Thursday, March 14, 2019

Carrion Empire, the narrative part

On the previous gaming night a fellow club member (hi Marc!) and I decided to play the narrative missions that come with the new (and by now discontinued) Carrion Empire boxed set. There where multiple reasons for this. First and foremost being that we both like a good laugh and a narrative game. Second he has a Flesh Eater Courts army and I have a Skaven army. Third was curiosity. With all due respect to the hardworking developers, the average mission pack released for AoS is (to put it mildly) not very good. We had a previous laugh at the terrible AoS Skirmish missions (and got a good piano-based grudge match out of it). This box even has counters to use with the missions. It had to be tried. So without further ado: here's my report of the mini-campaign featured in Carrion Empire.

Getting started on mission 2 of Carrion Empire. As you can see the lighting in our gaming club is not conducive to good photography.

Ssh don't tell anyone! But the real reason to buy boxed sets like Carrion Empire, Imperial Knight Renegade or Ork Speed Freaks (to name a few) is the models. They are excellent value sets. In one purchase you get more Orks in vehicles or Knights for your 40K games. In the case of this box you get Skaven and Flesh Eater Courts, including two otherwise (as of yet) unattainable models. Kudos to GW for including a booklet and a mini game with these bargain boxes. Sometimes the mini-games are a lot of fun in their own right (I hear good things about Execution Force).

Boxed games, I buy them for the discount on the models, but secretly always hope the booklet is worth it too.
The narrative of Carrion Empire is quite nice. I'll try to summarize. An ancient civilization in the realm of Chamon was capable of churning out huge numbers of magic weapons and armor to protect itself from Chaos incursions during the Age of Chaos. Treacherous Nagash got jealous and struck out by raising the dead within the empire. In a state of panic, its rulers in turn stole a tome from Nagash. This cursed them and they turned into deluded flesh eating ghouls that, to this day, believe they are upstanding knights and ladies fighting the good fight. Time has passed and now Skaven have entered the realm to strip it bare of it's treasures. They never expected ghouls to occupy the ruins...

Without further ado: lets get into the tale of Skatchnick the Warlock Bombardier.
The three missions in Carrion Empire focus on the exploits of Warlock Bombardier Skatchnik and his Warpcoven. (the models included in the box) as they creep up on Archregent Thyador and his Arcasanctorian Guard (the other models in the box). Skatchnik's sneaking away from the main force of Skaven to enter the castle of Thyador and steal the tome of Nagash rumored to be there. The missions are narrative. Each specifies which models from the box take part on both sides, how you deploy and what you need to do to win that particular scenario. I had to suppress the urge to make a full set of themed terrain around the three missions, but I got a bit apprehensive about the time investment. In short: I just wanted to try these while they where still new and fresh of the press.

Assembling the full army for the night at home. I had a bit of a head start painting most of the models over the past few years (with the exception of Skatchnick).
The first mission was to breach the wall of the castle. Handily represented by a table edge.  I brought a few bits of terrain I actually flocked the night before. Quite fun that, terrain usually sits around unused for about six months before I get around to bringing it in. More on those pieces later, let's focus on the mission. The Skaven deploy in a 12" radius half circle right on top of their objective (marked out by dice on the picture below). They have to shoot the Warp Lightning Cannon at the table's edge three times and keep their warlock alive enough to exit into the castle.

My Skaven deployed for mission one. It does not really make use of more than the last one third of a table.
Unfortunately every turn a single (recyclable) unit of Flesh Eaters deploys 6" from the (randomly determined) top or bottom side of the table. This is right on top of the Skaven deployment zone. They can follow up by making their 6" or 12" move and then charge. From each edge there is 12" towards the deployment zone. So even a unit of ghouls has enough move to enter the board and charge immediately. The Skaven Stormfiends should act as a buffer but they can't cover enough ground. In short: the Warp Lightning Cannon and the Warlock get charged every turn. Being locked in combat prevents the cannon from shooting at the wall and the Warlock is too squishy to survive (multiple) attacks. Even though the Stormfiends keep clearing the table, the important part of the Skaven warband is quite quickly ground to a paste. With no reason (or chance) to maneuver, it is a bit of a silly slug fest.

