Age of Sigmar: ‘Hold Or Die’ Battle Report

My friend Tom and I played our first game of Age of Sigmar today – my first game ever, and his second or third. We chose the scenario ‘Hold Or Die’, where one force (in this case Tom’s Stormcast Eternals) find themselves cut off and surrounded. Only a third of Tom’s forces would begin the game on the board, with the rest arriving at the beginning of the second turn.

My army of Tzeentch is made up of the Silver Tower adversaries along with the beginnings of my demon army – you’ll see a few miniatures here that I’ve not yet finished and properly photographed, including Pink Horrors and Screamers. These photos aren’t great, but they’ll hopefully help illustrate the story as we go. I don’t know if I’ll write up every game I play, but there were enough great moments that I wanted to get this all down before the story slipped my mind.

At the dawn of the Age of Sigmar, a host of Stormcast Eternals is sent deep into Chamon, the Realm of Metal, on a secret charge given to them by the god-king. Believing themselves to be on the cusp of discovering an artifact of great power, the chamber’s Lord-Celestant and Lord-Relictor take a small group of Judicators and forge ahead before becoming lost in a blinding mist rising from pools of molten metal. When the mist suddenly clears, the rest of the Stormcast host is nowhere to be seen – and an army of Tzeentch, overseen by a Gaunt Summoner, is upon them.

Isolated from their chamber, the Lord-Castellant, Lord-Relictor and Judicators take up a defensive position.

Isolated from their comrades, the Lord-Celestant, Lord-Relictor and Judicators take up a defensive position.

A Gaunt Summoner flanked by demonic and mortal servants of Tzeentch faces the Stormcast from the far end of the valley. On the flank, a Herald of Tzeentch and accompanying Screamers swoop down from the cliffside.

A Gaunt Summoner flanked by demonic and mortal servants of Tzeentch faces the Stormcast from the far end of the valley. On the flank, a Herald of Tzeentch and accompanying Screamers swoop down from the cliffside.

Their weapons out of range, the Stormcast hold their positions as the horde moves forward. The Pink Horrors hurl bolts of magical flame at the Lord-Celestant, wounding him. The Screamers and Herald move fast around the side, ready to threaten on the next turn.

Their weapons out of range, the Stormcast hold their positions as the horde moves forward. The Pink Horrors hurl bolts of magical flame at the Lord-Celestant, wounding him. The Screamers and Herald move fast around the side, ready to threaten on the next turn.

The forces of Chaos take the initiative on the second turn. The flying units move up fast and The Herald summons a unit of Flamers of Tzeentch in range of the Stormcast position. The Flamers and Herald lay into the Lord-Celestant with ranged fire, dealing a devastating series of blows and slaying the Stormcast commander in the opening moments of the battle. The Ogroid Thaumaturge charges forward, casting fireblast at the Lord-Relictor, wounding him and summoning horrors that pin him down. The Stormcast are on the ropes.

The forces of Chaos take the initiative on the second turn. The flying units move up fast and The Herald summons a unit of Flamers of Tzeentch in range of the Stormcast position. The Flamers and Herald lay into the Lord-Celestant with ranged fire, dealing a devastating series of blows and slaying the Stormcast commander in the opening moments of the battle. The Ogroid Thaumaturge charges forward, casting fireblast at the Lord-Relictor, wounding him and summoning horrors that pin him down. The Stormcast are on the ropes.

At the beginning of the Stormcast turn, their reinforcements arrive on a side of the board secretly chosen before the battle began.

At the beginning of the Stormcast turn, their reinforcements arrive on a side of the board secretly chosen before the battle began.

A massive unit of Retributors lead by a Knight-Heraldor rushes to the aid of the surviving Stormcast, joined by two units of Liberators and a Knight-Vexillor.

A massive unit of Retributors lead by a Knight-Heraldor rushes to the aid of the surviving Stormcast, joined by two units of Liberators and a Knight-Vexillor.

A blast from the Knight-Heraldor's trumpet allows the otherwise-lumbering Retributors to move, run and charge in a single turn. They thunder out of the ravine and blindside the Ogroid Thaumaturge, who falls quickly.

A blast from the Knight-Heraldor’s trumpet allows the otherwise-lumbering Retributors to move, run and charge in a single turn. They thunder out of the ravine and blindside the Ogroid Thaumaturge, who falls quickly under their hammers.

The Screamers turn to intercept the Retributors as the Herald and Flamers turn on the Judicators. Both units of Liberators roll sixes on their running moves, sprinting into play from the edge of the board.

The Screamers turn to intercept the Retributors as the Herald and Flamers turn on the Judicators. Both units of Liberators roll sixes on their running moves, sprinting into position from the edge of the board.

The Pink Horrors and Screamers take on the Retributors and slay two before being totally wiped out themselves.

