Now, having a set of Warhammer skirmish rules is all fine and dandy, but how do you actually use them? This is just the question we asked ourselves when we had the idea to use these rules to create a Vampire hunting scenario. We thought it'd be a good idea to give you an account of what we did, hopefully to inspire you to do the same and pass on the lessons we learned.
Inspiration comes from many places, but is basically the core idea of the scenario. You'll probably already have this thought out - in our case we wanted to do a Vampire Hunt, but there are many others. For example, a Bretonnian Knight's quest in the Massif Orcal, tomb-raiding in Khemri, Goblin-bashing in Karak Azgal, and so on.
You also have to consider who is going to write the game. We all got involved in designing the scenario, but it can work equally well if one player writes up their idea and then runs it for a couple of their mates as a Gamesmaster.
As the heroes and villains of any scenario, the characters you use will play an important part. However, remember that, in a skirmish game, characters are more potent than in a massed battle. We recommend you limit yourselves to one or two Hero-level characters per side (ie. Dwarf Thane, Empire Warrior Priest, Orc Big Boss, Marauder Chieftain etc.). Obviously for our Vampire Hunt game we needed a Vampire, and liked the idea of a Strigoi Thrall (not too powerful) skulking around in the graveyards. We were pondering how to create the illustrious witch hunter when Alessio remembered Johann and Wilhelm, a Witch Hunter Regiment of Renown from the last edition of Warhammer. We dug out the appropriate issue of White Dwarf and updated them to use in our scenario (see the full rules later).
Once you know who the stars of the show will be, it's time to cast the supporting actors. Like the characters, the narrative of the skirmish will suggest certain troop types, and you can use the points values in the army list to make sure each side has roughly an equivalent number of fighters - unless of course you deliberately want one side to be outmatched! With a witch hunting party in mind, it became clear that some torch-bearing, pitchfork-wielding peasants would be in order. Unfortunately, there's no 'Torch-and-pitchfork Peasants' entry in any of the army lists, but the Empire Free Company seemed to fit the bill nicely. To balance them out, the Strigoi Vampire would have some of his slavering Ghouls to accompany him. To add a bit of variety and more of a tactical element, we also gave the forces of light a couple of archers, and upgraded one of the Free Company to a Sergeant and one of the Ghouls to a Ghast.
Once you know who's involved you have to work out where the skirmish takes place. Like the forces, this will probably be informed by the scenario you are going to recreate. Treasure hunting in Khemri? That'll be tombs, pyramids and the like. Cold One hunting under Naggaroth? You'll need tunnels and caverns then. Obviously, you'll need to consider what is actually in your terrain collection - although some gamers will make the odd piece of terrain specifically for special scenarios, which is a good way of expanding your scenery collection. For our Vampire Hunt, we wanted the haunt of a Strigoi vampire, and so decided on the semi-ruined outskirts of an Empire town, with a graveyard in one corner and a spooky wood with an ancient barrow in the middle.
Having decided what terrain you are using, you'll
have to decide where everyone is going to start the
battle. Is everyone deployed at once, or are some held as reinforcements? Part of
is also deciding who goes first. Something else to bear in mind is
whether models can start the game hidden,
whether models that move onto
the table later can charge in the same turn, and so on.
As with any game, you need to know who won at the end. Sometimes this may be as straightforward as using victory points, adapting the values given in the scenarios section of Warhammer. Other times you may want to just fight it out until one side fails a rout test and therefore loses. Some scenarios may need more specific objectives, such as capturing a certain place or object, escaping with a proportion of your force, slaying a particular enemy and so on.
For our game, it was obvious that killing the Vampire was the most important thing the Witch Hunter was trying to achieve. By extending this, we thought that once the Witch Hunter and his Warrior Priest friend were dead, the peasantry would soon flee, and so the victory conditions were brutally simple. If the Vampire dies, the Empire player wins, if Van Hal and Wilhelm are killed, the Vampire player wins.
With relatively few models on each side, you can add a little extra detail to your scenario to help the story develop and to provide some interesting gameplay alternatives. There's too many things you can do to list them all here, but dickering with die magic, weather, night-fighting, ambushes, hiding rules and all manner of other factors you can turn a relatively simple fight into a really interesting scenario.
Having decided to start the Vampire's location unknown to the Empire player, we then carried this further and devised a way to randomly determine when he arose from his slumber. Also, we thought it appropriate that the graveyard would provide plentiful corpses for raising from their eternal sleep and made the Invocation of Nehek spell more effective when cast in the cemetery.
While Gav, Jake and I were designing this 'Vampire Hunt' scenario, we thought it would be interesting to offer readers an insight on the process of creating a Warhammer skirmish scenario.
I will hereby present a series of guidelines we came up with and we felt were a good start towards making your own enjoyable little game. Keep in mind that these are not hard and fast rules, but just a set of suggestions. After all, you must leave some of your competitive spirit out of this and be prepared to play something that will probably not be as well-balanced as the battle game. The only way I can imagine the self-designed small skirmishes to be competitive is for the players to swap sides at the end of the first game and see who can play better with both sides.
But now let's look at our recipe for the perfect Warhammer Skirmish scenario:
We wanted to represent the following situation: a Witch Hunter's band, led by Johann van Hal and Wilhelm Hasburg, has reached the ruins of an abandoned town, where they know a Strigoi Vampire is hiding. They have to cut their way through the many servants of the Undead abomination and finally destroy it.
Forces set-up: The Vampires player sets up the Ghouls anywhere more than 6" away from the Witch Hunter deployment zone (they can start the game hidden) and writes down if the Vampire is sleeping in the Mausoleum in the graveyard or in the Barrow in the forest. Do not place the model on the table.
Then the Witch Hunters set up everything they've got in their deployment zone.
The Vampire wins by killing both Johann and Wilhelm. The Witch Hunters win by killing the Strigoi Vampire. If both side achieve the victory conditions during the same player's turn, the game is a draw.
The Witch Hunters move first. At the beginning of the third Undead turn, roll a dice, the Vampires wakes up on a roll of a 6. If he doesn't, roll a dice at the beginning of the next turn, when he wakes up on the roll of a 4+. If he still does not stir, he will automatically wake up at the beginning of turn 5. When the Vampire wakes up he can move normally out of the Mausoleum/Barrow (but cannot charge in the turn he wakes up). Neither side needs to take Rout Tests; the game continues until one side achieves the victory conditions.
If the Witch Hunters enter the Barrow or the Mausoleum while the Vampire is still sleeping, then the Vampire must be revealed if he's present and immediately placed face down in the building, counting as stunned. In the next Undead turn's Recovery phase he will wake up and turn to the Knocked Down position (face up) and the game continues as normal. Good Luck!
While we were playing our Vampire Hunt we came across a few unforeseen wrinkles in the rules. Some of these are covered in Alessio and Gav's bits of this article, but the following should be considered official amendments and clarifications to the Warhammer Skirmish rules: