So with a month to prepare, decisions had to be made.
Last year, I brought the Casket of Souls to two tournaments (a 2k and a 3k) – it in both tournaments it was a big disappointment. Too unwieldy and with all special rules in the game working against it. Or so it seems. It looks good on paper, and I can think of a lot of times where it'd be awesome - but in reality, even when it does go off, it's not that spectacular. So the Casket (even though it's painted to a good standard) got the axe.
I also got 3 Ushabti painted – like the Casket, they are great on paper, but for some reason they never work out for me – add the fact that I’ve been playing them with Movement 6 most of the time, until someone pointed out that they are only Movement 5 and they were scrapped too. That’s what you get for thinking ‘they are just like ogres/kroxigors’. Anyway - I'd try without the Ushabti, adding Heavy Cavalry to my army instead.
On the positive side, the Screaming Skulls are working out like a charm – I would have taken 3, but the restrictions for the tournament only allows 2. I planned on finally assembling the new models, instead of my two very old-school skeleton catapults – but by now, I’ve tried to glue them together 4 or 5 times, but had to leave the model in pieces, screaming with frustration. That has got to be the worst-fitting-dependant-on-very-small-things-that-so-easily-rip-off - model ever made.
So, with 2 catapults, I guess I was playing defensive. I had visions of 2 Tomb Kings, armed to the teeth (meaning one with Destroyer of Eternities and Collar of Shapesh, the other with Flail of Skulls and Golden Ankhra), leading 3 or 4 big infantry blocks. Dodge that.
I had 30 painted Skeletons with some quite old flame-style shields. I was never really happy about them visually, so I decided I would paint 20 more and give them all Tomb Kings shields. Those 2 x 25 skeletons would be joined by a big unit (20 is sort of big) Tomb Guards with the mandatory Icon of Rakaph. Supporting would be 2 units of Chariots (I have 1 painted) and 2 units of Heavy Horsemen.
So it was a pretty balanced force with a majority of core troops - I hope the guys wouldn't think I was beginning to get soft.
With that rough sketch in mind, but still plenty of things undecided, I started painting skeletons.
I had finished the first regiment of skeletons well before Christmas (the
tournament was 7-9th january, remember?) and looked to be in good shape. They
had been given green shields, and although the color looked a bit flat (I didn’t
shade or highlight the green first time around – but I think I will) they
looked ok - and definately better/more tombking-like than before.
Then Christmas hit – or rather – the unbelievable workload that was put on me, right before Christmas. I’m not sure why everyone else suddenly got sick, but I had to work a lot. Day and Night. In Blizzard and High Tide - or so I felt.
When I finally had a few days off, I was still recovering from that (along with the obligations to the family that always heap up in the Christmas-time), I got the new computer game – Pirates! Actually it’s a rework of the old classic, but it’s a blast. So instead of painting my Tomb Kings, I have been swashbuckling on the Spanish main, dancing with galleons and sinking governor’s daughters – or was it the other way around? I'll highly recommend that game, especially if you (like me) were a fan of the old classic.
The work must be done!
Well, a couple of days before the tournament, I realized that I would never
get everything I had originally planned done in time. And on top of that, I
had a Carrion and 6 Tomb Guards missing! I moved into a new apartment in August
with my girlfriend ML and I’m pretty sure I packed down all the warhammer
stuff together – but those guys are just gone.
I haven’t gotten around to buying new (mostly because my work hours suck) – so I only had 2 carrions and 14 Tomb Guards – not including the champion!
I briefly entertained the idea of using a very old AD&D griffon model as the last carrion, but in the end, I decided it would look stupid and did not bring it - so I wouldn't be fielding any carrion - anyway, they'll just get shot - and it's not like they can charge 40" in a round, is it?
I was determined on bringing 20 Tomb Guards, however, so I press-ganged 6 skeletons into serving as Tomb Guards – they would be placed in the rear rank… This is a test tournament, so I wouldn’t expect too much fuss over that.
As for the champion, incidentally only 1 model has a shield glued on, so he’d just have to serve as champion!
Therefore I had to use what I had – I’ve fielded 3000 points painted before, so I still had some choice - and maybe even some Choice choices! (any Kiwis (and probably Aussies) will get that - my older brother lives in New Zealand - so I'm 'down with the 'down under' lingo', but that's quite another story).
The day before I put on my usual 'painting music' - New Order and Gigi D'Augostino (nothing like a heavy beat to get the painting going), and I painted the Bone Giant, as well as two liches that I had never gotten around to painting – one on foot and the other on a skeleton horse. Then I painted some quick random stuff, like movement trays and a skeleton axe that had fallen off, and somehow got un-painted in the process.
Getting in Character!
Since my infantry horde was now down to 25 skeletons and 20 tomb guards (14 + the above-mentioned 6), I took the more-conventional option of a Tomb King (TK) and a Lich High Priest (HLP).