When it comes to terrain we use nothing but the best of the best of the best...and masking tape.
The second mission is actually the most fun of the three, although not very good in its own way. The Skaven warband (including a miraculously resurrected Warlock) have to sneak through the hallways of the Flesh Eater's castle. Three units of Flesh Eaters stand guard and can't move or act until the Skaven have been spotted. The only downside to this mission is that the Flesh Eater player mostly just stands around the table watching the Skaven move. As an aside: the eyewateringly beautiful masking tape based tape scenery represents high, impassable walls. Maybe I'll write an advanced tutorial on this around April 1st ;).

Confounded! The Doomwheel did an involuntary hit and run on my Warlock, killing him for the second time that evening.
I alerted the first patrol and barely got my warlock out alive. In an attempt to sneak past the second group of guards I decided to re-roll my Doom Wheel's move. I rolled a one, giving the Flesh Eater Player control of the Doom Wheel. It crossed over my Stormfiends and over the Warlock cowering behind them, wounding the 'fiends and killing the Warlock. The Skaven lost another mission, but we had a real good chuckle over that one. To be honest if the Skaven just ignore the sneaking around bit and charge the guards with their Stormfiends and Doomwheel they should be able to exit without any serious opposition. The guard units can be taken one by one and none are hardy enough to survive a Stromfiend charge.

Time for revenge. The Archfiend has tactically donned a 'kick me' sign and set up in front of a pain train formed by Stormfiends. 
So far the score was Flesh Eater Courts 2, Skaven 0. We started the final mission where both of us had full battalions at our disposal. The Flesh Eater could finally field his Abhorrant Archregent. The mission states it should be set up slightly off center on the table (on his throne). All other units deploy at least 12" from each other and from the Skaven. The Skaven themselves deploy straight across from the Archfiend. The Warlock Bombardier has to reach his throne (and thereby steal the tome) and survive until round five. Being surprised, the Flesh Eater Courts cannot charge or run in turn one.

No single model should pick a fight with three Stormfiends, unless that single model has attained his murderhobo badge.
As with mission one, deployment for this mission is very odd. I could deploy my brutish horde of Stormfiends in charge range of the enemy general. As a fighting wizard he can take some damage, but I could bring my full fire power to bear on him. As the Flesh Eater Courts player can't charge in turn one I had the leisure to deal with this threat and ignore everyone else. The Archfiend never stood a chance. He was grounded to pulp without being able to do anything in the game (the Skaven automatically get turn one). It took a bit of maneuvering on the side of the Warlock, but in the end mission 3 was a rather easy and predictable win for the Skaven. We finished the three missions early in the evening with plenty of 'chatting with fellow club members' timeouts in between.

This shot just works...
Seeing a Skaven get squashed by its own Doomwheel was fun, but the rest of the mini-campaign was rather odd. Missions one and three don't really seem to offer one side any chance in hell of winning. It starts, you get your models pounded into the ground, it ends. Mission two, while interesting, doesn't really offer one player anything to do most of the time. Also the result of the previous mission have no bearing on what happens next. My Warlock got very convincingly killed two times and just happily warped in for a third round. We briefly wondered if these missions are geared towards beginning players who want to learn the mechanics of the game. But they lack even the most basic elements that make an Age of Sigmar game. For instance the Skaven player doesn't really move in the first mission.

At the end of mission three one of the Stormfiends was down to two wounds.
Taking a broader look, quite a number of Battleplans (as they are called) in both the Realm Gate Wars books and the varying battle tomes suffer from the 'one side gets pounded into the dust by odd deployment rules'-flaw. A a rule of thumb avoid any mission that's called 'ambush'. It's a bit of a pity as there are a few hidden gems that make for a wonderful narrative's nights gaming. Playing missions from the Battle Tome of a faction not on the table helps as do open war cards. On the whole it strikes me as odd that a boxed set contains nice models, an interesting backstory and a rather badly thought out and (as it seems to me) untested mini-campaign. Here's to hoping this part will get more attention in future products. To end on a positive note: I had a fun night. Rolling dice, having a good chuckle with friends and watching nefarious ratmen get killed in ignominious ways is always worth it.


  1. Bizarre that the scenarios are so bad, and I guess indicative that they are not the focus of much energy on the part of GW. Then again, given that these boxes generally sell out in a week or two and are never reprinted, maybe that makes sense.

    1. I a way it does, but then again with all the care and attention given to the backstory and artwork it just seems like an oversight. Or maybe a challenge to write some of our own scenario's.