With some spare time on my hands I thought it was apt that I have a another go at a game (after all I have spent enough time painting figures), but rather than catch up on the Ruritanian games I had planned I decided to explore the IHMN Gothic supplement. This as available online as part of the IHMN site and contains special rules and companies for classic Gothic horror encounters including Frankenstein and his monster, vampires and Werewolves.
For this encounter I decided to bin my own lists for the Wolfen and werewolf hunters and go with the characters taken directly from the supplement. This at least gave me the opportunity to use my werewolf figures that I had professionally painted at least a decade ago and have never used on table.
King Rudolf was not in a good mood. Not only was he still angry at the editorial featured in a provincial newspaper critical of his close friendship with Hans Belbeck, and the claimed moral decreptitude of his court, but he was so far unable to convince the members of his royal council that the implicit insults contained in the infamous Pickstock telegram were of such a severe nature that only a military response is acceptable. Princess Flavia in particular was strident in her ridiculous opposition to such measures, and insisting that reform of the court was required.
Then there are the continuous demands from the barely civilised provincial regions. Demands for troops to combat bandits, for funds to build hospitals and schools, and of course complaints about taxes and tariffs. And now a secret meeting with the Cardinal of Strelsau had forced him to allow the Templars to operate within the borders of Ruritanian.
Over the last few months reports had been received of bloody and murderous raids on farms and settlements in the wild and mountainous east. Police investigations had brought forward no answers, and soon rumours of black legend and horror began to spread. A squadron of royal dragoons was sent to the region and their patrols brought back only news of death and destruction, and towns packed with refugees cowering behind town walls each night. Finally one patrol failed to return. Their remains, half devoured and torn limb from limb, man and horse were found in what was obviously their encampment close to the town of Rasca. Not one man survived, and the diary of the commanding subaltern gave no clue to their fate except the noting of packs of wolves seen around the camp each night. Still missing though is the corpse of the guide who volunteered to lead the troop through the forest. His remains did not lie with the rest, though his clothes, torn and shredded in the midst of the camp.
The Cardinal had harrangued the King, claiming he cared only about his comfort and pleasures while his subjects suffered the assault of the Devil’s Legions. In the end Rudolf set the Royal Seal to a commission for the Templars to lead an expedition into the mountains to investigate just what was happening. Damn these interfering Churchmen, lecturing me as if I am a mere child, thought Rudolf as he reached for a jug of finest cooled Rhenish. At least the cost of this adventure is to be borne by the Templars ..... and they can take the blame for anything that may go wrong!
This is a big mistake! The thought simply would not leave his head. Five days of creeping about the forested mountains of the Transylvania Alps had brought the force to the remote valley, hidden from sight and memory where the subject of their search was rumoured to lie. Here stood the ruins of an ancient temple, old when Christ was born, these stones were claimed to be soaked in the sacrificed blood of innocents, and now the lair of a pack of murderous wolves responsible for the attacks in the area.
Using the gold of the Templars, he had recruited a company of Wolfenjager, specialist hunters armed with muzzle loading rifles designed to pick off their prey at long distance. They had laughed , albeit nervously, when their bullet moulds were filled with molten silver, and their long daggers coated in more of the precious metal. The head hunter though understood, he at least had hunted the Accursed before.
The Inspector of Police had insisted that he join the company, and he brought with him a number of his officers armed with revolvers and clubs, and local farmers and townfolk dispossessed by the attacks or simply seeking adventure, these armed with a variety of muskets, pistols, blunderbusses swords and daggers.
|The Templar's Party|
At the insistence of the Wolfenjager, and against his own judgement they had divided their forces as they approached the hidden valley. The Hunters supported by a group of villagers and police would occupy a steep hill overlooking the temple location and take cover. Their flanks would be covered by The Templar leading the Villagers and police, and also be a pair of huge mastiffs steeled in the hunting of wolves. Meanwhile the remainder of the police and villagers would sweep to the east around the valley, then move forward driving the wolves toward the hidden and waiting hunters, who would simply pick the creatures off ending the reign of terror.
The huge blessed sword felt heavy in his hand, the sweat poured down his back under the mail and steel breastplate as they edged carefully forward through the forest towards the base of the steep hill crowned by massive standing stones. Suddenly, faint but clear, from somewhere in front of them the cry of wolves and scattered gunshots were heard. The Templar ordered his nervous followers to hurry and turned to climb the hill just as a huge wolf bounded down the hill towards him. His sword suddenly lightened in his hand as the silvered edge slashed through the thick hide of the wolf, as its own claws scarred the steel of his breastplate.
He became aware of screams and howls to his flank, and horrific creatures of nightmare were half glimpsed tearing into the police and villagers, and blood sprayed across the grass. By his side the police inspector was thrown to the ground by a creature from nightmare.
