Chapter One: The Relics of Saint Malathric
Part Nine: Endgame Showdown Faceoff
“”My tabard is red
Yours is blue
I’m a godsworn knight
And so are you.”
High Exemplar Gavram Kreoss crumpled up the latest attempt and threw it onto the debris in the corner of his tent. Words were so meaningless in the face of such feeling. Even now, when the battle would soon be joined, he was unable to think, unable to speak. His dreams were haunted by her face, even the look of scorn she had poured on him as he fell before her spear.
He had been captured by her after their skirmish, in more ways than one. Yes, there had been literal manacles on his hands and feet, but her coppery hair and haughty visage had chained his heart. Not since childhood had he felt such emotion. The Exemplinarium – that famed academy which drills all sympathy and humanity out of initiates to the strong arm order of the Protectorate – had had no room for weakness.
Brother Clarence had rescued him from the Morrowan camp, slaying his guards and contriving to swing in on a rope to retrieve him. The Errant had always been effortless and skilful in his actions, but Gavram could not admire him this time. For now he was far from his love, perhaps never again to feel her tender interrogations. Now all he had was his broken heart and her name, which whispered like a feather on his ear. Constance, Constance.“
This was it, the last game of the campaign, played almost a year after the initial three games. My opponent Duggy and I had carefully hoarded the scraps of paper detailing our losses so far, knowing that one day the final game would be played and I would either suffer total defeat or recoup some small portion of dignity. Why did it take so long? As anyone who has tried this sort of thing will know, real life has an awful habit of getting in the way and it’s much easier to let something long-running lapse, particularly if there are fewer people involved.
Anyway, more on that sort of thing later. For this game, Duggy was forced into playing Major Victoria Haley, so the thought behind this game was that Constance Blaize had tired of the Menites’ paltry efforts to take possession of the Relics of Saint Malathric and had called in the reinforcements. I was once again playing High Exemplar Kreoss, having failed to keep a ‘caster alive on a consecutive occasion. Our lists were made of the remnants left to us from our original 100 points, I don’t think either of us had any points spare!
My list was as follows:
High Exemplar Kreoss (*5pts)
* Repenter (4pts)
* Revenger (6pts)
* Templar (8pts)
* Vanquisher (8pts)
Choir of Menoth (Leader and 3 Grunts) (2pts)
Exemplar Bastions (Leader and 2 Grunts) (5pts)
Exemplar Errants (Leader and 9 Grunts) (8pts)
Holy Zealots (Leader and 9 Grunts) (6pts)
* Holy Zealot Monolith Bearer (2pts)
Knights Exemplar (Leader and 5 Grunts) (5pts)
The Wrack (3 wracks) (1pts)
Considering the losses I had taken over the last three games I was still capable of fielding a pretty functional list. Since this was a year after we had initially started, there were many things I found chafing. Not having the Errants UA makes them…less good. Not having any Vassals left to make my ‘jacks more effective was a pain too. Still, I thought I had a reasonably chance of scraping a win.
Duggy’s went thusly:
Major Victoria Haley (*5pts)
* Hunter (6pts)
* Lancer (6pts)
* Defender (9pts)
* Squire (2pts)
Arcane Tempest Gun Mages (Leader and 5 Grunts) (6pts)
Stormguard (Leader and 9 Grunts) (9pts)
Sword Knights (Leader and 5 Grunts) (4pts)
* Sword Knight Officer & Standard (2pts)
Gun Mage Captain Adept (2pts)
Journeyman Warcaster (3pts)
* Charger (4pts)
Stormsmith Stormcaller (1pts)
Stormsmith Stormcaller (1pts)
Haley2 is obviously a problem in any list, as her feat hangs over you all game. The Gun Mages always feel like a huge problem to me, particularly because I had so little blast damage in my list. The Stormsmiths are a pet hate of mine, probably because Duggy uses them to such good effect whenever he plays with them. I was expecting a difficult game here! Sorry I’m not 100% on what jacks were marshalled where, I’m pretty sure the Charger was on the Journeyman Warcaster as that would make the most sense focus-wise.
For scenario, we didn’t have access to the Steamroller packet so we went with the prescribed scenario in the ANNIHILATION rules packet, which was Break The Line, where the middle of the table is divided into six territories and you’re trying to control your opponent’s and defend your own. Pretty basic stuff, but it should encourage the action to gravitate to the middle of the table. The Steamroller scenarios are something I would rather not be without when playing Warmachine, and I can’t say that the relapse to Prime in this case has persuaded me otherwise!
“”High Exemplar?” a voice intruded from outside Kreoss’ tent, interrupting his reverie. “What?” “The Cygnaran army have been sighted, they’re coming from the north as expected.” Kreoss got to his feet, and nodded to himself. “Very good, mobilise the troops.” He called his squire, and donned his warcaster armour, having kept his underarmour on while he waited for news. It was his very best, a present from Scrutator Semper. The staff-flail leaning in the corner was polished to a bright shine. Everything had to look impressive today, or else the enemy would not be distracted and might wonder where the rest of the Menite forces were.
Leaving his tent, he called for his phalanx commanders. They were three souls not at all alike. Clarence, the Errant leader, was wiry and always on the lookout for danger, an odd trait for the son of the aristocracy. By contrast the leader of the Bastions, Brother Pretor, had grown up with Kreoss on the mean streets of Five Fingers and you never found a more relaxed man off the field of battle. Sister Agrolle led the Knights Exemplar, she was eager for the fight. She had lost family at Sul, and wanted to repay the Cygnarans for their villainy. Kreoss had lost comrades at that famed battle too, but he knew where most of the true blame lay.
“You know your orders. Make them pay for every inch, we have to hold them here until noon at the earliest. There is much more at stake here then just some flyspeck on the map.”
They nodded and returned to their phalanxes. Exemplar warrior did not require stirring speeches or rousing displays. Fighting alongside your brothers and sisters in the Order was necessity enough to provoke the greatest acts of bravery and prowess. As it should be. Kreoss next surveyed the members of the Choir who had stayed as they stoked the boiler of his own Vanquisher Mutilator of Perdition, and sang to it in tones that somehow sparked its cortex to better plot trajectories. Kreoss was not a man of music so he didn’t understand the mekanikal vagaries, but he could feel the warjack’s dull mind coming to life, as the mighty cannon at its side began to warm and hum.
Severius had left his Templar warjack Trampler of Heterodoxy with Kreoss to face the Cygnarans. To Kreoss’ eyes the thing had some of the scrutator’s bloodymindedness about it, the way it stamped back and forth and butted choristers aside with its shield made him think very clearly of his colleague. There were also two lighter warjacks which had been kept on the wagons until now, and had no names of their own. They seemed quite new, staring blankly ahead as the choristers ministered to them. Warjacks were like that, before their first battle.
Once the Choir was ready, Kreoss signalled the move-out. Off in the distance he could see the blue armour and metal shining in the sun. The town of Tighrael lay off to the north, home to so many treasures. By this time, the rest of the Menite forces should be well on their way back to Llael and Merwynn. His task here was not to win, but to delay the Cygnarans from interfering with the timed explosions which would shortly consume Tighrael and hopefully persuade the Cygnarans that there was nothing worth salvaging for their sacrilegious purposes. As he felt the brush of another warcaster’s mind, he was relieved to find it was not hers. He would not have to fall to the tender affections of Constance Blaize today, and lose his heart a second time. He could die as a warrior, to protect a greater good.”
I don’t have a true battle report for this game, unfortunately my notes have been lost in a house move and I can’t reconstruct exactly what happened. I played very aggressively throughout, however, and ended up playing Kreoss much too far forward, hoping to get a good feat but still missing Haley. Duggy was able to play Haley quite far back and leave her there with impunity, as he had enough in his own zones to contest them and had no Killbox to force him to play any farther forward.
Kreoss fell to a Defender cannon shot, after facing a hail of fire from the rest of the Cygnaran army, and ultimate victory belonged to Duggy. It would have been nice to salvage at least one win from the campaign, but I had played four more games of Warmachine than I would have otherwise against a fun and skilled opponent and that counts as a win for me (as I’ve said previously, you take the victories where you can get them!). My thanks go out to Duggy for being a good sport and for taking all the photos which have graced these battle reports. Hopefully we’ll get to play again soon!
So will I play ANNIHILATION again? In fact I have! Since this campaign ended I have started up another campaign, this time against Clone playing Khador with Sorscha and Butcher2, while I play with Kreoss again (does he survive?? I guess you’ll have to read on to find out!) and the High Reclaimer. Unfortunately I seem to have a knack for picking opponents who are incredibly busy with life and work so that one is on a bit of a hiatus. I have plans to start other campaigns with more available players, I’m eyeing up Stu of “What I Learned On The Forums This Week” fame, who might be willing to kick my teeth in with his Trollbloods in a narrative format.
It’s certainly a lot different as a format, and you have to play it yourself to realise just how. Regular tricks and ploys such as sacrificing your own models to get further up the table or to better target your enemy carry a heftier cost when you won’t have that model available in future. In the default ANNIHILATION package where you are escalating into larger and larger lists the losses can be mitigated with clever list selection, but if you were to play four games of equal size where the game gets more balanced I expect you would notice attrition more keenly. Certainly if you were to play a list focused on attrition that could reliably keep itself alive, you would stand to gain.
This is almost the end of Chapter One of the Scrutator Semper Chronicles. On Tuesday there will be a last installment to this Chapter with the continued exploits of Master Siskington. What further travails await him? Will we see more of the eponymous Scrutator Semper in further Chapters? Will I ever win a game of Warmachine, and will posterity survive the shock for me to report it? That all remains to be seen!
Thanks for reading so far, and I do apologise for the long delay between this installment and the last. Real life conspires to get in the way. See you all next week!