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8th Ed BIG Battle (from my Tilean campaign)

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[EDIT] I have just now noticed that only half of the story actually posted here ... this prequel just ends abruptly at the very point the conversation is about to start! I have no idea why. I shall try to rectify now.

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The Battle of the Via Diocleta: Prequel 

Duke Scaringella and his Reman army marched in the van, as was proper now they were moving through their own territory. The whole force, Pavonans included, was comprised mostly of foot soldiers, along with baggage and a large artillery train, which one might presume would critically limit their speed, ruining their chances of successfully catching the brute foe ahead. This was not so, however, as both armies were pushing  themselves hard – the Pavonans keen to exact revenge for the multitude of insults done to them and theirs by Razger Boulderguts’ ogres, and the Remans desperate to ensure their own realm would not suffer a similar fate. Every effort had been made to ensure a good pace, including assigning the Pavonan’s large pistolier regiment to assist the artillery’s passage in every way they could. Although their poor horses would doubtless be in no fit state to fight when it came to battle, the brute foe would be subjected to battery by a storm of iron round-shot rather than the paltry peppering of leaden pistol balls. 

Towards the rear of the Reman column rode the newly elected arch-lector of Morr, Bernado Ugolini. He was accompanied by several servants, a handful of guards and clergy, including his Estalian secretary Duarte, followed by a cart carrying his personal baggage and a small body of Reman militiamen who had recently become noticeably more conscientious in their duties, now that they were accompanying not merely the Lector of Viadaza, but rather the holy father of the Church of Morr.

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The Reman cross-keyed standard was carried before Bernado, while off to his side marched a column of iron-clad dwarfen mercenaries who also sported the crossed keys, painted on their shields. They had served in the miscellaneously mercenary Reman army for more than a decade, along with regiments of Cathayans, Empire soldiers and even some elves.

In truth, Bernado would much prefer to be riding northwards directly to Remas, not chasing ogres to the south. The city and the holy church of Morr were in turmoil, since before his election to the arch-lectorship, and even more-so now. As the church’s chosen ruler, he should be there to guide his flock, heal the divisions tearing the Morrite clergy apart and ensure Morr’s protective presence. Duarte and his all his other advisers agreed, however, that the situation was now so bad there was little he could do without an army to back him, which meant travelling wherever the Captain General, Duke Scaringella and his army went. When he finally returned, not only did he need to be with them, but also to be one of them.

While the arch-lector Calictus II had died at Ebino fighting against the vampire duchess, Duke Scaringella had been leading a small army eastwards to join with Pavonan forces and defeat Razger Boulderguts’ double army of ogres before they reached Remas. At the ruinous city of Astiano the duke had rendezvoused with the joint force of Remans and Pavonans sent away from the ‘Holy Army’ by the arch-lector a little while before his disastrous defeat. (This was the force Bernado had himself commanded as it marched south.) Then, knowing he still had insufficient forces to fight the ogres, the duke had waited, allowing Boulderguts’ army to swing around the north of the city, travelling east to west. He was gambling that as the ogres had already razed Astiano they would have little interest in doing battle there again, this time with no prospect of plunder, whilst praying that the main Pavonan army would reach him in time before the ogres tore Remas apart. 

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It was a big risk, which nearly every one of the duke’s officers advised against (even if they could not agree what alternative action should be taken). His inactivity meant the very force he had been sent to stop had got between him and what he was meant to be protecting! Luckily, just as news came that already the town of Stiani had been razed to the ground, and it looked like the entire realm might soon be destroyed, Duke Guidobaldo Gondi arrived at the head of the main Pavonan army. It was a force bigger than Scaringella’s, made bigger still when the Pavonans who had come south from Viadaza rejoined their comrades. Not only them, but several days later the duke’s only surviving son, Lord Silvano, one of the very few who had escaped the terrible defeat at Ebino, arrived to be reunited with his father. 

Then, in an even more welcome (and entirely unexpected) development, the army’s scouts reported that for reasons known only to the ogres, the tyrant Razger Boulderguts and his mercenary ally Mangler had turned southwards rather than striking towards Remas, where the real wealth lay. Had they overestimated the forces defending Remas’ mighty walls? Were they making for the coast and awaiting ships? Was the sudden change of direction part of a secret agreement with the vampire duchess? Or were they merely taking a detour? Whatever the reason, the allied army now had a chance to do battle with the ogres before they wreaked any further destruction upon the realm.

Other than the clattering of their layers of steel armour, the dwarfs marched in silence. They were armed with strangely short spears, of a sort that could be used as a blade like a short sword, but were better at thrusting out between the interlocked iron of a shield-wall. The dwarfs had become a common sight on the streets of Remas, and since their incorporation into the city’s standing army, the dwarfen quarter had swelled considerably in size. There had been mutterings in the army that the dwarfs were surely not happy to be allied with a Pavonan army, what with Duke Guidobaldo’s exulsion of every dwarf in his realm two years ago. The dwarfs themselves, however, had apparently said nothing concerning the matter to anyone else. Bernado suspected that rather than anger, it was mirth they were concealing – being secretly satisfied at the Pavonan soldiery’s discomfort. If the Pavonans disliked merely camping and marching beside dwarfs, then what did they make of the prospect of relying on them in battle? Perhaps the dwarfs intended to shame the Pavonans with their sturdy prowess and hardy discipline upon the field of battle?

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It was late in the afternoon, which on any other march would mean the army should be halting soon. Not this army though. If the last four days were anything to go by, they would march until it grew properly dark. Ogre legs were longer than men’s. 

