Tom and I met up for another battle between his Stormcast and my Daemons of Tzeentch – a rivalry that began hundreds of years ago at the dawn of the Age of Sigmar by which I mean October. We chose to play ‘Gifts from the Heavens’ a matched play scenario where vital objectives ‘land’ on the battlefield at the beginning of each player’s second turn.
A relic-hunting Stormcast cohort has marched deep into the Realm of Death in search of something precious to the god-king: pure Sigmarite, fragments of the Old World that the seers say will fall from the heavens one this day, at this time, in this lonely ruin in the wastes of Shyish.
Unbeknownst to the Lord-Celestant, an old foe – a Gaunt Summoner of Tzeentch known as the Twilight Composer – has come seeking the same bounty for its own ends. As the Stormcast approach, a sandworn Realmgate flares to life and daemons pour forth from the iron plains of Chamon.
The Stormcast adopt a tight formation in the centre of the ruin, with two units of Liberators in front and Judicators supporting from the rear. The Lord-Celestant rides at the head of a phalanx of heroes, including a Lord-Relictor, Knight-Vexillor, and Knight-Heraldor. The Gaunt Summoner’s hordes spill through the gateway to Chamon and pivot to face the forces of Order. On one flank a Herald of Tzeentch leads a flock of Screamers, while on the other an Ogroid Thaumaturge stands at the head of a horde of Horrors. The Gaunt Summoner itself holds back with another host of Horrors, while Flamers of Tzeentch occupy the centre.
The Twilight Composer holds its ground at the start of the first round and allows the Stormcast to advance.
The Liberators and Lord-Relictor run forwards to meet the horde, Judicators following slowly behind. The other Stormcast heroes hold position for the time being. The Judicator’s arrows are able to slay a single Flamer in the opening moments of the battle.
The daemon response is devastating. Rising above the sands on a swirling column of arcane energy, the Composer unleashes tides of warpflame on the Liberators. A barrage of magic from the Herald, Thaumaturge and Horrors slays even more, while the Flamers succeed in killing all but two of the Judicators.
The Composer takes the initiative in round two. The first shard of Sigmarite makes landfall right in the middle of the Tzeentchian horde (just as planned). Another cascade of flame surges forth, killing the remaining Liberators, all but one of the Judicators, and the Lord-Relictor. The Stormcast are now badly outnumbered.
The Herald and Screamers move back to protect the Sigmarite, screened on one side by the Horrors and Thaumaturge.
The second shard of Sigmarite comes to rest right next to the surviving Stormcast: a sign from the god-king that all is not lost. The Vexillor, Heraldor, Judicator-Prime and Lord-Celestant take up a defensive position.
Then! A unit of Paladin Retributors descend from Azyr on bolts of lightning, crashing to earth in a deafening blast of thunder. Tzeentchian magic keeps them from making landfall close to the first shard, but they now pose an immediate threat to the Herald.
Undeterred, the Retributors succeed in making a last-ditch charge towards the daemon-controlled Sigmarite. They crash into the Herald, who is quickly disintegrated by their devastating Starsoul Maces.
Taking the initiative again in round three, the armies of Tzeentch round on the Retributors. If they can’t be eliminated quickly, the Composer risks losing control of the Sigmarite shard. A rain of magic and daemon-flesh falls upon the Stormcast vanguard, and many fall. The Ogroid Thaumaturge charges into their midst, killing two before being slain in turn.
The Retributors easily hold their own after the death of the Thaumaturge as the Screamers and Horrors struggle to penetrate their thick armour. As the other horde of Horrors charges the Stormcast heroes, the Knight-Vexillor summons a whirlwind to lift the Lord-Celestant aloft…
…before bringing him crashing to earth at the foot of the Summoner’s vortex. He charges the Horrors, pinning them in with the Retributors. The Stormcast then take the initiative in round four, utterly annihilating the daemons and taking control of the Sigmarite.
On the other flank, the lone Judicator-Prime slays multiple Horrors as they converge on the Stormcast defenders.
The Twilight Composer summons more Horrors and Screamers in an attempt to reclaim the Sigmarite, which is now responding to the presence of Sigmar’s chosen. Despite the devastating damage done by the forces of Chaos in the opening moments of the battle, they now risk losing control of the prize. Both units of daemons falter in their charges, however, buying the Stormcast a vital moment of respite.
The Horrors finally clash with the Judicator-Prime and Knight-Heraldor, but only land a few blows before being heavily cut down in return.
It’s an illusion, however. Reality blinks and six Horrors materialise from the ether, forming a line stretching to the second shard – momentarily stopping the Stormcast from controlling it.
The Heraldor, Vexillor and Judicator-Prime slay even more horrors, but reality blinks again: despite their furious defense, the horde is actually growing.
The fresh Horrors finally reach the Lord-Celestant and the surviving Retributors, but they’re unable to dislodge them from the Sigmarite shard. The god-king’s power begins to surge across the battlefield as Tzeentch’s grip weakens.
Bolstered for a third and final time, the surging Horrors on the right flank slay the Judicator-Prime as Screamers rush in – but the Vexillor and Heraldor are able to hold their ground around the shard.
Despite the seemingly inexhaustible tide of Pink Horrors besieging them, control of the Sigmarite shards remains in Stormcast hands. Unable to sustain the daemonic onslaught in the face of the ascendant might of Sigmar, the Twilight Composer vanishes, its prize abandoned. At great cost, the Stormcast have won the day.
This was another really enjoyable battle with a great mid-game twist. I knew that Tom was holding the Retributors in reserve – he had taken the battalion that allowed him to do so – but their arrival was the moment this game turned. I had tried to screen them from ‘my’ Sigmarite shard with the Screamers, but couldn’t cover every angle. When they succeeded in that vital 9″ charge, I had a huge problem on my hands.
It happened at the right time. I did so much damage to the Judicators and Liberators in the first two turns that I thought that the game might simply be over, but this just serves to highlight how vital scenarios and objectives are to Age of Sigmar. What I should have done, in hindsight, is run the Gaunt Summoner over to the shard as soon as it appeared and summon a new Balewind Vortex there – I had the summoning budget to do so, but ended up trapped by the threat posed by the Lord-Celestant and Retributors on the ground. As soon as they got to the shard, I simply couldn’t shift them. Failing my own charges when I summoned that double wave of defenders was a death sentence – Tom ended up winning by a heavy margin, despite his losses.
Yet dice also provided a bunch of other great story moments: like the ever-regenerating horde of Horrors on the right flank, which only happened because I rolled a 1 on three successive battleshock tests and then immediately rolled 5s and 6s when determining how many Horrors to add to the unit.
We came up with our own narrative reason to explain why the battle ended after the scenario-mandated five-round limit, but it felt right. This was a story of Stormcast marching into hell and holding on just long enough for help to arrive at the last possible moment. This kind of cinematic play is why I enjoy the game, and every time we play we’re getting a better sense of who our armies are and what they’re fighting for.