The Pink Horrors and Screamers take on the Retributors and slay two before being totally wiped out themselves.

The Tzaangors and Acolytes back off from the onrushing Retributors, screening the Gaunt Summoner.

The Tzaangors and Acolytes back off from the onrushing Retributors, screening the Gaunt Summoner.

Surging forward again, the Retributors slam into the Tzaangors. The beastmen hold their own and kill a Retributor, but their morale breaks and all but one flee at the end of the round.

Surging forward again, the Retributors slam into the Tzaangors. The beastmen hold their own and kill a Retributor, but their morale breaks and all but one flee at the end of the round.

After the last Tzaangor falls, the Gaunt Summoner summons another horde of Pink Horrors, which themselves then summon Screamers on the Retributor's flank. On the other side of the battle, the Flamers and Herald kill the last of the Judicators and start moving back towards the Summoner.

After the last Tzaangor falls, the Gaunt Summoner summons another horde of Pink Horrors, who themselves then summon Screamers on the Retributor’s flank. On the other side of the battle, the Flamers and Herald kill the last of the Judicators and start moving back towards the Summoner.

The Gaunt Summoner retreats onto a hillside as the Screamers and Pink Horrors engage the surviving Retributors. Even though only two remain, all of the Pink Horrors are slain and the Screamers retreat. In the part of the battle that I did not adequately photograph, the Knight-Vexillor summons a celestial meteor that kills one Flamer and wounds the Herald of Tzeentch. Unsatisfied, the Knight-Heraldor then blasts a nearby pit of molten metal with his battle-horn. The resulting tidal wave of burning liquid kills a Flamer, cripples the Herald, and even slays a nearby Liberator.

The Gaunt Summoner retreats onto a hillside as the Screamers and Pink Horrors engage the surviving Retributors. Even though only two remain, all of the Pink Horrors are slain and the Screamers retreat. In the part of the battle that I did not adequately photograph, the Knight-Vexillor summons a celestial meteor that kills one Flamer and wounds the Herald of Tzeentch. Unsatisfied, the Knight-Heraldor then blasts a nearby pit of molten metal with his battle-horn. The resulting tidal wave of burning liquid kills a Flamer, the Herald, and a nearby Liberator.

The remaining Flamer takes down the last Retributor, finally bringing the Stormcast charge to a halt. The surviving Liberators manage to engage the Gaunt Summoner, however, and the battle on the hillside is close fought. The Screamers are able to take the Liberators down and buy time for the Summoner to flee.

The remaining Flamer takes down the last Retributor, finally bringing the Stormcast charge to a halt. The surviving Liberators manage to engage the Gaunt Summoner, however, and the battle on the hillside is close fought. The Screamers are able to take the Liberators down and buy time for the Summoner to flee.

Of the two armies, only four Liberators, three Screamers, a Flamer, the Gaunt Summoner, Knight-Heraldor, and Knight-Vexillor remain. The Liberators struggle to make up ground as the Flamer flies to the Gaunt Summoner's position. But then! The Heraldor aims a thunderblast at the rocky outcrop taken up by the Gaunt Summoner, detonating it and burying the Summoner and final Flamer under the debris. Only the Screamers remain.

Of the two armies, only four Liberators, three Screamers, a Flamer, the Gaunt Summoner, Knight-Heraldor, and Knight-Vexillor remain. The Liberators struggle to make up ground as the Flamer flies to the Gaunt Summoner’s position. But then! The Heraldor aims a thunderblast at the rocky outcrop taken up by the Gaunt Summoner, detonating it and burying the Summoner and final Flamer under the debris. Only the Screamers remain.

The Screamers lay into the Stormcast heroes, but lose one of their own number in each combat. The hated Knight-Heraldor is wounded, but eventually only one Screamer remains.

The Screamers lay into the Stormcast heroes, but lose one of their own number in each combat. The hated Knight-Heraldor is wounded, but eventually only one Screamer remains.

The last Screamer brings the Heraldor down with its final attack before being slain by the Knight-Vexillor. The Stormcast have survived the ambush at the cost of two generals and over 85% of their forces.

The last Screamer brings the Heraldor down with its final attack before being slain by the Knight-Vexillor. The Stormcast have survived the ambush at the cost of two generals and over 85% of their force – but they have survived. This was the Gaunt Summoner’s plan all along, obviously.

A few thoughts, now that I’ve finally played the game. First: this was impressively close. We used the matched play ruleset to try to balance the game (point values and summoning restrictions, chiefly) but approached this as a narrative experience. Even so, this clearly worked. A few strategic decisions by either of us could have swung this, and while dice played a part (particularly when it came to the Retributors’ unstoppable charge rolls) it didn’t feel like the game came entirely down to them. We both walked away thinking about the strategic ramifications of the decisions we made and the armies we’d built.