Despite being distracted by the discomfort of riding a mule (the traditional mount for a lector), and worrying about the forthcoming battle, Bernado had been attempting to think clearly about the situation in Remas, to decide what his best course of action would be. He had learned of his election only two days ago, the news being delivered by a lowly, but respected and trusted priest named Benvenuto, who had killed his horse in his haste to bring the news. Benvenuto also described the recent violent events in the city. Since then, due to the consequences of the civil unrest, the speed of the march and the fact that the army of ogres burning a path through the realm killed (and ate) just about everyone they encountered, he had learned nothing more. Then again, what he already knew was enough to fill him with concerns.

“Brother Duarte,” he asked the young cleric riding beside him. “Do you think Father Carradalio will harm the overlord?”

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As usual, Duarte did not answer immediately. He was a careful, disciplined thinker, of a philosophical bent, and not one to rush to answer even when asked by the arch-lector himself. 

“It seems to me most likely, your Holiness, that Father Carradalio was furious at not being elected, especially when he had already acted as if he were arch-lector. He’d played his hand in seizing the city, blood had flowed in every street. Without the legitimization of election, he is no more than a heretical revolutionary, and his Disciplinati become wild rebels overthrowing the rightful order instead of the city’s saviours. Until the election, all had gone well for him, the result of his planning and preparation. Now, however, he has been forced to think on his feet, to act more rashly. He has gone so far it is too late to retreat, and this makes him desperate. If he could have taken you hostage, your Holiness, then I think he would have done so. Instead he took Overlord Matuzzi, the next best thing. Perhaps even better? But I do not think he would harm the overlord, not now his fury has had time to abate. He needs Lord Matuzzi. He needs his authority, so that he can rule the realm by decree as well as by force and fear. That will make him harder to displace.”

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Bernado had already been thinking along similar lines. Overlord Matuzzi had handed over the reins of secular power to Calictus II, Bernado’s predecessor, making him ruler of both church and state. Until the election, the big debate had been whether or not the new arch-lector would automatically inherit that secular authority. Now, however, a third player had entered game. 

“No doubt,” asked Bernado, “Carradalio intends to persuade the overlord to yield authority to him?”

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“I believe so, your Holiness. He already has the city. He already has nearly all the lower clergy. The people’s fear of the vampires in the north means he already has the citizens’ hopes. With the overlord’s authority, he will have no need of the arch-lectorship.”

“He would have made me into a ceremonial puppet while he wielded all the real power,” said Bernado. 

Although perhaps, he thought to himself, a demagogue like Carradalio and his fanatical Disciplinati were exactly what Remas needs? He had seen so many flee from the undead at Pontremola, and knew full well the final victory had been because of General D’Alessio’s bravery and skill alone. Yet only last night he had heard young Lord Silvano telling of the battle at Ebino - how the flagellants had plunged deep into the enemy’s line and died fighting to a man despite the many monstrous horrors in the duchess’s army, and regardless of the everyone else’s flight. What could a whole army of fanatics do? Perhaps such warriors were Tilea’s only real chance against the vampires? He missed the council of Father Biagino, a man who had both the gift of prophecy and a mind sharp enough never to make ill-thought or hasty assumptions. When he had asked Lord Silvano about Biagino’s fate in the battle at Ebino, the young noble simply said he never saw nor heard of the priest since that day, and so thought it most likely he perished amongst the multitude.

“Are you well, your Holiness?” asked Duarte, concerned at Bernado’s posture, his frown obscured by his hand clutching at his temples. The arch-lector had been so deep in thought he had not realised what he was doing.

“Yes, brother. Long days, that is all. Pray thee, we shall stop a moment.” 

Durate gave the command, and those fore and aft of the arch-lector came to a halt. 

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[EDIT] Here is the missing part ....

The column of dwarfs continued its march, while Bernado turned his mule to face the two priests on foot behind, and Brother Duarte followed suit. 

“Father Benvenuto,” said the arch-lector. “Do you know why the lectors voted for me?”

“I would not presume to say, your holiness,” answered the priest. “Apart from to accept that whatever their reasons, it was ultimately Morr’s will that you become so.” 

Benvenuto wore a grey, hooded cloak, and despite his sturdily built frame, leaned ponderously, bent-backed, upon a staff. The heavy, leather bags hanging at his waist were at least partially to blame, but he would not allow them to be put onto the cart. When the priest had reached in to withdraw the letters he was carrying, Bernado had seen weighty tomes inside, dark leather embossed with gold leaf. Holy books, or perhaps ledgers of some kind? Bernado assumed he would discover the truth should Father Benvenuto feel the need to employ them. 

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“Morr’s will, yes. And I pray I shall live up to his expectations,” said Bernado. “But still, presently we abide in the world of mortals and it is men I must measure, not the majesty of Morr. So, Father, if you had to hazard a guess, what would you say was their motive.”

“Fear, your holiness. They are afraid of Father Carradalio and his fanatics.”

“If so, then why choose me in particular?” said Bernado. “Surely there are several lectors in Remas just as capable of putting Carradalio in his place?”

“Maybe so my lord,” agreed the old priest. “But they also fear the vampires. You are the only one amongst them who has met the undead armies in battle. You guided the Viadazan crusaders to their victory at Pontremola …”

“Yet Viadaza, my own see, was lost that very same week,” interrupted Bernado. He felt no joy at the irony.

But Father Benvenuto had not finished. “And then, your holiness, you were by Calictus’s side when Viadaza was retaken and cleansed. You were part of not one but two great victories. In the first he vampire duke died, and in the second you chased Lord Adelfo from the city. The lectors want a proven soldier of Morr leading the church and Remas in the great fight, not an untried rabble rouser like Carradalio.”

“That may be so. Yet Viadaza has most likely fallen once more, this time for good, which would have made me the lector of nowhere.” 

