment, then he was cut down. With his death, the Celtic army fled the valley.
Despite showcasing some of magic's power in FR!, it proved an excellent example of the need for battleline troops and solid historical tactics in the game. Long-range magical skirmishing was whittling away at the morale clock of the dwarves. Once contact was made, though, the dwarven infantry and ogres righted the balance. The Celtic attack was piecemeal and unsupported, allowing the dwarves to outflank it. And it was the death of the Celtic battleline units, with the Celtic general and wizards in them, that decided the game (the morale clock drops by one on the loss of a wizard or hero, two for the general). More patience in coordinating attacks could have sealed the impending victory for the Celts, instead of robbing them of it.
The two wizard experiment proved that magic can be powerful, particularly in the opening stages. The effects were perhaps amplified by each army refusing a flank. This meant more time for long range shots as the troops slowly crossed the battlefield. Despite the fire shaman being extremely lucky with his firestorms, it was the dwarves and ogres pushing back the Celtic infantry that won the battle.
More wizards does mean more magic points. We felt that this slowed the battle down slightly. It took eight turns to complete (about average), but four hours to resolve those turns. Despite this, FR! remains a simple, fast-moving system that flows very well. I highly recommend it.
After the rain had stopped and the pursuing troops called back, King Nori Yellowaxe set his dwarves to the sad task of preparing the dead for transport home. He had the noblest of the captives brought to him so he could choose a new high king for the Celts. The tribesmen had been taught their lesson, and the merchant caravans would be able to roll freely down the road again.
|26 December 1997||page first published|
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