There’s something I’ve been wanting to try out for some time: Normally my Hierophant got the Cloak of the Dunes, and has flown around and avoided trouble, but what if I made a HLP that was supposed to get into the thick of battle. People will devote/sacrifice many resources to get to him, so what if I could use him to lure in some enemy units?
My first rough sketch was Golden Ankhra (4+ ward save) and Vambraces of the Sun (enemy loses 1 attack, chosen by me). After all, he wasn’t supposed to hold off Vampire Lords, but that would ensure that regular troopers (including flyers, gutter runners, Pegasus Knights and what else people will throw at a Hierophant) would have a tough time harming him. But what else? First I considered the Serpent Staff – after all, a close-combat weapon that was ‘lich only’ might be good on him, right? NO. I am utterly repulsed by the uselessness of that item. I realise that some items are by necessity better than others – but I really think they dropped the ball on this. For 25 points, you get poisoned attacks and can re-roll to wound rolls. Now, that might be pretty good on a chaos lord, but with 1 strength 3 attack, it’s not worth it, no matter how you carve it. Even if 1 attack can become 2 in the magic phase. It’s especially bad when you consider that 'right' item is right in front of them, if they looked through the old Tomb King lists – in the old days, all liches had a staff that struck first and caused an automatic S4 hit (or was it 2 S4 hits? maybe 1 per magic level?). Now that would have been worthwhile, without being over the top.
I briefly thought of the Death Mask of Khanutt – which makes the lich cause terror. I thought myself terribly clever. After all, those small ‘mage hunting’ units rarely have good leadership, and this would send them running. I was also determined to include as many terrorcausers as possible. However, both the Death Mask and the Vambraces are enchanted items – so in the end, I chose the Vambraces, because plenty of armies out there are immune to psychology.
And I actually didn’t give him anything else – Vambraces and ward save.
For the TK himself, I went for the Cloak of Dunes as mentioned above, and my pretty standard Flail of Skulls and Collar of Shapesh. That will make him able to deal with almost anything, including large monsters, giants, ogres etc, as well as rack up combat resolution against champions in challenges.
Besides these two lords, I went for 2 additional liches and a Tomb Prince – the liches got 2 dispel scrolls each, one got a horse. The Tomb Prince was placed in a chariot, with the 5+ ward save for the chariot – that would also ensure that it wouldn’t die to a single S7 hit.
So I had 6 dispel dice and 4 dispel scrolls - should be enough to blunt most magic phases, especially since I could heal just about anything in the army, and it's actually a bit hard to inflict meaningful casualties on this kind of army - with the run-of-the-mill D6 S4 - hits anyway. The Comet is an entirely different matter. So are the Raise spells from a Vampire army, but I would just have to go mage-a-hunting if I ran into those. Preferably, the dead mage would be a Vampire Lord.
The Army itself
Since I had a good idea of what the army would look like, the core troops
didn’t cause me too much of a headache – so 25 skeletons
w. full command would act as the typical skeleton regiment, with a 4+ close
combat save, and enough numbers to autobreak most things.
16 heavy horse are very strong – they got the Summoning Banner, since they always get a LOT of (deserved) attention from my opponents. 8 heavy horse would act as a more mobile flanking force and provide some cover for my mounted lich.
12 archers (should have been 16 really, but I had to shave a few points in the end) would act as a place to put the liches more than a shooting threat.
3 chariots with the War Banner is something that my opponents can’t ignore, and a well executed flank charge can usually break just about anything. Other than S7 characters of course.
As for special, the pair of Tomb Scorpions was an auto-include (these boys are SO good – but any tomb king general will sing their praise, so I’m sure you know - and at 85 points it's a steal), and I got 20 Tomb Guards with the Icon of Rakaph. My King would usually go in this regiment, or they could shield the flank of my army – the Reform, combined with magical movement makes it hard for the opponent to avoid getting into an ugly fight.
The Rare section was easy too – the two Screaming Skull Catapults (both with Skulls of the Foe of course) and a Bone Giant, who would act as the terror-causer in the army, shielding my Hierophant in case of emergencies and help out in some of the more tricky match-ups - Undead vs. Undead..
And that was it - I'd say it was a decent size for a 3000 points army, but certainly no horde – see the army list here.
Against a balanced force I would hold back the first couple of turns, shooting
my catapults and hoping for my incantations to rip a few early dispel scrolls
– after all, most opponents can’t handle 4 Screaming Skulls per
turn, the last 2 guided with the pin-point precision that is Smiting.
Once the enemy was close, my infantry combined with the mobility of the cavalry/chariots for flanks should be enough to see him off.
Against stationary opponents I would bury the scorpions and use the incantations to muscle my army forwards and hopefully heal the casualties that were inevitable.
Against an aggressive opponent I would bottle up and force him to charge my big skeleton unit/tomb guards, while counterattacking with the King, Bone Giant, Scorpions and heavy cavalry.
So, with relatively simple plans that could be easily modified on the run, I packed my army, dice and books, as well as a notepad and digital camera for notes and got ready for action.
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