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“By your leave, your holiness,” said Duarte. “The lectors may well have been counting on its fall. If Viadaza is lost, then there would be nothing to distract you from defending Remas. I have heard them whisper that Calictus erred in dividing our forces to march north himself, there to be defeated. When he finally fought, half his army were Arabyan mercenaries who barely knew of Morr. They weren’t even under contract to Remas, and fled the field before the battle was decided. Now Stiani has burned because Captain-General Duke Scaringella was left with far too small an army to stop the ogres.”

“If I might speak, your holiness?” asked Brother Marsilio, the grey robed monk who had accompanied Father Benvenuto from Remas. “The lectors knew you were with the captain general. Once the brute’s double army is defeated, then both you and he will be returning victorious with an army. How could Carradalio’s screeching sermons compete with the commands of Morr’s anointed pontiff? How could his crazed followers stand against a real army?”

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Ah, thought Bernado, but what sort of army will we return with? If we are badly mauled in this coming battle, there might be merely the battered rump of an army left. And even if sufficient force survived to contend with the Disciplinati’s fanatics, would Duke Scaringella do the right thing and restore order? 

When he spoke again, he hid all sign of these doubts from his voice. “After you delivered your news to me, Father Benvenuto, you spoke at length with our Captain General, yes?” 

“I did, your holiness,” the priest answered. 

“I take it he questioned you concerning Remas?” inquired Bernado.

“At length, your holiness. And kept me there when he spoke to his officers, that I might answer whatever else he and they thought to ask. I was given to understand that I must not speak of what I had heard.”

Although Bernado had seen Duke Scaringella since then, when both he and Duke Guidobaldo came to receive an official blessing from their new arch-lector, he had not yet had the opportunity to speak with him privately. He doubted the duke would want to discuss the precarious state of Reman affairs in the Pavonans’ presence, especially in light of the as yet unexplained delay – lasting the best part of a day - which occurred the previous week. 

Scaringella had at the time confided to Bernado his suspicion that the Pavonans did not actually intend to fight the ogres and were considering some other action instead. Perhaps the captain general had the measure of Duke Guidobaldo of Pavona? Yet he also admitted he could not fathom why Guidobaldo would consider allowing those who had injured him so badly to escape. Fearing his dangerous gamble had failed, Scaringella had knelt to pray with Bernado for Remas, pleading with Morr not to allow it to suffer at the hands of brutes when the most holy work of destroying the vampires was yet to be done. That evening, however, Duke Guidobaldo called a council of war, giving no explanation for the delay, and declared that they would pursue the enemy immediately as if nothing strange had happened. Although Duke Scaringella accepted Guidobaldo had the larger force and so was due the precedence, he was neither asked nor offered to swear obedience to Duke Guidobaldo, being himself was of equal noble rank and a captain-general (which suited him well in light of his distrust). Instead, he simply offered to fight at Duke Guidobaldo’s side, promising to cooperate fully upon the field of battle, doing his utmost to contribute to victory. The matter of dividing the spoils was not discussed for the chase was on and there was no (more) time to waste. Most of the soldiers seemed to presume that as most of the plunder came from Pavonan settlements, then the Pavonans would expect the lion’s share.  

Considering Duke Scaringella’s religiosity and humble acceptance of spiritual authority, Bernado had every reason to think Scaringella’s command concerning Father Benvenuto’s silence was more to prevent the Pavonans learning of his concerns. In light of this, he made the Morrite sign, and spoke,

“I hereby absolve you of any promise you made to keep silent. As your pontiff, I command that you answer me.”

Father Benvenuto nodded his acceptance. 

“Did Lord Scaringella voice his opinion concerning Father Carradalio and his dedicants?” Bernado asked.

“He spoke of little else, your holiness, and was in quite a dilemma. He must defend Remas, of course, either by destroying the ogres or chasing them away. His victory must be glorious, so he can return to Remas as a hero, winning the citizens’ favour. He must earn a good portion of the loot so that he can feed and pay the army; and he must prove to be so effective on the field of battle that the Pavonan duke is grateful, becoming an important ally during the struggle ahead. Yet he must do all these things without suffering crippling losses, for he will need the army to put the Disciplinati di Morr back in their place upon your return to Remas.”

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“More than that,” Duarte added, “we need the army to fight the vampires.”

Ogres, fanatics and the undead, thought Bernado. Three wars to be fought.

“Brethren,” he said, “let us contend with one thing at a time. Tonight, we shall pray for victory against the brutes.”

Edited by OgrePadre

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The Battle of the Via Diocleta (Spring 2403)

Passing hurriedly through the villages of Frascoti, south of the great city of Remas, and having insufficient time to loot and raze as they went, the double army of ogres serving Razger Boulderguts were continuing southwards along the ancient Via Diocleta. All of Remas would have breathed a sigh of relief, were not for the fact that the city was internally tangled in turmoil as the fanatical Disciplinati di Morr wrested control of its streets and gates one by one, and the citizens were distracted by the looming prospect of a vampire led army descending upon them to do worse than even the ogres would have done.

Razger's brute warriors were moving as fast as they could, which was not exactly quickly. Their vast, heavily laden baggage train was overflowing with loot and hauled by a chaotically cobbled together collection of ogres, slaves, horses and oxen - the latter three dwindling on a daily basis as they were eaten by their ravenous masters. They were being pursued by a similarly slow force, the allied armies of Remas and Pavona, who were struggling with several large artillery pieces rather than wagons of plunder. 