Secondly, and more importantly, the game was full of memorable moments. The sudden death of the Lord-Celestant (and the dragon he rode in on) set the stakes very high: this wasn’t just a holdout situation, but an immediate dance with death. This set the stage for the arrival of the Retributors, whose Gandalf-at-Helm’s Deep entrance couldn’t have been cooler – down to the fact that they outflanked and annihilated the out-of-position Thaumaturge, swinging the momentum of the battle for the Stormcast and getting revenge for the Lord-Celestant.

Then we had the run-and-summon fight down the centre of the board as the Gaunt Summoner tried to halt the Retributors before they could reach him and only just succeeded, followed by the destructive march of the Knight-Heraldor and his ludicrous horn as he blasted molten metal over the Herald of Tzeentch and blew up the mountain that the Gaunt Summoner was standing on. It felt like a perfect end that he himself was finally taken out by the last demon, leaving only five shellshocked Stormcast models on the board at the end.

We’re going to keep building up a history between these two armies – this was a prologue, of a sort, one built around the idea that Tom’s Lord-Relictor will eventually track my Gaunt Summoner down to the Silver Tower. The structure of the fiction makes this narrative easier to build, too. I’ve read complaints that battles don’t mean anything in Age of Sigmar because nobody really dies – the Stormcast are reforged, demons obey their own laws, and so on.

I understand where that viewpoint comes from, but the fact is that you can’t build a meaningful ongoing story in a battle game if death is permanent – otherwise Tom’s Lord-Celestant is gone, my Gaunt Summoner is gone, all of the characters who could give it meaning. We’d have played ourselves into a corner. As it is, we can imagine what the next encounter between these forces might be like – it could be hundreds of years later – and carry those rivalries forward. His Lord-Celestant, if he returns, will respect Flamers.

My Gaunt Summoner, for his part, will respect dudes with trumpets.

 

Age of Sigmar: Flamers of Tzeentch

Another unit for my Tzeentch army that doubles as a new set of monsters for Silver Tower. Not much to say about painting these, save that doing the gradients was fun and painting dozens of tiny teeth… wasn’t. I added yellow to the now army-spanning green flame to help it stand out a little. Otherwise, a relatively straightforward 200 points of flaming demon binbag.

Age of Sigmar: Herald of Tzeentch on Disc

I’ve spent the last two weeks batch painting the beginnings of a demons of Tzeentch army for Age of Sigmar, using some of my Silver Tower models as a starting point but branching off in new directions too. This Herald of Tzeentch is the first model I’ve actually finished in that time, as well as being the first finecast miniature I’ve assembled and painted.

I can understand why finecast resin has the reputation that it does – it’s a real pain to work with, from having to carve parts of the miniature out of the sprue to cutting and filing away thick mould lines. I never quite managed to straighten out the bend in the Herald’s staff, so it’s a good thing I quite like it. Mutated demonic flesh covers a multitude of sins when it comes to resin – had I been working with a human model, or something with straight lines, I’d have had a much worse time.

Besides that, I’m happy with how this guy turned out. I’ve done a few things to tie him into the rest of the set, from the green flames to the gradient on his bracers to his feathers, which match the Gaunt Summoner and the Silver Tower Pink Horrors. He’ll be leading a unit of Screamers in my first Age of Sigmar game, which is coming up this weekend.

Heralds of Tzeentch can also be used as optional exotic encounters in Silver Tower, but this requires them to be based normally – not riding a disc. I decided to go out of my comfort zone with a drill and some magnets, and I’m quite pleased with the result:

Silver Tower: the first session

Three and a half months after I bought Silver Tower, we finally sat down to play Silver Tower. Me, Pip, and our friends Matt and Tom took on the first trial and won. All of the miniatures pictured are mine with the exception of Tom’s awesome Lord Relictor, which is from his Stormcast army.

The heroes make quick work of the acolytes in the first chamber and Pip's Starpriest opens the portal to the next. It is full of dudes.

The heroes make quick work of the Kairic Acolytes in the first chamber and Pip’s Starpriest opens the portal to the next. It is full of dudes.

Pip's Starpriest would subsequently stab many of these dudes to death.

Pip’s Starpriest would subsequently stab many of these dudes to death.

A chance encounter sees us face down the Gaunt Summoner in a narrow chamber. Matt's Doomseeker and my Knight-Questor managed to repel him in a single turn, before he could act.

A chance encounter sees us face down the Gaunt Summoner in a narrow chamber. Matt’s Doomseeker and my Knight-Questor managed to repel him in a single turn, before he could act.

My Knight-Questor leads the charge into the final chamber. We'd ultimately kill most of the initial wave with deadly magic lasers, but a series of freak destiny rolls by Pip would subsequently see six (!) Kairic Acolytes warp in right on top of us.

