Wednesday, 5 August 2015

BOYL 2015 - The Trolltooth Wars Have Begun!

 It started with an ambush. When Balthus Dire's bloodlusting Hill Goblins mount their raid on the Strongarm caravan, little do they realise what dramatic consequences their actions will have. For that caravan carries Cunnelwort, a mystical herb from Eastern Allansia, destined for none other than the evil srceror, Zharradan Marr!

War - between two forces well-matched for evil - is soon to ensue...

(Steve Jackson, The Trolltooth Wars. 1989)

Fast forward twenty six years and the dramatic events that unfold in what has to be one of my favourite fantasy novels of all time have finally made it to the table top!

Illustration - Russ Nicholson

Long have I muttered about playing out the action described in The Trolltooth Wars with my good friend Warlord Paul and we finally got the ball rolling in style on the first day of BOYL 2015.

Chapter 1 The Rain of Death

"Goblins! Goblins!" A voice rang out through the darkness like an alarm bell, shattering the stillness of the night. "We are under attack! Take guard! Goblins! Ambush!" (Steve Jackson, The Trolltooth Wars. 1989)
The Strongarm caravan realised their folly too late as rabid Hill Goblins flung themselves from the surrounding crags of the Trolltooth Pass!

The thirty eight Strongarm mercenaries were hopelessly outnumbered but still they readied their weapons and fought to overcome the shock of the ambush.

Above them the rocks teemed with more Hill Goblins...

Amongst them their chief Foulblade and his battle-sergeant Orcleaver snarled in frustration - the Goblins' imetuousness had meant that the trap had been sprung a little earlier than intended. Still the Humans were surrounded and the outcome still looked decidedly bad for them.

The first screaming wave of Hill Goblins crash down in the ill-prepared mercenaries.

Zharradan Marr's Legionary horsemen have little room to maneuver and their lances are next to useless in the confusion. 

More Hill Goblins arrive to join the fray (Nik Dixon arrived with reinforcements!)

Things look grim as Strongarms and Legionaries drop like flies...

Soon the caravans themselves come under attack and what little hope of escape may have lingered begins to wane...

and is extinguished as a cut off group of Hill Goblins blocks off the pass all together. Donnag Kannu, charged by Zharradan Marr to procure a shipment of Cunnelwort and bring it safely back to his Master's lair in Coven, begins to regret his decision to attempt the Trolltooth Pass at night...

The noose tightens for the Humans...

However, small pockets of resistance begin to appear where the mercenaries have managed to withstand the initial onslaught. In particular, the brave efforts of the Strongarm Sergeant serve to rally his men and make the Hill Goblins pay dearly for each inch of ground they win,

A Strongarm Captain cries out a warning as Foulblade joins the fray...
... An instant later his screams were silenced when a necklace of blood appeared at his throat; the rabid Hill Goblin Chief, wielding a dripping knife, shoved him from his horse and took his place in the saddle.The berserk attacker was foaming at the mouth and cackling with savage joy as he grabbed the horse's reins and yanked them brutally to one side. The frenzied beast resisted, whinnying and bucking, and for an instant its eyes met those of the Goblin. Then the terrified horse turned, as its new master had commanded, to face the terrible scene of carnage lit up in the flickering torchlight. (Steve Jackson, The Trolltooth Wars. 1989)
Paul, having not only done a wonderful job in painting up a whole bunch of Great Orcs from Black Tree Design, also modelled a mounted version of Foulblade ( a Gangantua Orc from Ral Partha I believe) to reflect the events that unfold in the story - lovely attention to detail!