The Tileans, keen to exact revenge for the destruction of Pavona, and to prevent the same fate befalling Remas, were pushing themselves to the limit. The ogres were working hard, but not so much as the men, for they were unafraid of meeting their pursuers in battle, merely annoyed at the prospect that if they were not careful their loot might be lost. So it was that the allied army drew slowly and surely closer, crossing the rolling landscape from the town of Stiani towards the road without passing through Frascoti, and in this way aiming to intercept the foe long before they reached the realm of Ridraffa.

They would meet in a barren place, home only to scattered shepherds and their flocks. The ogres, recognising at last that they were not going to outpace the Tileans, left the road to form an uncharacteristically carefully arrayed line to the west of the road, while the allied Tilean armies chose to draw themselves up for battle upon the road itself.

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The tyrant Razger’s army, consisting of both his own brutes and the mercenary Mangler’s ‘band’, presented a formidable line indeed. Warriors from both armies were intermixed, but Mangler’s brutes were mostly concentrated towards the centre of the line, while Razger’s forces made up the flanks.

On the far right was a little mob of gnoblar trappers, scurrying alongside a brace of Mournfang riders. Between these and the main fighting force were two companies of leadbelchers, and a large mob of Mangler’s gnoblars. (Game note: The player was annoyed with me later on as I had helped him place his force and he had assumed I had placed these 40 gnoblars in a horde formation. I’m sorry to say that was the last thing on my mind, and I just went with what was aesthetically pleasing, and happened to fit neatly on the card. Sorry, Jamie!(

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In the centre of the line were several bodies of bulls and ironguts, interspaced with rhinox-mounted war engines, behind which was the massive baggage train. On the far left were Razger’s Maneaters, Mangler’s Hunter with his brace of sabretusks, as well as two small bodies of leadbelchers and ironguts. Mangler led his own bodyguard of ironguts, clutching his massive, double handed cleaver and clad in layer upon layer of iron scales.
 
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Razger had joined the biggest of his two bands of bulls, along with his army standard bearer carrying an emblem of the bloody sword and half-moon. His gut-plate tusks marked him out, although the sheer bulk of his presence would suffice to do so even without them.

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The Tilean alliance force was not so evenly split as the ogres, as Duke Guidobaldo’s Pavonan army made up much more than half the total strength. Nearly every unit to the right and in the centre of the line was Pavonan, and there were more of his troops, including his son, on the far left. On the farmost right rode the only body of horse in the army, being the plate-armoured nobility led by Visconte Carjaval. Behind them was the as yet untested helstorm, a bizarre engine designed to throw a clutch of explosive rockets at the enemy which Duke Guidobaldo had bought from a Nuln merchant in somewhat happier times. From there towards the centre were a succession of foot regiments, being halberdiers and handgunners, although for some reason Duke Scaringella had seen fit to order his Cathayan crossbowmen over to that flank, where they lurked in rear of the line. 

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The centre of the allied line consisted of three large bodies of swordsmen, being Pavonans or Asitianans, the latter now wholly incorporated into the Duke’s army and just as loyal to him as his native soldiers. Interspersed between these were four great cannons, two of which tended by engineers.  Duke Guidobaldo himself watched from the rear, being the only Pavonan sporting colours other than blue and white.

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Most of Scaringella’s Reman army was arrayed upon the left. All were mercenary soldiers under virtually permanent contract, apart from a handful of native Remans. A large body of Dwarfen warriors formed the force’s main strength, behind which was the army's famous regiment of Cathayan halberdiers. The Reman's only piece of artillery separated these melee troops from the two regiments of crossbow troops, being body of Tilean condottieri (behind pavises) and more dwarfs. The army’s baggage was clustered behind these two regiments, beside which lingered the bravi skirmishers pressed from the Reman streets . Young Lord Silvano Gondi, Guidobaldo’s lone surviving heir, having come all the way south from the terrible defeat at Ebino with the last of his elven ‘Sharlian’ riders rode on the far left, while a company of Pavonan huntsmen had moved up to conceal themselves behind the rocky hill between them and the foe.

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As the last of the troops stepped into place, both armies came to a momentary halt, and an eerie (almost) silence descended upon the alliance army, broken only by the fluttering of flags and the occasional “Stand straight in your ranks and files” or “Watch your dressings!” from the officers. The engineers gave final instructions regarding the elevation of the gun barrels …

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… while Visconte Carjaval and his armoured knights struggled to restrain their destriers whilst adjusting shields, lances and helms. 

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Everyone knew that soon all hell would break loose!

Battle to follow asap

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The Battle Begins

The first to move were the gnoblars on the far flank, scurrying up behind the hill, barely noticed by either ogres or men.

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What caught the Pavonan soldiery’s eyes was the lonely advance of the Hunter and his two beasts to the left of the centre. He strode boldly as they loped proudly, neither he nor they appearing even slightly concerned at the profusion of barrels, both big and small, in front of them.

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Perhaps refusing to be out-done by the hunter, the little company of maneaters also chose to close on the foe, leaving the rest of Razger’s battle line behind.

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(Game Note: The Tilean players had failed to get their desperately needed and much prayed for first turn. Even as an impartial GM I voiced my concern that this could be the beginning of the end despite being only the beginning of the beginning!)

Moments later, the rest of the brute army marched on, the three main bodies of ogres outpacing the lumbering, war-machine bearing beasts between them, while the smaller body of bulls on their left began to angle away a little, as if to follow the maneaters.

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Mangler’s Butcher, Scabgash, marching front and centre of the largest body of bulls, now unleashed a powerful curse at the crew of the cannon before him, killing every one of them instantly, magically crushing their bones from the inside! (Game Note: 9 hits killed the cannon) As the report of this rippled through the regiment directly on the cannon’s right side, the despairing words met the same report coming from the other side, for the huge ironblaster had fired a roundshot more than twice as heavy as those employed by the Tileans’ pieces, over Razger’s head and right into another cannon, tearing it to pieces. It lay unrecognisable afterwards, with no sign of the crewmen who had been tending it only a moment before.

