Monday, September 23, 2013

Tales From The Front: Battle Report History - The 1st White Dwarf Battle Report

"The sun sank below the horizon, casting deep shadows across the valley. Warriors drank, sang of glorious wars, and sharpened their weapons for the coming battle. Since early that evening, Empire commanders n the southern camp had been welding the disparate groups of Humans, Dwarfs and Halflings into shape. To the North, the grim face of the Lord of the Undead turned once more to the horizon.

The Moon slid behind a cloud. In the enveloping darkness, still silence was broken by the howl of a wolf. From across the valley, a slow steady drum-beat began to sound...boom!..doom!....boom!...doom! the battle had begun."

So begins a long and storied tradition in White Dwarf - The Battle Report. As has been covered on numerous blogs, and something I've pointed out to others before, I think that the first battle report to ever appear in White Dwarf for Warhammer was the one in issue 107. If you have never seen this, it is a far cry from battle reports to come, or the more current ones of today with colored graphics or gorgeous photos designed to sell more miniatures.

The first battle report was a bit of promotion for a club of gamers called the Roundabout Youth Club. As the report states: "The public often perceive people into our hobby as slightly crazed and obsessed with violent death. We wanted to show that Fantasy Gaming, was a fun, sociable, creative way for young people to spend their time, and that we could use it to help others." Great goals, and I believe they gained 300 pounds in their 24 hour marathon - quite a tidy sum in those days! The event was set up as a 24 hour gaming experience fought between the Forces of Good (The Empire Allies: Humans, Dwarfs and Halflings) and the Forces Of Chaos (Dark Elves, Orcs, Chaos Dwarfs, Skeletons, and Human Chaos Mutants). To report on these events, and as a thank you to Games Workshop, Robin Dews sent in the report and it was printed in White Dwarf.

I'd like to take special notice of one particular paragraph which highlights the board size, the armies fighting and then this - "We had originally begun with the idea of using about 10,000 points per side but as the armies assembled, it became clear that both sides wanted to throw everything they had into an all or nothing confrontation. We decided to just "go for it" on the basis that this was all for fun, and "armies were never equal anyway." This resulted in a final points value of about 15,000 for the Chaos Commanders, John and Max, and 18,000 for the Empire Allies, myself, Leon and Tristan."

Ok, so note a couple of things - first, it is very large. This is of course one of the dreams of most gamers, to have such a huge horde they can fill a table and take on all comers. For most, it is just a dream, but that visual is one of the things that appeals to most of us - even if we only start out small or with a Chaos Warband. Also, "This Was All For Fun!" How often in the current environment of tournaments do you think you'd hear - ok, you take 3000, I'll take 2400, its fine, its just for fun? Remember this is part of the fun of game mastered games, and of Warhammer 3rd. Sure, things have points, but really it was collecting and playing with an army (or in this case, several), it was not chess, nor restricted to this or that comp - as you'll see when we talk about one of the "secrets" later.

I also like how Robin covered the first few turns as the armies shake out and they use four hours to basically sort out how all of the allies are going to fight. Sure, one small paragraph, but isn't that amazingly close to how you'd imagine a real battle would fall out? Trying to figure out where everyone is, is going and what they are going to do would add confusion and miscommunication to anything like this.

Robin does a great job, in the old days of print, using text to give us a feel of the tilt and sway of battle, using only 3 hand drawn maps to cover the Initial Dispositions, The Height of Battle, and the Final Stages. Very well done and concise, and no-where near a step by step tactical guide, these help you place the units in your imagination that the text brings alive - with descriptions like: "they crunched unceasingly towards the village", "On the right, things were a mess!" ;) "the Cold Ones, having failed a stupidity test, were munching grass in the midst of the woods", "Holes appeared where man had stood before," and "the surviving Knights charged forth in a complete frenzy, desperate to bury their lances into the line of Chaos Thugs now flanking the decimated archers". I just wonder how long Robin took to write all of this up! There is a photo, presumably from the event, and it is great in its black and white goodness. I wonder if there are any photos from this event in the hands of anyone who still plays? If you know of anyone, please have them get in touch with me, if you can.

But I wonder if any of the current crop of fans will notice something very peculiar about the whole you know who won? The gamers. There is plenty of mention of the units getting crushed, run down and melting away (as skeletons do, you know?), but he never says exactly who won. And that is Oldhammer! It is playing a massive multi-thousand point game over 24 hours, and having a blast, a true moment where "the story is the thing". Excellent job, and very interesting as the beginning of the Battle Reports in White Dwarf.

So the interesting thing is...why highlight this little bit of antiquity? Very simple - Battle Reports! One of the cool things of the Oldhammer Blogs are some of the really cool battle reports that have appeared. Thantsant has some great ones here. (And can I say how much I just love his photo backgrounds on his blog - incredibly cool!) and Gaj's are highlights on the left hand column on his blog here.  These are just some of the ones you'll find on most of the Oldhammer sites and you'll see some really cool games. I'll be posting some as well, though I'm probably going to have to pick up a good camera somehow. And if you find any or post any of your own, put a link in the comments below!

In the Margins: 

That mammoth is pretty cool, actually. If you have been doing this for a long time, you'll probably remember that another company had miniatures for skeletal mammoths (and a rhino!). I loved the idea of a skeletal mammoth (my family has always been partial to elephants!) marauding around and crushing my foes. It was probably the Oliphants fault, but after reading this report, I just had to have one. Of course, I ended up with 4 of them ;). Gonna have to make some rules for these guys, just to play with them again. I tried to find these guys to take photos of them, but the only one I could find is not painted, and unfortunately I have a hard time finding one figure in my two storage units. I'll try to get some pics up as soon as I can.

But one of the elephants is available here:

Skeleton War Mammoth With Catapult

* Special thanks to Orlygg for scanning this

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