 Fighting desperately to keep control of the two drawhorses, Donnag Kannu was on his feet, gripping their bridles to steady them as they tried to break free. (Steve Jackson, The Trolltooth Wars. 1989)
Cracking the whip, the terrified Caravan Master burst through the cordon of Hill Goblins, leaving his mercenaries to fight and die behind him.
The beleagured Strongarms barely noticed the flight of their erstwhile Paymaster as the last few survivors were cut down.
Seeing his prize in danger of getting away, Foulblade spurs his panicking mount into pursuit...
Seconds later the two were alongside each other. The Goblin steadied  himself. then with a daring leap, he jumped from his horse on to the wagon. Donnag Kannu looked around in despair to see the bulky creature crawling awkwardly over the jostling wagon to its seat, where the reins were tied... (Steve Jackson, The Trolltooth Wars. 1989)
Donnag Kannu drew his short sword once more and readied himself to sell his life dearly - a life that would be worthless if he were to report to his master, Zharradan Marr, without the valuable cargo he had been pledged to deliver. The Goblin's yellowing teeth flashed in a ugly smile as its scimitar hissed through the air inches from Kannu's face. As Man and Goblin raced through the darkness of the mountain pass, they traded desperate blows. The end came swiftly to Kannu - short sword jolted from his hand by a stumbling horse and his life blood flowing from the vicious gash in his neck, left by Foulblade's wicked scimitar.

Illustration - Russ Nicholson, the Trolltooth Wars 1989
The Chief returned to the scene of battle to find his Goblins victorious. Long would they feast on the flesh of horse and man alike. Taking his battle-sergeant, Orcleaver, to one side, they investigated the over-turned wagons to search out their prize. As the chests were thrown open, Foulblade felt fury surge through his veins as the expected gold turned out to be a sweet smelling herb. However, the aromatic odour that wafted up from the open chests soothed and beguiled the foul creatures.

"Chief! Master! See! Look this!" A young Goblin came running up to the wagon, grunting excitedly and clutching something in his hand. The clanking of his scimitar against his armour startled the drawhorse, and the wagon lurched forward, sending Foulblade and his sergeant sprawling. Both Goblins were awakened by the jolt. They picked themselves up and scowled at the youngster.

The panting Goblin stopped beside the wagon and held out his hand. "Find this!" he spluttered. "Round neck human! More on others! See!" Hanging from his clenched fist was a leather thong. As his fingers slowly uncurled, the two Goblins gasped as with a single voice.

"No! Not pos'ble!" stammered Orcleaver. "Gods' eyes, NO!" But the evidence was there before them. They fell silent as they realised what they had done. And they shuddered at the possible consequences. For, lying in the Goblin's dirty palm, was a medallion of dull metal with two figures - the number "85" - cast into it.

(Steve Jackson, The Trolltooth Wars, 1989)

And so the Hill Goblins of Balthus Dire realise they have inadvertently destroyed a caravan belonging to the powerful sorcerer, Zharradan Marr, and defended by the soldiers of his legions - marked out by the medallion which bears their number.

The game was great fun to play and the Orc's Drift inspired mechanic that Warlord Paul had in place meant that I could take plenty of satisfaction in taking as many Hill goblins with my doomed Strongarms as was possible - the number of Hill Goblin casualties would affect the number of/strength of the Goblin Tribes who could turn up to the final battle in the last scenario.

Edit - I forgot to mention yesterday/how our scenario differed slightly to the book. Obviously in the book Zharradan Marr finds out about the ambush on his caravan because Donnag Kannu managed to escape the clutches of Foulblade by cutting his horses from the wagon he was driving and galloping off into the night. Kannu unfortunately met a sticky end in our game so we'll have to assume that the news makes it way to the spectral sorcerer in some other fashion. Perhaps a wounded legionary made it out of the pass in the darkness. Perhaps Marr had the caravan under surveillance through magical means and was notified by some enchanted carrion crow he had in his service. Either way Zharradan Marr is not a very happy Undead Half Elf now and Foulblade has every reason to feel somewhat nervous about the consequences of his actions!

So what's next?

Well we need to play out the small scene where the Night Shadow attacks Foulblade's camp and ends up entangling Orcleaver - should be an interesting little game with a very low model count!

After that it'll be Thugruff's revenge where the boot will most definitely be on the other foot as Zharradan Marr's Legionaries get to do a bit of massacring of their own.

This means I'll be putting together a load of Mantic Zombies to represent the Soulless Ones - Zharradan Marr's Undead troops, as well as modelling the Muties, which should be gruesome fun!

I'm well on the way to converting a model to represent Krravaak, the Rhinoman - interestingly I settled on the same mini Paul used for the mounted version of Foulblade!

In the meantime, I'm looking forward to the graphic novel of the Trolltooth Wars coming out, having backed the Kickstarter for it earlier this year. A very exciting project to look forward to which is already looking very promising!


  1. Fantastic game =)
    Man, 26 years ago... where does the time go?

    1. Tell me about it - it only seems like yesterday that I'd persuaded my Mum to let me buy the novel with the horrible monsters on the cover in a great little book shop in Grasmere - or maybe that was Island of the Lizard King - the memories are a little hazy!

      As ever when gaming with Warlord Paul, even marching straight into certain defeat was a lot of fun and I was more than pleased that the end result of killing 11 or so Hill Goblins was that one of the Tribes I have to face in the climactic battle will be reduced in numbers.

  2. You nailed 13 of the Hill Goblins! Thanks for another great game, really looking forward to the next ones.

    1. Ah yes - it was 13 - unlucky for some!

      It has to be the most enjoyable massacre I've ever experienced - here's to the next one!

      Talking of which, having reread the chapter, Thugruff's plan, I think we may need to tweak the next scenario very slightly in terms of the role the mutes play. Thugruff's intention is to let them loose around Dire's tower to "scare off any of Dire's minions who hadn't already heard of Marangha" (I always read that as Marengo, as in chicken!).

      I think we stick with the attack on the Goblin village, but view it as a necessary obstacle to be overcome by Thugruff's force if they are to reach the Citadel of Chaos. Obviously the swifter the destruction of the Goblin Village then the more likely he is of reaching the Citadel without attracting too much attention. Perhaps we could have a turn limit for putting the village to the torch before Foulblade/Orcleaver turns up as reinforcements. At the end of the game the number of casualties on Thugruff's side would dictate how many mutes it was possible to let loose around the Citadel. Rather than further reducing the Hill Goblin forces for the Final Battle by scaring them off, perhaps they could suffer some psychological effect in future games due to the unnerving effect Marr's Marangha experiments - the more mutes deposited at the tower - the stronger or more far-reaching the psychological effect, perhaps applicable in the blockade game?

      Of course the fortified cage wagon I intend on building to transport the mutes would become a particular object of interest for the Hill Goblins and its destruction would negate any future effects...

    2. That all sounds good to me, I will refresh my memory with a reread and let you know if there is anything else to add.

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    4. Cool - I'd better get researching John Carpenter's The Thing for some Mutie inspiration!

    5. Yes! Best mutant film ever =)

    6. Without a shadow of a doubt - we are talking about the 1982 version aren't we! ; )

  3. Great stuff! Wonderful to see your Trolltooth project being realized so nicely, Thantsants! Love that ambush!

    1. Thanks PW - it was a blast to play and great to get the whole thing started.

      Now I need to paint 80 zombies for the next scenario...

  4. Great stuff, thoroughly enjoyed that write up Thantsants!

    1. Cheers Lornalim - got a load of zombies waiting patiently in the paint queue. Hopefully we'll get the next installment played fairly soon - think it'll be a revenge raid on a Hill Goblin village by a legion of Marr's Soulless Ones.

    2. Cheers Lornalim - got a load of zombies waiting patiently in the paint queue. Hopefully we'll get the next installment played fairly soon - think it'll be a revenge raid on a Hill Goblin village by a legion of Marr's Soulless Ones.

  5. Jealous, i badly need some local interest in gaming.

    1. Yep - I was quite spoiled in York. Also not too far to drive down to Newark for Oldhammer games at Foundry. Bit further to go now I'm in Cumbria mind...