(Game Note: Insult to injury – the artillery heavy army, carefully selected to fight these ogres, had not only failed to get the first turn, but had already lost nearly half its cannons!)

The Pavonans could barely believe what had happened. Men and horses had put themselves through hell to haul those guns from Pavona, with several many perishing along the way from accidents or exhaustion. And yet here, before they had even fired once in anger, two had been destroyed. Still, this gloomy thought was soon lost, for the somewhat distracting sight of the advancing brute army dislodged it from most men’s minds!

The two bodies of leadbelchers came up on the right, their flank (unnecessarily) secured by the gnoblars, and also fired, but this time to no noticeable effect, apart from the terrifying thunderous roar, flash and smoke they caused. 

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Even now, with the ogres closing fast, the vast allied army seemed unready. Every man who could see the foe (and the army was so big there were many who had yet even to glimpse them) craved to see at least some ogres brought down before contact was made. Surely with this many artillery pieces, handguns, crossbows and even rockets, the enemy would at least be bloodied before the inevitable mayhem began? There was even confusion at the rear of the battle line, where the manifold roar of the enemy’s guns had several men arguing whether or not it was their own guns or the foe’s they had heard. One fellow even pushed a comrade to the ground for the insane suggestion that their own guns had yet to fire!

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All Duke Guidobaldo could do was give the command “Steady!” He himself was behind his band of Astianan Swordsmen – the brigand scum who had flocked to serve the victor’s army even as their city was being plundered by his Pavonan troops. He noted with a little satisfaction that the two cannons in front of him were just about to shoot.

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The arch-lector was also behind an artillery piece. His own words were more numerous and quieter, taking the form of a prayer, which he made in preparation for the prayers to come. They would not be so quiet, or at least their effect would not be, for they would invite the great god Morr to vent his wrath upon the enemy.

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(Next, the allies first turn…)

Edited by OgrePadre

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At last, and the wait had seemed as long as it was terrible, the drums began to beat and the horns were sounded. The armies of Pavona and Remas were ready to act.

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Knowing that they had been caught off-guard by the ogres sudden lurch forwards, and thus failed to deliver the barrage of shot they had fervently hoped for, they did not hold back now. Captain Ettore led the largest of the Pavonan halberdiers’ regiment in a charge against the maneaters, mainly because he was unwilling to be the recipient of their inevitable charge.

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Three of his soldiers died from the Maneaters’ massive pistols, followed by nine more when they made contact, all to very little observable effect against the thick-skinned brutes. But they had stopped the ogres’ advance and then they somehow held their ground to fight on. On the far right the Visconte Carjaval and his mounted men at arms smashed into the ironguts before them … 

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… killing two and wounding another. Not one knight had perished in the assault. The brutes turned and fled, while the visconte ordered his men to restrain their pursuit and reform to face the main body of the foe.

The Reman dwarfs, garbed in iron and steel from head to toe, marched in very fine order out from the battle line, wheeling a little to face the foe’s main regiments in the centre. This allowed the Cathayan’s behind them to march up and fill the gap so created.

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The Pavonan huntsmen moved boldly over the rocky hill towards the lines of still-smoking leadbelchers …

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… while on the other side of the hill young Lord Silvano led his last surviving Sharlian Riders (elven mercenaries) in a charge against the gnoblar trappers. The young lord was bloodied by one of the vicious traps the greenskins lobbed onto the ground before them. Half the gnoblars died in this assault, and the other half fled in panic only to be cut down by the riders pursuing them. Silvano’s pursuit took him and his riders right into the two monstrously large mournfang cavalry who were lumbering up that flank.

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As the Pavonan halberdiers struggled to hold their viciously strong and battle hardened opponents …  

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… the Morrite priest began their prayers in earnest, first cursing the flesh of one of the leadbelcher companies on the enemy’s right, then employing an amulet of coal to kill one of them. An iron round-shot plunged deep into the flesh of the rhinox carrying the ironblaster, and yet the beast still lived! Another round-shot felled one of Mangler’s bulls, but the third cannon and the Helstorm were unable to fire, most likely due to a combination of fear and overhaste on the part of crewmen.  Two thunderous volleys from the Pavonan handgunners brought down a brace of leadbelchers, while the Cathayan crossbow wounded another. On the other flank of the army, the Reman crossbow also felled a leadbelcher and sent the rest of them running!

Thus it was that using less than half the pieces that they had arrived on the field with they had managed to kill four ogres, wound several others, and even send some running. Captain General Duke Scaringella cursed angrily, furious that they had been unready to let loose with the full complement of artillery sooner. 

(Game Note: What a first turn it could have been if all the artillery had fired, followed by a second turn with the same, as well as 54 crossbow and 32 handgunners!)

Next, turn 2 …

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(Turn 2)

At almost the same moment, all the ogres who had turned to run now came to a halt and re-ordered themselves to re-join the line. Those leadbelchers on the right who had not run away now charged the huntsmen …

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… while in the centre of the field a veritable avalanche of charges were made. Even the gnoblars joined in! 

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As the gnob-mob hurled themselves, somewhat ambitiously, at the dwarfs, Mangler led his ironguts with rather more assurance of success into the Astianan swordsmen.

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The fury of the fight was a horror to behold as a dozen men were fatally crushed or torn apart barely drawing blood from the ogres. Those that survived fled away, pell-mell, so panicked that it took them some considerable time to notice that they were not pursued, and so broken that they never reformed. Thus, the last Astianan soldiers of any kind, being those serving their conqueror Duke Guidobaldo, were scattered. Their town lay in lamentable ruins, their people decimated and thrown across Tilea, and their soldiers lost forever.