At the far end of the valley the horror was multiplied. The group was led by a young volunteer known for his courage and strength and called the Lamplighter. As they approached an ancient ruin in the valley a wave of ferocious, snarling wolves swept towards their line. Muskets were raised in readiness, when being like tall powerful wolves, but moving on two legs bounded amongst them razor sharp claws reaching for them, drooling fangs exposed. The courage of the villagers and our young hero evaporated, and as urine trickled down his thigh the young man turned and fled followed by half his command.
In a race between men and wolves there can only be one winner. The fleeing villagers were dragged to the ground and savaged by the beasts, with four legs or two that pursued them. Those who stood and fought did so with a hopeless courage that saw a leaping wolf brought down by a revolver round, even as the police officer sank to the ground his throat opened to the bone. Within minutes almost whole party was down, badly wounded or dead; only the Lamplighter, stunned, staggered to his feet and drew his dagger to face the ring of wolfen that surrounded him. His screams echoed around the valley as the jaws reached him even as his blade sank into the heart of a wolf.
The Templar, turned again to face his attackers as the Wolfenjager dashed to join him. The Inspector lay on the grass stunned, his officer lay dead, but the villagers stood by his side, shaken, afraid, but determined. The wolfen meanwhile had melted back into the forest over the hill crest. They move so damned quickly thought the Templar as he rallied his force and led them up the hill. From the ridgeline the Templar gazed down into the densely wooded valley. In the middle of the trees the ruins of the ancient temple drew his eyes, they seemed deserted but was that a trap? The trees could hide a thousand enemies and prevented his skilled marksmen from seeking their targets. It would be wise to withdraw, but the enemy moved like lightning in the forest and would probably hunt them down before they could reach safety. Holding the hill would be difficult as the trees provided good cover for any attack, especially at night where they risked being overwhelmed. The hunts master urged an advance on the Temple, no doubt hungry for gold, but the stone walls might provide good cover, if only they could get there! Reluctantly he ordered the advance the hunters to the fore and the rest as rearguard.
They moved forward cautiously the hunters with their weapons loaded with silver bullets and ready to fire on sight. The forest echoed with the howling of wolves, but none could be seen lurking in the shadows. The first of the hunters clambered over the fallen masonry on to the temple platform, and froze as a wave of grey swept towards them. The trees exploded as wolves and wolfmen swarmed into the attack. A blunderbuss crammed with silver shot misfired as a wolfen leapt on to the hunter. Muskets snapped, and fired, the smoke adding to the confusion and in moments the Templar stood alone on the highest point of the ruins. Around him lay the torn and broken bodies of his companions, and a ring of snarling, drooling fangs and blazing red eyes. Through the wolfen company a huge, shaggy brown creature approached. Realisation dawned in the Templar’s brain as he slipped a communion wafer into his mouth before raising his sword high and leaping to the attack.
Darkness fell and no sound could be heard in the cursed glade ....... except the cracking of bone and rending of human flesh as the Wolfen fed!.
Playing the game
As usual the game was fought as a solo effort. Having set up the terrain I then placed the Wolfen on the table. Two groups were placed on the hills, a third group was placed centrally around the temple ruins. The attacking force were placed randomly as indicated by the roll of a die. As it happens the two strongest groups started close together, while the third began at the opposite end of the table. Splitting forces is not a good idea, but within the scenario where the strength and make up of the enemy force is not know treating the situation like a wolf hunt makes sense with one group driving the prey onto the waiting guns.
Unluckily the prey were far from panicked by the situation. The wolfen consisted of an Accursed Hybrid, 5 werewolf hybrids, and 8 wolves all straight from the IHMN HV and F or Gothic lists, but with added stealth talent, the hybrids were also able to act as medics to the Wolfen company. I also allowed the hybrids to move at the same rate as the wolves, as every film I have seen emphasises the lightning quickness of the beasts. And did they move fast, literally running rings around the opposition. Rushing from the trees to savage the enemy then dashing back into cover, helped by consistently winning the initiative roll.
I was not aware of the effect of the Horror talent until halfway through the action, thanks to a FB message from Craig. Instead I used the Terrifying talent, and that seemed to work as the group of villagers acting as beaters panicked when attacked with half of them running away, only to be caught by the charging wolfen.
The dense terrain certainly suited the Wolfen, plenty of places to hide, and a real scarcity of clear fields of fire. This meant that usually firing only happened in the advance to contact. This meant the blunderbusses were next to useless and the ones that were fired suffered from a throw of 1 and another of 3. I allowed those armed with revolvers to fire twice when being charged and this snap shooting was effective. In future though I would upgrade the hunter’s weapons to breechloaders instead of rifled muskets as the time taken to reload is too long in this scenario. I thought that it would take a full volley to hold back a wolfen charge, but that would leave the hunters helpless if their shooting was off target, as it turns out advancing slowly and loaded did not work either. The Templar was certainly effective hacking down a wolf on first contact, and shrugging off two hybrid attacks before falling to a dual attack by the Accursed Hybrid and a wolf.