My Knight-Questor leads the charge into the final chamber. We’d ultimately kill most of the initial wave with deadly magic lasers, but a series of freak destiny rolls by Pip would subsequently see six (six!) Kairic Acolytes warp in right on top of us.

Silver Tower: Skink Starpriest

A temporary deviation from the core set. I want to share Silver Tower with my partner, Pip, but grim heroic fantasy isn’t necessarily her bag. However: she likes dinosaurs, her favourite colour is green, and her best hero in Dota 2 is Witch Doctor. I noted that Silver Tower could be expanded to include characters from elsewhere in the Warhammer range, and had an idea.

Silver Tower: Fyreslayer Doomseeker

A sweaty, swarthy, angry, gold-obsessed slayer. I’m mostly happy with how he turned out. I dipped into The Lore to find an alternate Fyreslayer colour scheme and went for the gold and crimson of the Sigyorn Lodge. I’m happy that I managed to create a bit of variety within the theme of ‘loads of gold’ through the use of different mixtures of washes – there’s a bit of Carroburg Crimson in there, a bunch of Reikland Fleshshade. I also liked bringing out the flame effect in his torch-axe-thing.

I worry that the overall look may be a little too muted thanks to low contrast between gold, red, orange and pink. This was, initially, deliberate: loads of the colour schemes I’ve chosen are high-contrast, and I wanted to try something subtler. However I might have picked the wrong model: dwarves (sorry, duardin) are basically beards with arms and likely rely on high-contrast colour schemes to pop.

It also turns out that I don’t enjoy painting beards, which puts my idle daydreams of collecting a Fyreslayer army to bed for good.

Silver Tower: Knight-Questor

My first hero model and my first conversion. For reference, here’s what the stock Knight-Questor model looks like (if you’re an ‘Eavy Metal painter.) I came up with the idea of kitbashing a female Knight-Questor quite early in this project, and the more I thought about it the more I wanted to try it. Out of 50 models in the Silver Tower box, only one – the Mistweaver Saih – is explicitly female. This seemed dumb to me, but converting any of the other models in the set to fix this problem was way beyond my abilities.

In the end, this was pretty straightforward. I picked up a set of heroic scale female heads from Statuesque Miniatures and built a collar out of green stuff that also served to fix the head to the body – here’s a work-in-progress shot. The adjustable ponytail let me mirror the sweeping movement of the cape with her hair, which I think helps tie the model together.

On the subject of female Stormcast: it’s been confirmed that they exist, but the Age of Sigmar stories that I’ve read so far seem strangely reluctant to include them. Games Workshop have actually got a little better at introducing female characters in lead roles – there are a decent number of tough female warriors shown fighting Chaos. But when they die they don’t get the hit-by-a-lighting-bolt, reforged-as-an-avatar-of-vengeance treatment that the men get. The great thing about this hobby is that if this sort of thing frustrates you, you can fix it yourself.

I didn’t feel the need to amend her armour at all: if you look at a regular Stormcast miniature, their heads are tiny relative to their bodies. This suggests that Stormcast armour is so large that it’d obscure any sense of the body type of the wearer, and the massive shoulderpads and wide stances mask what would otherwise be the most obvious masculine-feminine differences (boob armour isn’t a thing, before you ask.) Furthermore, it fits thematically: Stormcast are supposed to look uniform, imposing and inhuman until the moment they remove their helmets.

She’s wearing the colours of the Celestial Vindicators because I love that colour scheme and I like the sense of anger and tragedy implied by their origins: they’re warriors who, at the point of death, called out for the power to seek revenge against the forces of Chaos. That detail doesn’t needed to be expounded on much to add character to this model. If I collect an Order army for Age of Sigmar someday, I’d like the Vindicators to be at the centre of it.

Finally: wondering where her helmet went? There’s a clue elsewhere in the set.

Silver Tower: Gaunt Summoner

The light wasn’t great when I took these pictures, so I’m going to ask my partner – who actually knows what she’s doing with a camera – to take some better ones later. Particularly because this is a milestone: I’ve now painted all 44 adversaries from the Silver Tower box. From now on, it’s all heroes all the time. And light blue, green, purple and pink can take a back seat: at least until Games Workshop release some of these miniatures as standalone boxes for Age of Sigmar.

I’m pleased with how my Gaunt Summoner came out, although he went through his own ‘what the hell am I doing’ phase about midway through painting the robe. I wanted him to look both demonic and ethereal, like he’d collapse into a pile of enchanted cloth if you hit him too hard (which I suppose is the ultimate aim of the game.) The Gaunt Summoner definitely isn’t (or wasn’t) human – more like a Tzeentchian genie on a fleeting feather-collecting book-burning planar jaunt.

On the topic of books: I’m much happier with my freehand this time around, although it meant painting the book hand and dagger/flame hand separately and gluing them on right at the end, which was an adventure in very nearly screwing everything up at the last minute.