The Butcher Scabgash and Mangler’s army standard bearer led a dozen bulls into Captain Augusto’s swordsmen …

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… killing nine men with the sheer impact of their charge alone! Although Augusto managed to gouge the flesh of the enemy’s standard bearer …

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… another half a dozen swordsmen were hacked in twain by the ogres’ massive blades. Like their Astianan comrades, they too fled, but unluckily for them the brute foe chose to run them down. Within moments there was not a man alive and the bulls found themselves stalled by the tiny obstacle of a Pavonan engineer, caught as he ran from the smoking ruins of one gun in order to reach another. 

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Razger led his own bulls into the flank of the halberdiers who had somehow halted the maneaters.

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Although another maneater was slain by halberd blades, all but three of the Pavonans lay dead and dying. As these three turned to run, the maneaters halted to allow their leader the privilege of pursuit. Not that Razger went very far, yet nevertheless another Pavonan regiment had been wiped out.

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The last two ironguts on the ogres far left watched in confusion as the hunter stumbled and his beasts halted, thus failing to reach the foe. 

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Perhaps this was due to the hail of scrap that landed on top of them? The gnoblars on the scraplauncher had aimed rather badly. They had no idea, however, as none were paying attention to where the shot had fallen, but rather busied themselves in unusual efficiency in preparation for their next shot.

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Ahead of the scraplauncher, the ironblaster had turned to present its muzzle at the mounted nobility on the Pavonan’s far right. The monstrous shot carried two knights – and their horses - away with it!

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As the Pavonan knights struggled to comprehend what had just happened, another of them fell mortally injured from the leadbelchers’ hail that moments later clattered at them. Visconte Carjaval cursed loudly, but although his men were dismayed, they were not yet broken, and awaited the visconte’s command.

Killing only one dwarf, but losing five of their own number, the gnoblars nevertheless stood their ground, pinning the dwarfs and preventing their chance to flank any ogres.

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Young lord Silvano and his elven guard (the Sharlian Riders), whose own momentum had carried them into the mournfangs, now struggled to master their mounts’ fear at the stench and size of their massive foe (Game Note: Failed fear test, so only WS1)

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… and as a consequence not one solid blow was laid upon the enemy. When all four elves then perished in a most bloody and horrible manner, Silvano (who had fought far more terrible foes at Ebino) recognised his situation was impossible, and so yanked at his reins in an attempt to escape. His horse turned and even managed a few steps, but was then gorged from behind by the mournfang’s huge tusks and hurled into the air. Silvano hit the ground hard, his own horse landing upon him. Barely noticing, the mournfang riders simply urged their beasts onwards, over the riders’ mangled remains.

Next, the Tilean Allies turn 2 …
 

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There were now a lot of Ogres massed on the left of their line, admittedly in a somewhat higgledy-piggledy fashion. Facing them were a much greater number of Pavonan soldiers, mostly handgunners, but ogres count for a lot more than one man.

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While the handgunners readied their pieces for a volley at close range, the halberdiers charged at Habbdok the Hunter and his hounds, and Visconte Carjaval and his mounted nobility attempted to reach the brace of lead-belchers upon the slope of the hill. The foot-soldiers successfully closed with the enemy, but the knights failed because the lead-belchers chose, quite sensibly, to flee.

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The Pavonan gunners manning the piece on the left of their own line frantically dragged their charge backwards, so that the Cathayan halberdiers could close upon Mangler and his Ironguts, so preventing the ogres from attacking the dwarfs’ flank. Captain General Duke Scaringella joined them, steeling himself for the fight of his life, indeed a fight for his life.

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The Morrite priests’ prayers sadly failed to cause any harm, but the allies had much more mundane means of doing so and brought them to bear. The dismounted pistoliers now strode boldly forwards, weapons cocked in each hand, to fire their pistols at Razger Boulderguts and his bulls …

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… killing two ogres. Both the nearby regiments of handgunners joined the effort, but their powder was apparently inferior, for they could not even bring down one ogre. They merely bloodied the foe. At the same moment, however, an iron round-shot slammed messily through three ogres in the rear of Razger’s other unit of bulls, killing all of them, and a lucky shot from the Pavonan engineer’s Hochland rifle also brought down one of the fleeing lead-belchers.

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As the smoke cleared the Pavonans were nevertheless dismayed, recognising that although they had hurt the foe, there were still too many remaining. The halberdiers fighting Habbdok did manage to kill one of his beasts, but at such a heavy cost to themselves – half a dozen dead – that they lost heart, broke and ran. The roar of the last sabretusk, conjoined with smell of spattered blood, spooked the knights’ horses so much that the visconte and his  guard were forced to yield and allow them to bolt, otherwise they would have been thrown. Thus they found themselves, at the very moment they had hoped to deliver a coup de grace to one of the battered bodies of bulls before them, instead fleeing from the fight! Habbdok and his last beast pursued the fleeing halberdiers, only halting when they hit the dismounted pistoliers.

On the far side of the field, however, the tide was turning in the allies’ favour. Scaringella’s cannon felled a Mournfang and sent the other fleeing from the field, which made that flank look a lot less threatening. Apart from one or two lead-belchers staggering about under the weight of their oversized burdens, there was little left of the foe. The Remans drew hope from the sight. Better yet, the dwarfs finally sent the gnoblars running, then coolly and with great discipline, reformed to face Mangler and his ironguts.

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For the first time that day, the allies were squaring up for a fight that they looked like they might win!

Next, the final turns…

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Thanks ConOgre. Here's the final installment ...

-----------------------------------------------

(The final turns)

Like any ogre, Mangler would not wait for the enemy to charge. He led his warriors headlong into the Cathayan halberdiers beside the dwarfs. He did not ponder the options, knowing in his gut they were the softer of the two possibilities - their relatively thin and less well-armoured bodies promised a speedy destruction, which should mean that he and his lads smashed right through them before the dwarfs could counter-attack his flank. Besides, he had spotted the enemy’s baggage in the rear and greed always had a habit of getting the better of him.

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Behind Mangler, his bulls crashed into the last of the Pavonan swordsmen, right beside their lord Duke Guidobaldo. (Game note: The Pavonan player, actually playing Duke Guidobaldo in the campaign, had agonised over whether it was best to join the unit or not. I thought it was crazy not to, but he decided it was for the best to ‘remain single’.)

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On the other side of the field, amidst a confusion of blue and white, with Pavonans running hither and thither, even through their comrades’ ranks and files, Razger tore into and right through the handgunners closest to him before they could even bring their muzzles to bear.

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This was the beginning of the end for the Pavonans. The handgunners – what few were not only left standing but also retained wits enough to do so – fled away, as did the handgunners at their side, thus joining the halberdiers’ frantic flight to form a turbulent river of broken men. The dismounted pistoliers would soon be swept up too. Visconte Carjaval, having successfully halted and reformed his noble men-at-arms, witnessed this sudden collapse. In that moment, his breath ragged with exhaustion, he chose not to sacrifice himself and the proud chivalry of Pavona in an almost certainly futile gesture of defiance. Instead, he gave the order to ride, and ride fast. He intended to find Duke Guidobaldo and, as he shouted to his men, “Look to our lord’s safety.”

What the visconte didn’t know was that Mangler’s large regiment of bulls had made very short work of the last Pavonan swordsmen, stepping forwards to find themselves in combat with the duke himself! 

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Another boom advertised the ironblaster’s next shot, its massive ball killing five of the Reman dwarfs. The Scrap-launcher’s effort was badly directed, for the burden beast carrying the contraption had been startled by the ironblaster’s report, and its heavy hail of sharpened iron poured upon the mules, oxen and wagons of the baggage train rather than the enemy’s soldiers. 

Duke Scaringella, for more than a decade Captain General of the Reman army, as was his father before him, and in all that time having not fought a single battle that was not already a forgone conclusion, now found himself in the deadliest of combats. He knew this was the moment his life had always been shaping him for, and that the rest of his life would be shaped by, which is why he chose to challenge the brute tyrant Mangler himself. His lance found its mark and grey flesh was pierced, but then Manglers’ riposte almost broke the duke’s shield arm, threatening to tear him from his saddle.

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Somehow, he held tight. Dropping his shattered lance, he tore his sword from its scabbard and screamed: “Fight, lads. Fight!”    

Crossbow bolts were loosed by the dozen, and a cannon boomed, killing two more of the lead-belchers on the ogres’ right, and scaring the rest away. Then another cannon shot brought the monstrous beast carrying the ironblaster down, the ball almost taking its head from its shoulders.

The dwarfs now charged into Mangler’s flank, and their butchery was astounding. As Mangler finally bashed Duke Scaringella off his horse, then broke the horse’s neck with his elbow, the ironguts beside him were all but annihilated.

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Suddenly the mighty Mangler found himself surrounded by a dizzying crowd of assailants. Their jabs, thrusts and slashes came from all quarters, while the weight of their numbers made it hard to discern one from another. Stumbling backwards, blood pouring from half a dozen gaps between his iron scales, he realised his huge bardiche was no longer in his hands. For the first time ever, the urge to fight had been supplanted by something different. Before he could fully comprehend what it was, he was dead, falling beside the battered body of Duke Scaringella. One of the dwarfs scrambled over the brute tyrant’s corpse, shouting, “The duke!” and began to drag the armoured noble away.

Duke Guidobaldo, having exchanged several blows most gallantly with the enemy before him – enough, he hoped, to distract them momentarily – now gambled his life on the obedience and strength of his mount. Yanking on the reins as he struck his hammer at the lead ogres’ face, he turned about and urged his horse on. He had to outpace the brutes behind him, despite their size and despite the armour upon both him and his horse. His horse, reputed the finest in central Tilea, proved sufficient to the task and the duke escaped the ogres’ further harmful intentions, galloping like he had not done since his youth.

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The field had become divided from left to right. On one side of the field the Remans were reforming their line to face the foe, while on the other almost every alliance soldier had fled leaving only Razger and his surviving warriors, as well as quite a number of Mangler’s ogres, albeit in a rather less neat formation than the men. In between the two the ground was strewn with ragged heaps men and brutes, dead or wounded, as well as the smoking remains of several guns.

The Remans still had two Pavonan cannons with them, as well as their own piece …

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… and at such a distance they presented a sight which none of the ogres were glad to see. Those were the guns that had not yet failed. They had cut down mournfangs, rhinoxes and many an ogre, and there was no reason to suppose they would not continue to do so. Advancing upon the last surviving Reman regiments would prove costly to Razger’s army, perhaps even fatal? As his brutes stopped their stomping and reformed their bodies, Razger took a breather and gave the situation some thought.

He could see the loot was still safe – not a man had got close to the heavily burdened wagons. Scrutinizing the field ahead, he guessed Mangler must surely have fallen in battle, simply by the fact that neither he nor any of his irongut bodyguard could be seen. Suddenly, Razger realised this suited him just fine. Almost all the loot in the baggage train had been Mangler’s - payment and bribes for his continued mercenary service. If Mangler was dead, whose loot was it now? And who would command his warriors? If Razger left now, with all the loot and whichever lads could still march, he decided that wouldn’t be so bad. If anything, it was better than things had been before the battle when virtually none of the loot was his and only half of his army could be trusted. Razger’s mouth twisted into a grin, as wicked as it was fierce, and he shouted to two of his lads to listen up.

The dwarfs dragged Duke Scaringella away from the heap of dead and dying Cathayans, then turned him over to look at him properly. There was no sign of life in his eyes, and his chest plate was caved in so deep his ribs must all have broken and his lungs burst beneath. They laid him down gently, then all but one returned to their places in the regiment. The other ran towards the arch-lector to deliver the bad news. 

To the south of the battlefield, Duke Guidobaldo Gondi had rendezvoused with Visconte Carjaval, and was now riding, somewhat faster than the scattered clumps of footsoldiers around him, in a wide arc to avoid the foe and get to the Reman lines. There he hoped to find his son, and whatever remained of his army.

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Back at the ogres’ wagons, gnoblars, draught-slaves and bulls alike, watched with suspicion as two ogres, Razger’s lads, raced towards them.

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As they drew close, the nearest shouted. “Hitch ‘em up and get ready to shift. We’re moving off now.”

One of the bulls by the wagons, called Gordok, strode forwards, a great long whip in hand. “On whose say so?”
 
“Razger’s orders,” came the answer.

“I take orders from Mangler, like most of us here. Razger can ask him if he wants some shiftin’ done.”

“You’ll not be getting orders from Mangler n’more,” said the new arrival, laughing. “So if ya know what’s good for yer, you’ll shut it now an’ do as yer told.”

Game Notes

The battle was effectively over by turn 3! Which was helpful as our time was up too. 10.00 – 5.00 had seemed like plenty of time, but the armies were so big, and the conversation flowed fully. Luckily, this did not in any way hinder the game-world outcome or story, because the table top was indeed divided. From here on in it would be like starting another battle, this time fighting from east to west rather than from north to south. None of the players would have wanted that even if there was time. Matt (Duke Guidobaldo of Pavona) had little left of his forces, and his only hops was to regain some sort of a force from casualty recovery and retreating what he had from the field. He was also hoping his son Silvano’s ‘Character Recovery Roll’ (a campaign rules chart) might bring the lad back. This is indeed possible as he wasn’t overkilled, although it is only a 5+ chance after a draw. He has have yet to make that roll.

Jamie, aka Razger Boulderguts, had begun the battle with renewed confidence. Earlier in the week he had worried about the enemy having 1500 more points, and whether he could trust Mangler, wondering whether Razger should simply flee away, perhaps attempting to employ Mangler’s slow-moving force (due to the baggage train) as a stall. But as the armies were being deployed for the game, and he considered the two opposing players difficulties in coordination on the field, as well as his own obvious strength (despite the points on paper disparity), I could see he was much more confident. In truth, he went away happy, because he now has a chance of re-possessing all the loot, possibly gaining control of Mangler’s ogres to replace the losses in his own ranks, and even perhaps getting back ‘home’ to Campogrotta in the north. (All that, I presume, will be in the campaign thread later.)

You probably noticed that the NPC Duke Scaringella of Remas failed the character recovery roll, scoring a measly 2, thus the dwarfs finding him dead. The player playing him, and commanding all the Reman forces, was Damo (who actually plays Lord Alessio Falconi of Portomaggiore in the campaign) had been given a character guide of two full pages of background, motivations and political goals, as well as the full army list etc. I have to say he played the part very well. If you want to know his motivations in a nutshell, then see the end of the prequel story, which was fashioned out of the information I gave to Damo. Excerpt ...

“[Scaringella] must defend Remas, of course, either by destroying the ogres or chasing them away. His victory must be glorious, so he can return to Remas as a hero, winning the citizens’ favour. He must earn a good portion of the loot so that he can feed and pay the army; and he must prove to be so effective on the field of battle that the Pavonan duke is grateful, becoming an important ally during the struggle ahead. Yet he must do all these things without suffering crippling losses, for he will need the army to put the Disciplinati di Morr back in their place upon [the arch-lector’s] return to Remas.”

Admittedly, his death does not sound too successful, and the Remans never got the ogres’ loot, but I am saying he played the role amazingly well, not that the character was happy about the result! All the way through Damo was happy to give advice to his ally, and did so in such a way that it took until turn 2 before the rest of us realised that the Pavonans had been tricked into doing nearly all the hard fighting! The result was quite a good one for Remas: the arch-lector lives, having much of the Reman army left(1/3 casualties on the field are also be recovered after a draw). They have  chased the ogres away, thus gaining a victory (another one) to win support for the arch-lector back home. And the Pavonans might be very loyal allies, especially if they desperately need help! That isn’t bad compared to defeat and annihilation!

I would love to go into all the political repercussions and other potential consequences of the battle, as well as what the various parties involved might do as a result of it, but I can’t. For a start, I can’t discuss players’ plans and thoughts for gameplay reasons. (That’s why I do so many stories from NPC perspectives.) And secondly it would take so long that it would fill several pages with a tortuous explanation of ifs and buts, whys and hows, etc. Let’s just say it’s complicated! Very complicated. And changing all the time.  It’ll all most likely come out in subsequent stories! 

So with both sides unwilling to fight on, and both Remans and Razger finding something good about their situation (although not Duke Guidobaldo!), they agreed a draw. Both sides would now back away from each other, recovering what they could in the process without risking being drawn back into a fight.

Many thanks to Mark of M&L Models in Pontefract for hosting the game. It’s a great venue, welcoming and with good facilities (tables, scenery, etc). I heartily recommend it to any ‘local’ gamers, and I hope to use it again.  
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